Etiquette in Neverland
For reasons of good form, I have decided that the so-called Pan will return in three days to commit the arbitrament of the sword. Smee, translate.
In three days, we’re gonna have a war! A battle between good and evil to the death!
Neverland’s incredibly diverse population, which is comprised mostly of fairies, mermaids, lost boys, pirates, and Native Americans, has resulted in an equally incredible sense of what is right and wrong. A magical island landscape from the imaginative minds of children, Neverland is largely a product of its cognitive origins as well as its physical location (second star to the right, and straight on till morning).
What is most fascinating about Neverland, however, is that the etiquette and protocol that shape the interactions there are not a whole lot different than any other far off land. Just like Neverland may seem too imaginary to the mind of the adult, there’s an abundance of equally seemingly fictional rules to be followed in destinations that don’t require fairydust as transportation.
As a guest may experience in many homes in Ethiopia, for example, the implicit arrangement is not with a swashbuckling pirate, but rather with the matriarch of the house. As the guest sits down for dinner, with her bare hands the matriarch will place food directly into the guest’s mouth. Then a moment later, do it again! What’s not explained is that the second offering is critical, because with it also comes acceptance - a formal process wherein the guest is confirmed or denied a “place at the table.” The beauty of this gesture is seen in the message of motherly compassion so stark that it is literally shoved down the guest’s throat. There is a message from the host about her commitment to comfort and care—she is genuinely concerned with the safety and contentment of her newest kin. What’s more, she is also bestowing a symbol of trust for rumination, a responsibility given to the guest to live up to the expectations of conduct for the household.
In the case of both Neverland and Ethiopia, behaviors have been developed from the imaginations of children in many ways, and speak greatly to the physical land and the diversity of the place; and yes, are even a bit silly from a particular perspective.
Fortunately for us, Ethiopia is not the only far away land with its own fun rules of etiquette. Here are several we thought were worth mentioning.
Business - Japan
Business cards in Japan are, in effect, an extension of the individual whose name is on the card—they’re kind of a big deal. In essence, how one treats the business card is taken very personally by the owner of that card. In order to show complete and utter respect, Japanese accept others’ business cards with two hands, observe for an extended glance, nod with acceptance before carefully placing the card in their “Meishi” pocket.
Holiday - Poland
In Sanskrit, it’s said that “the guest is equivalent to god.” In Poland, that is taken quite literally, especially during Christmas, where the dinner table is usually accompanied by an extra table setting. In case Jesus shows up at the door, or an uninvited neighbor for that matter, the family will be ready to serve the son of God.
Courting - Slovakia
In what is known as “Wet Monday,” men dressed in traditional attire chase women around splashing buckets of water on them, in what is effectively a sign of affection. Some women may even find themselves dunked in the river by the end of the day.
Time - Bolivia
When discussing time (e.g., today, tomorrow, next year), the way in which we orientate our bodies indicates our thoughts about the movement of time. When speaking of the future, the indigenous Aymara people of South America physically signal backward. Most cultures in the world, however, indicate the future by motions and gestures forward.
Party - Norway
In Norway (and in other not so different Scandinavian lands), goers to dinner parties have been known to wait outside of the door in order to show up right on time. Because 10 minutes early is much worse than waiting outside with a group of other people going to the same party; and yes, people will assemble outside the door and wait together. On the other hand, if someone is running late—that is any minute after the hour they were invited—it is expected they call to let the hostess know that they are tardy.
Table - Georgia
The Tamada in Georgian culture is the leader of the dinner table. For special events he (always he) MCs the toasts, shares stories, dictates the pace of the meal, and provides entertainment and direction for the party. Usually a gregarious member of the family, playing the role of the Tamada is a major responsibility in Georgian culture, and is still very much a part of day-to-day life.