Review: When in Asia: Customs, Culture and Comedy

Reviewer: Shen Shi'An

From Culture Shock To Personal Enlightenment!
Marshall Cavendish’s ‘When In Asia: Customs, Culture & Comedy’ (Travellers’ notes on China, Japan, India, Southeast Asia and more, from the bestselling CultureShock! series), by various authors and illustrated by Trigg’s cartoons is a delightful mishmash of intriguing facts. It is like a ‘greatest hits’ collection, with unwritten rules (now written and drawn!) of body language, etiquette, office politics, rituals, superstitions… Though seemingly trivial at times, some of these tips might just save you from potentially embarrassing social situations!

You know what they say – ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’. Of course, the world is much larger Rome versus here, wherever you are. Life is complex and colourful, with countless cultural nuances and shades. Just Asia itself is seldom understood fully, if possible at all, by Asians themselves! This book however, offers a glimpse into the workings of Asian minds, on how stuff is seen and handled. If you are thoroughly foreign to Asia, do yourself (and fellow Asians!) a favour. Arm yourself with these tips – to lessen the culture shocks on both sides upon actual encounter!

Designed for light-hearted easy reading, the book has sections on – Food and Drink, All in a Day’s Work, Leisure and Play, Communication, The Circle of Life, Daily Life, and Beliefs and Traditions. It also has a handy kind of bonus Country Guides’ section with Top Tips for China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Syria and Turkey. Can’t get enough fun facts? Well, since this is but an introductory book to the series, you can get the individual detailed CultureShock! country guide books too!
Most of the facts featured are funny in nature. Perhaps, learning about these quirks of one another not only helps to broaden our hearts and minds, we will also learn to laugh at ourselves. Asia being Asia after all, it is interesting to realise how its various lands have more similarities than differences in certain aspects. Yet, each land has its unique differences as well. Why do we read about one another, and travel from one land to the next? Beyond knowing more about others, do we not discover more about ourselves too? Every outward trip is an inner pilgrimage of sorts then, to become more enlightened about one another through and with one another!

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