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Multicultural Manners

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CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
March 30, 1996 | NORINE DRESSER
American-born Lydia falls in love with Korean-born Seong and they plan to marry. They decide on a small wedding and announce this to their parents. Lydia's mother and father are content with the arrangement, but Seong's father becomes upset. What went wrong? In Korea, Seong's father had attended many weddings, where it was customary to present generous cash gifts to the wedding couple.
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CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
August 21, 1999 | NORINE DRESSER
As soon as their plane was declared missing, flowers, lit candles, drawings, poems, messages of love began amassing outside the Tribeca apartment of Caroline and John Kennedy Jr. When their deaths were confirmed, the shrine dramatically grew. Sidewalk shrine-building was a prominent activity after Princess Diana was killed, too, yet one need not be a celebrity to arouse such public response. Sidewalk shrines spontaneously occur at busy intersections or in front of convenience stores, marking sites of shootings and car crashes as well.
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CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
August 21, 1999 | NORINE DRESSER
As soon as their plane was declared missing, flowers, lit candles, drawings, poems, messages of love began amassing outside the Tribeca apartment of Caroline and John Kennedy Jr. When their deaths were confirmed, the shrine dramatically grew. Sidewalk shrine-building was a prominent activity after Princess Diana was killed, too, yet one need not be a celebrity to arouse such public response. Sidewalk shrines spontaneously occur at busy intersections or in front of convenience stores, marking sites of shootings and car crashes as well.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
September 5, 1998 | NORINE DRESSER
A new Chinese supermarket hires Penny Parsons to design the interior. Parsons orders a large candid photo of Asians to adorn one wall. The supplier fills the request, and the decorator is pleased with the photograph of a young mother pushing a shopping cart filled with groceries and a child assumed to be her daughter. Once on display in the market, the staff becomes agitated, removes and returns the photo to Parsons, requesting a replacement. What went wrong?
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
February 10, 1996 | NORINE DRESSER, Norine Dresser is a folklorist and author of "Multicultural Manners" (Wiley, 1996)
A unit of American soldiers has gathered for orientation before deployment to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Their sergeant warns the men not to use the index and middle finger to make the peace sign. What did it mean? Because Croats use the "V" as an informal greeting, Serbs would find it offensive if they saw peace-keeping troops making this sign, according to the U.S. Army-produced "A Soldier's Guide to Bosnia- Herzegovina" The V-sign has a long history.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
January 13, 1995 | NORINE DRESSER
Melanie attends a New York college and rooms with Heng, a Chinese girl from Malaysia. When Melanie returns from the library one day at exam time, she opens the refrigerator to get a soft drink and notices a glass of cloudy water. "Ooh, Heng," she says. "You have moldy water in here." Embarrassed, Heng says nothing. What did it mean? The glass contained water mixed with ashes from a burnt hoo, a piece of paper containing characters written by priests at a Malaysian temple of Kuan Yin, a Chinese goddess of mercy.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
September 21, 1996 | NORINE DRESSER
As the economy in California recovers, construction activity is picking up and the traditions of ironworkers are returning to the scene. This summer, Burbank residents observed the puzzling sight of an evergreen tree perched atop their Police/Fire Headquarters under construction at Third and Orange Grove streets. More recently, Pasadena freeway commuters may have noticed a tree mounted on the rebuilt overhead bridge near Marmion Way. What does it mean?
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
May 17, 1995 | NORINE DRESSER, Norine Dresser is the author of "Multicultural Manners," being published next February by John Wiley and Sons, New York. and
Carolyn has just accepted a job teaching English on the South Pacific island of Pohnpei in Micronesia. The weather is hot and humid, so she goes into a service station and asks, "Do you have cold drinks?" The woman behind the counter looks directly at her but doesn't say a word. Carolyn assumes she doesn't speak English. Carolyn simplifies her question. "Do you have Coke?" Again the woman is silent. Carolyn tries again. "Do you have anything else?"
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
November 28, 1994 | NORINE DRESSER
American-born Lucy and her new Ethiopian husband, Eskinder, have been invited to a celebration dinner given by Ethiopian friends of the groom living in the States. Lucy is well-acquainted with Ethiopian foods. She knows how to eat with her fingers and use the bread, injeri, to pick up the food. However, she is unprepared when Isaac, the host she has just met, tears off a piece of bread, scoops up some stew, tastes it, then comes over and thrusts some into her mouth.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
February 28, 1994 | NORINE DRESSER, Norine Dresser is a folklorist and author of "I Felt Like I Was From Another Planet," (Addison Wesley). Tell her your experiences c/o Voices.
Helen Johnson works for a U.S. firm owned by a Japanese corporation. All the top executives are Japanese men with very limited English-language skills. On her second day, Johnson needs to communicate with one of the bosses, Mr. Yamashita, about some paperwork on her desk. Conscious of the language barrier, she tries using body language to communicate with him.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
September 6, 1997 | NORINE DRESSER
In colorful details, Jean, a member of one of the Plains Native American tribes, described her daughter's wedding to a folklorist conducting research for her next book. As agreed, the folklorist wrote up the interview and mailed it back to Jean to check for accuracy. For convenience, the folklorist had enclosed a self-addressed stamped envelope to facilitate return of the information.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
December 7, 1996
Regarding the Multicultural Manners column on nudity habits ("Barely Polite," Nov. 23,) Norine Dresser said that in the Czech Republic children up to 5 years old generally go naked while bathing at a river or a seashore. Maybe at a river, but there are no seashores in or near the Czech Republic and therefore nobody goes naked to the seashore. So long as Poland and Germany are there, that'll probably be the case. NORMAN GREEN Los Angeles [by phone]
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
November 9, 1996 | NORINE DRESSER, Folklorist Norine Dresser is the author of "Multicultural Manners" (Wiley, 1996). Send her your comments c/o Voices or by e-mail: 71204.1703@compuserve.com
Many mourners gather to pay their last respects and view the body at the funeral of a well-known Los Angeles Chinese architect. Observing the deceased, Paula, a friend, comments to her neighbor Joanne, "He looks different without his glasses." Surprised, Joanne replies, "You never put glasses on the dead. You're supposed to place the folded glasses in his pocket. The old belief is that he might otherwise return to this world, and regardless of whether we believe that, we follow the custom."
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
October 26, 1996 | NORINE DRESSER, Folklorist Norine Dresser is the author of "Multicultural Manners" (Wiley, 1996). Contact her by e-mail: 71204.1703@compuserve.com
One cold, rainy day, Grace stops at a Koreatown restaurant. After ordering food, the waiter asks what she would like to drink and Grace orders hot tea. The waiter responds, "We don't have any hot tea," but suggests, "Let me bring you some hot water." Grace impudently asks, "Who drinks hot water without tea?" The waiter answers, "We do." What did he mean? In contrast to the Chinese and Japanese custom of drinking hot tea with meals, Koreans do not.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
March 30, 1996 | NORINE DRESSER
American-born Lydia falls in love with Korean-born Seong and they plan to marry. They decide on a small wedding and announce this to their parents. Lydia's mother and father are content with the arrangement, but Seong's father becomes upset. What went wrong? In Korea, Seong's father had attended many weddings, where it was customary to present generous cash gifts to the wedding couple.
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