Our Travel Etiquette Guru, Mary-Lou
Weisman, takes us on a cross-cultural tour of the body, starting
with the head and moving down to the feet. Certain cultures see
the top as the "good" part and the bottom as the "bad" part.
It is considered an insult to point
the soles of the feet toward another person in the Middle East
and Far East: The feet, especially in countries where people wear
sandals and occasionally step in mud and manure in the streets,
get dirty and rather stinky.
Mary Lou also gives pointers on how
to avoid pointing your feet at others, especially since in those
countries one sits on the floor much of the time. She suggests
you either sit cross-legged or tuck your feet under you. If you're
in a chair, keep your feet flat on the floor.
The same countries that don't want you
to point the soles of your feet at them, also don't want you to
touch their heads. A person's spirit is thought to reside in the
head. In Thailand they're especially sensitive about this - so
don't even pass an object over a person's head in Thailand. Actually,
people in many countries don't want you to touch their heads,
but in Los Angeles, they don't think you're putting their souls
in jeopardy -- they just worry that you're messing up their expensive