Cross-Cultural Smoking Etiquette

I witnessed an interesting cafe scene in Prague the other day.

Two local girls are sitting in a packed local cafe, drinking coffee and chain smoking. Two Americans at a table next to theirs start eating and politely ask the girls if they could stop smoking while they eat. The girls are visibly annoyed, but they do stop smoking. For the rest of the lunch hour, they talk about being fed up with foreigners who bring their healthy-living, assertive attitudes and impose them on the locals. Why don’t they stay at their smoke-free homes, they said. The American guys were thinking more in terms of “your freedom ends where my freedom begins.”

Mind you, it is virtually impossible to find a smoke free restaurant in Prague and about one half of the adult population smokes. Unlike the US, smoking is still kind of cool here.

Is it OK for a foreigner to ask a local to stop smoking in a place where smoking is allowed? Hmmm, what’s a health-obsessed, smoke-hating American to do?

Chinese Travelers Bad-Mannered?

Before you go bashing the messenger, please read what I’m referring to over at According to their short news piece, China’s tourism authority claims Chinese travelers are uncouth. Of the semi-gross or uncouth habits demonstrated by Chinese travelers, littering would be the one that bothers me more than anything, if true. (Litter bugs are not cool at all!) Spitting, smoking in nonsmoking areas, line-jumping, poor hygiene (not flushing the toilet or covering one’s mouth when sneezing) and walking around shirtless and shoeless in hotels were all common complaints from an online survey on Chinese tourists. Ouch! I’d be pretty hurt with poll results like that and curious to know who took this survey. Up to 100 million Chinese travelers are expected to travel abroad annually by 2020. The survey was carried out in August and plans to improve the manners of Chinese travelers. Whatever that involves I’d hate to be apart of that course.

(P.S. The three individuals in the picture by no means reflect the type of tourist at question. I do not know them. I know not if they sneeze without covering their mouth or litter without a care, but I’m sure they don’t.)

More Car Trip Manners

For most folks Labor Day marks the very last chance for a fun-filled family summer getaway before fall. If you hadn’t the chance to escape for a little relaxation on the sandy shores prior to this coming holiday weekend or its been a while since your last road trip, you may wish to freshen up a tad on your car manners. Most of us think we know how to act during a long countryside drive, but the truth is some of you don’t. I’m not going to point any fingers here and say it’s the kids, the poodle or the parents, but if you’ve got about 10 minutes, read over some of these tips by Angela Carr Patterson to help make your car trip pleasant. One of her suggestions is to enter the car by greeting everyone with a big smile. Sounds pretty basic and simple, but how many of you to fail to practice this one? Uh huh … just as I suspected.