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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 July 2005, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
What public behaviour annoys you?
Kentucky Fried Chicken TV commercial which became the UK's most complained about advert - it featured call centre workers, like the woman pictured, singing with their mouths full of food
Do you think it is rude to talk with your mouth full of food?
This week in Africa Live we're talking about manners. What irritates you?

Everywhere we go, in Africa and the wider world, there are rules binding our behaviour.

We usually know which manners are appreciated and which are not. But every country and culture is different.

Does spitting, swearing, queue-jumping or nose-picking offend you and how do you react? Is public behaviour changing? When visiting a different area should you respect their public etiquette and adopt their customs?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.


Your comments:

They don't behave as if they are in a football stadium while in parliament
Kelton Masangano, Malawi

Although Africans have many good manners like showing respect to elders, helping each other during funerals and weddings, I think there is one thing that we Africans lack. We just do not know how to behave at what place. First of all I will talk about what happened in my home country, Malawi, where the speaker of parliament died trying to bring order to the ever disorderly parliament.

Parliamentarians in Europe and America cannot reach that extent because they are so orderly and disciplined.

They know the right thing to do at the right place. They don't behave as if they are in a football stadium while in parliament. To them parliament time is business time. Even the way we Africans build our houses, it shows lack of order and discipline. We build our houses along the roads, between the roads and everywhere we think there is space. As a result our cities and towns look congested and so disorderly. As for hospitality and respect, I think we Africans are far above others but let's learn to be organised.
Kelton Masangano, Malawi

Peeing in public, picking one's nose, making comments about another person's weight - all too common here.
Anonymous, Ethiopia

I am British, born to a Liberian and Guyanese. One think that we do not do in Africa is call elders by their first name. Here in Australia, my friends routinely call their aunts and uncles by their first name with no titles.
Zoe Wilson, Australia

Listening to children and letting them converse with you will give them self-respect
Linda, Finn in London

It's interesting that many Africans think it's rude for children or the younger to interact with grown-ups. In my culture (Finnish) it is not the reverse, but there's a sense that it's decent manners to respect children. This does not mean that you have to respect old people less - but you respect and listen to both the young, your age and older. Listening to children and letting them converse with you will give them self-respect and make them feel like a valued, loved person with something to contribute.

This is the basis of a balanced, good personality. I think the idea that children should be seen but not heard is a very damaging and counterproductive attitude. This is an extension of being polite to everyone you meet - old, young, foreign - and listening to what everyone has to say without prejudice.
Linda Lonnqvist, Finn in London

I was born in Natal, South Africa. The home of the Zulu people. Zulu manner towards their elders was a legacy to be proud of. May be because they believed that any child is my child.
Thomas C Kantha, Osaka, Japan

Unfortunately it makes no case for the left-handed folks
Egbuta Iheanyi, UK

The use of the left hand instead of the right to collect gifts in public or in private is wrong. It may sound petty, but in the Igbo tribe in Nigeria, it is viewed as being rude and a sign of bad luck. Unfortunately it makes no case for the left-handed folks.
Egbuta Iheanyi, UK

Those who sit at the back of a bus and put their feet on seat opposite should be made to valet the whole bus...
James Torac, London, UK

In Africa it is bad manners to challenge elders and leaders whereas in the West it is quotidian. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why western democracies are more civil and closer to the ideal than ours. Even our educated elites find it difficult to overcome cultural tendencies towards inordinately venerating superiors.
MM, NY, USA

I live in Moscow and people here feel OK to smoke in crowded streets while walking. Other bad manners include swearing in public places (in Russian, bad words are very foul), drinking beer in the street and being impolite to other people.
Olga, Russia

Amongst Fulanis in Africa, it is rude to talk during meal times. If you wish to say a word you must say "fonga" first before you say what you wish to say. It is shameful to talk at meal times without first saying "fonga".
B Diallo, Burkina Faso

Making others suffer for your flatulence. Women snapping bra straps and adjusting their undergarments in public. Men and women scratching their privates in public, burping and on these hot days, men and women exposing hairy and odoriferous armpits on crammed public transport where you can't even get away.
Tahir N Ghaznavi, Sweden

I think there is nothing wrong with spitting when it is intended to get rid of something in the mouth i.e. food.
George Akpalu, England

My sister has the habit of eating when talking over the phone. I find it so repelling. I just end up telling her as much. She could also choke on her food. Since then, each time I call she says, "I do not want to offend you so please call later". Funny eh...
Seri Patiricia, Geneva, Switzerland

We are living in different worlds, but we can't condone spitting, urinating, nose picking or sneezing wildly in overcrowded transport/accommodation. It is unacceptable and disgusting.
I Sheikh, Bosaso, Somalia

It is bad manners to drive cattle onto the airport runway, or any public place for that matter. Very bad manners!
Dele Adeyi, USA

I still don't understand why some adults talk with their mouth full
Amaka, Nigeria/UK

My parents taught me that it was absolutely bad manners for one to talk with your mouth full of food; one it may choke you and the other person whom you're talking with may not hear you clearly. Considering the health hazards it poses, I still don't understand why some adults talk with their mouth full. Bad manners!
Amaka, Nigeria/UK

Nose picking offends me because after the action nobody remembers to clean the hand. You find yours greeting people by the same hand that picked. By all means let's try to stop this bad habit.
Dina Yakobe, Malawi

Being respectful may bring embarrassment to you in the West while it brings honour in Africa. Everybody just goes about saying hi in the West. No respect for elders and leaders. I think the world needs to learn from Africa.
RAA, UK

It is quite good to travel from your country to see how other people live. In the Muslim culture urinating in public is unacceptable and shameful. Also spitting and speaking with a chunk of food in your mouth are unwise. Respecting old and young is common in Islamic values and my culture as well.
Mohamed Esse, Hargeisa, Somaliland

Smoking is bad. People who claim that it does not affect others are just dumb. They say that we should compromise with them, which is true. Smokers can inhale but please do not exhale.
Amir, Japan

I get so angry when I see people scratching their private parts in public. I think it's totally nasty!
Nathalie, Canada

I was born and raised in New York, USA to a Nigerian family. In our culture, it is extremely rude to talk back to an elder, or curse in front of one. I have American friends who are so rude to elders - in anger, they would even curse at their own parents. This baffles me. It is such a disrespect of oneself. When I get on the trains, I hear American youth talking and cursing very loudly - it offends everyone else in the car.

That also irritates me very much. I also think it is incredibly rude to talk loudly on a cell/mobile phone in an enclosed public setting, like in a restaurant or in a train. And the absolute worst is when people cycle through the phone ringers in a public place. Not everyone wants to hear the conversation or the ringers, why should you force it on someone else?
Uduak, Brooklyn, USA

Sometimes respect hurts. I remember eating with an elderly woman, and all through the meal I did not eat a single fish, just because I was respecting an elderly person. From now on anytime I do eat with an elder, I will not fart, but I am going to eat fish.
Toate Ganago

It is very annoying when I see people here in the USA cough and yawn in public with their mouth wide open and make no effort to cover their mouth. This is quite common in public transportation such as overcrowded trains and buses. For example, just this morning while onboard a crowded subway train, a man who was standing in the middle of the passengers coughed uncontrollably in front of others without any attempt to cover his mouth.

Then almost simultaneously another lady, standing about one foot from me, yawned profusely with her mouth wide open and without any attempt to cover her mouth. Such behaviours are unacceptable and unhealthy in a decent society. Besides the foul smell that follows the yawning or coughing, thousands of germs and virus are believed to be released during this indecent acts.
Moses S Wilson, USA

Where I am from, Ethiopia, in addition to the respect for elders and the general rule of not swearing (cursing) some behaviours that should not be done include : licking one's hands after a meal, young children interrupting or participating in adult discussions whatever the topic might be, taking morsels of food with one's left hand and singing or humming at a time of a meal.
Wondemu, Canada

Nothing is more upsetting than a guy I intend to date online (and maybe in real life), who sends me a first picture in which he is holding a beer bottle and looking half drunk! To most men out there, those are called bad manners!
Penelope, Zimbabwe

Evidently one might be irritated or feel uncomfortable, but unless it is intended directly at me, to insult me i would not be offended. Some people just don't have manners! Yet one thing that does get to me, are cell phone ring signals. It has turned into an unworthy hype, with songs like Crazy frog reaching hit lists. It just kills me.
Jonathan Damsgaard, Malmo, Sweden

Speaking on the phone to someone while chewing on food... especially if that person made the call!
Kene Ilochonwu, Edinburgh, UK

It's like they were taught to do that when they were kids
Peter, Rwanda

Well, talk about spitting. Here in Rwanda, people just love doing it. It's like they were taught to do that when they were kids. Everywhere you go, be it in the restaurant, roadside etc you will find someone spitting. And they feel so ok with it. I always feel like puking. It's very disgusting and I think the city council should find a way of dealing with it. A fine would do the trick.
Peter, Rwanda

Farting in a crowded place is stupid and primitive. Laughing about it is even worse. Some mindless youth even lift their leg first before unleashing a loud smelly bang! Why can't they be imprisoned for that?
Muchugi Kamau, Kenyan/Londoner

Behaviour that might seem strange or annoying to you might not to the locals
Daniel Tshimuaga, DR Congo

I had a friend come to Congo once, everywhere we went people stared at him, he got really annoyed. It's perfectly normal I said - it's not every day that people get to see an Asian in a Congolese village... behaviour that might seem strange or annoying to you might not to the locals.
Daniel Tshimuaga, DR Congo

From generation to generation, from country to country, from community to community, manners and moral codes change. I have been to Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan my home country and the US and only few can be similar. Most are different in conduct though. In the tribe I came from in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Sudan, young persons can shake a hand of an elderly without looking into their eyes. While where I live now it is consider disrespectful. What surprised me was when a six-year-old girl asked me last night with a strong voice, "Hey where do you work? Where do you work?"

I told her in our time when we were her age, we did not use to talk with someone who is older than us like that... Anyway it is better to live in different cultures and communities. One needs to learn new things but do not forget where you come from. Knowing that would open ways for you to live very well without any difficulties.
Peter Dut Angon, Phoenix, USA

Chewing noisily, especially chewing gum is not nice. I have told some of these offenders that they are like donkeys or pigs in the past but now I try to move away. Disrespect for others rights is creeping in to all societies. There is often no respect for others possessions, or even their dignity anymore. Elders need to be given the benefit of the doubt and respected until they prove they are not worthy of it.
Fidza, Zimbabwean in UK

Nose picking is indeed the worst! How in the world can you explain the removal of waste from your nose or anywhere on your body in public. I have seen people take the waste from their nose and rub it in their hands and later extend that same hand for someone to shake. Waste is waste is waste. Nose picking is definitely bad manners!
Ako, Brooklyn, USA

I get sick seeing people spitting and urinating in the streets... I wish I could make them take it back!
Halima, Somaliland

When you are grown up you can treat me like an equal, and you will be respected as an adult, but for now you are still a child
Lemuel, South Africa

Every culture has different values. In some African cultures it is good manners to talk loudly if you are one of two people walking together, so that anyone nearby can hear that the people have nothing to hide. Personally speaking, the most annoying rudeness is the disrespect with which children behave towards their elders. Please! When you are grown up you can treat me like an equal, and you will be respected as an adult, but for now you are still a child.
Lemuel, South Africa

I hate queue-jumpers, especially in traffic. It is like saying: "My time is more important than everyone else's!"
Thomas, Dubai

Idiots with booming music playing in their cars thinking they look "reeeeal" cool. Yobs spitting every few seconds thinking it makes them look hard. People who stick chewing gum all over the place and drop it in the streets. People who talk on mobile phones when sat next to you. People who let their dogs mess in public areas and don't clean up after them.

People who think it is OK to scream and swear at their kids in public. People who think they have the right to dump their unwanted waste in areas of beauty. Unfortunately this is how society is going. No respect or consideration for others. The bad thing is that people think these sorts of behaviour are acceptable and that you are being petty or old fashioned if you complain.
CA Williams, UK

I think stopping to do the toilet anywhere you feel like it is pretty bad manners, and is something I see men doing everyday here in Yaounde. Dropping litter is another annoying habit people have. If you love your country you will keep clean and drop your litter in a bin or take it home.
David, British in Cameroon

Respect, it is said, is reciprocal. We all learn from the society where we belong. In Africa, most of our elders are not doing a good job as role models for the young, hence the preponderance of bad manners. Parents find it harder now than before to stand up to their kids and say no when desired. Spitting, nose picking, swearing and other lewd public acts are behaviour picked up from the home or society at large. These must be discouraged by parents, guardians and anyone who has some sense of decency.
Magnus Amajirionwu, Nigeria

The greatest virus that has eroded our moral values is the so-called modernisation
Fidel Okaba, Bekwarra

The greatest virus that has eroded our moral values is the so-called modernisation. It goes to show a high level of lack of proper moral upbringing to see anyone spitting, swearing or picking their nose in public. Having been born and bred in a core remote and forestry village - Abuagbor-Iye in Bekwarra, Nigeria, I was taught not to expect a greeting from an elder first even if he or she is at home and I am back from school, but to greet the elder first who perhaps, could then tell me welcome.

On no account should I stop eating before and elder while sharing meal in the same plate, neither should expect an elder to wash cutlery after meal. All these are fast fading away because of modernisation and internet lifestyle. No thanks to western civilization.
Fidel Okaba, Bekwarra, Nigeria

We should respect what other people consider their custom wherever we go. I am more than incensed with people who talk big every time you talk with them
Hankie Uluko, Lilongwe, Malawi

I've been brought up to respect the elderly and show appreciation for kind gestures. I find it very rude when people cannot say thank you or sorry. Remember "manners makes a man".
Sena Aniwa, UK

Growing up in Kenya you dare not speak back to your parents how they do in the West. I can't stand children who swear and curse at their parents. People who will not give up their seats to the elderly or pregnant women. And people who kiss and sexually arouse each other in public is totally unacceptable.
Gatee, UK

I feel extremely irritated when someone is blowing his/her nose during a lecture or in a meeting. Why not go to the bathroom, or outside?
Chikalanga, Zambia

Gum chewing is common amongst ladies in Ethiopia but the way they chew it really gets on my nerves. Crackling noises are made more often when these ladies chew. Such attitudes are common with prostitutes.
Harrison, Ethiopia

It is very bad manners to litter, especially the smokers who throw their stubs wherever they walk, or for people to talk with their mouths full of food. Or to let one's mobile phone ring very loudly (noise pollution) in a quiet environment. If people would only be more respectful, considered and emphatic, then we will see much more harmony in the world, but then again, I can also wish for snow in June.
Jacques, Frankfurt, Germany

My pet hate is people who try to enter an elevator while others want to get out, or others who push in front of ladies or other people who was there before them. Cultural differences may cause different perceptions as to what is good or bad manners, however some behaviour is intolerable wherever you go.
Wikus Erasmus, Johannesburg, South Africa

I hate seeing young people drinking in the streets of my home town. Cheap beer is causing troubles here.
Make, Finland

Whereas in other areas in my country it is considered polite to enquire about an elder's health
Mmabatho, Botswana

Urinating in public! It's bad manners when men to go to the nearest tree to relieve themselves. Of course it depends on where you are and how you have been socialised because in many rural societies there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with picking one's nose regardless of where one is.

I come from an area which, when exchanging greetings with an elder, you cannot ask them how they are, only they can ask you. Whereas in other areas in my country it is considered polite to enquire about an elder's health.
Mmabatho, Botswana

In Asia, nose-picking, snorting or spitting are fairly commonplace. Some nations, like Singapore, have taken a very hard stance against such behaviour and fines are imposed on spitting in public places for example. But, it has had a detrimental effect on the character of the people if measures of etiquette are imposed from on-high.

Like most things, the world's population is losing respect for others, respect for the environment and following a "I don't care about others" mantra. Who stops this decline? Governments, religious leaders or family? I place my bets firmly on family.
Stephen, Bangkok, Thailand

I think it is rude to ask a person you are meeting for the first time how much money they make. And what is with the question, what do you do for a living? It is very redundant and does not tell you anything about a person.
Omollo Gaya, Kenya

I hate when people see you in a cynical way, especially while you are trying to help and they turn themselves away. It's very bad behaviour to me.
Mufadal Ayubali, Rochester, NY

Bad manners is to step on someone without saying sorry.
Lanre Olabamiji, Trinidad

I say, excuse me, but I think that you dropped this. It fell out of your window
Kristin Sullivan, USA

It annoys me and leaves me in disbelief when people throw trash out of their window from their car. As a biker, I not only see this but have to deal with biking through trash because of such ignorance and selfishness. At times, when possible, I bring up the trash they threw to them at a stop light and knock on their window. I say, excuse me, but I think that you dropped this. It fell out of your window. I don't get a real positive response here in Philadelphia, but during a 14,000 mile bike ride I just returned home from, many people were astounded and I hope I made them think about it.
Kristin Sullivan, USA

I saw a man inject insulin into his stomach in a cafe in full view of myself and the employees last Friday. Why could he not have gone into the restroom and done this?
Steven M'Benga, USA

I remember as a child being told it was appallingly bad manners to eat in the streets. One day I was bought an ice-cream by a friend's mother and I waited until I got home to eat it, of course it had melted by then. Manners can be both despotic and liberating.

So, I think the best way is to approach the world with good intentions respect and tolerance - then mistakes in manners particularly the more culturally specific and refined ones will be forgiven, at least that is so in my experience. I think one should definitely respect public etiquette but only adopt customs if it comes naturally or is deemed offensive not to: such as taking off shoes, partaking in ritual drinks, wearing a scarf etc.

But it does appear that people are less aware of, or concerned with, other people, so there is a lot of disrespect going on such as loud cell phone users - my particular bugbear.
AC, USA

One thing that men should know, especially African men, is that it is very bad manners to urinate anywhere in the streets or should I say in public areas. Such things are very private and we don't need to see how you do it.

It is really disrespectful not only for other people but for yourself too and it is actually public indecency. I always feel like spitting at the faces of all those men I see doing this. Actually I don't even consider people who do this as men, but rather animals. Our society need to change in this regard.
Khetsiwe, Swaziland

It dictates the conduct of the New York investment banker in the same way as it affects that of a Baaka tribesman in the Congo
UE, UK/Nigeria

There is obviously only one culture in the world: the human culture - a culture which informs our instinctive quest for the basic necessities of life for both ourselves and our families. It dictates the conduct of the New York investment banker in the same way as it affects that of a Baaka tribesman in the Congo.
UE, UK/Nigeria

What annoys me is the way people in the West meet someone without greeting him or her, especially since we Africans know this is not our way of living.
Seikou, Gambian in Germany

Chewing food with your mouth open. This is a very distracting and unpleasant experience for those who have to watch and listen to the chewer. It would probably be best to inform the chewer. I tend to try to move away if possible.
Chris, UK

There is the saying that charity begins at home. The manner we exhibit in the public place is a reflection of our upbringing. I have been residing in America for some years now and I do respect their customs but I cannot adopt every custom in their society if they are contrary to my own beliefs and practices.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

In the streets in Cameroon people urinate everywhere. It is not uncommon to find a man standing on the street and exposing himself as he urinates or a woman covering her legs just a few feet from a major street. I find that disgusting! I once packed my car on a major street, in front of a drinking spot. I returned few hours later to find out that the side of the car had become a public restroom.
Eyong, Cameroon

Back in Nigeria, I thought one has to step away from others when blowing their nose, but here in the US it is acceptable even while eating.
Alaba Adelakun, Nigeria/USA

Picking your nose and spitting in front of other people is bad manners, it doesn't matter where you are.
Thembi, South Africa

Seeing people urinating on the roadside and back streets makes me sick.
Esther, Kenya

I think you should be proud of your own country's values and morals as they bind us to society and enable us to live together. You should however appreciate that all countries are different, and therefore adopting another country's values is not necessary when abroad.
Tammy Reed, UK

I think what the Western world has lost the idea of respect, and should learn from our African culture. Especially the way we respect our elders. Children speak to their parents in the West as if they are their age mates!
Mutsawashe, Zimbabwean

Here in the US, talking loudly on cell phones and airing your private business for all to hear is getting increasingly common. It seems that people can't do without inane chatter conducted at the expense of others.
Jay Sitlani, Washington, DC

In my country, spitting when someone is passing is an insult to that person - if someone spits when I am passing by, it is like I am smelling bad and I become very angry.
Aminata Konaté, Guinea,Conakry

I am sick to death of people using the "f" word as part of normal conversation. In a queue the other day, a man behind me who was talking to a woman, used it thirteen times in less than three minutes. I am at a complete loss to understand why!
Rosemary Hill, Switzerland

I always smile and say hello when I pass strangers. Most of them put their head down. I don't know if they are embarrassed at kindness, or because they are not used to it, or they are afraid I might accost them. It is very sad.
Sandy Lawson, USA

Sitting outside a thatched hut, chewing tobacco or "miraa" with green or brown spit oozing out of the corner of your mouth, as it seeps down your chin, you wipe it out with your sleeve and keep talking then suddenly spray the spit all over to relieve yourself of that full mouth! What a site.
Jackie Mganga, Kenya

I think it is bad manners to talk on a mobile/cell phone while using the elevator. Such attitude shows a sign of disrespect to the other parties.
Gbenga, Philadelphia, USA

Throwing a beer can or coffee cup into the street from a moving car just kills me. I hate it more than women who put on makeup in public view.
Joe Abey, Cameroonian in USA

It is indeed bad manners to talk loudly in public or talk to someone from afar, shouting. In Africa you are supposed to get closer to the person before you talk to him/her. You are to show respect to your elders irrespective of who the person is. We were taught to offer our seats to elders anytime they enter a room and there are no seats for them. Also it is bad manners to fart in public, which is very common these days. I do take offence to that when someone does that.
Juanita, VA, USA

I don't believe that there is a country that thinks swearing or picking your nose is proper public etiquette
Lettemariam, United States

Ideally I would love to never see anyone spitting, picking their nose or committing any other lewd behaviour in public. I know that different customs exist around the globe, but there are also universal ways to act in the general public. I don't believe that there is a country that thinks swearing or picking your nose is proper public etiquette. And if there is, and I have offended you then I apologize, that was not my intent.
Lettemariam, United States

It annoys me when I see people spitting in the roads. I feel so angry even if they are elderly.
Pratibha, India

No matter what status a person has in a society; rich or poor, young or old, coloured or white, Christian or Muslim; everybody deserves respect. We all have roles to play anywhere we are in the world, therefore everybody should be regarded as a citizen of the world.
Chidi Muoghalu, Hertfordshire, UK

I was brought up in Cameroon and was taught never to say "how are you?" to an elder. But to say, "Good morning" or "Good evening sir, madam". Never to reach out my hand to an elder, but to receive a hand shake offered by an elder with both hands, never to wave an elder from a distance, but to wave back with both hands if he/she waves first. Never to stand akimbo when talking to an elder but to clasp both hands together with body tilted forward while talking. Today it seems youths feel that they have to act the reverse of what is supposed to be civilised behaviour, which is just being naughty.
Samuel Fungwa, North Cyprus/Cameroon

I absolutely agree with Samuel of Cameroon because my culture and his culture have a lot in common. I am from Ethiopia in Oromia state. Now, I live in the West, and I still hold-up that value because it helps me to genuinely interact with people.
Gore, Canada

I believe most Africans follow the same kind of manners. I grew up in Ethiopia and the manners that were mentioned by Samuel who grew up in Cameroon was exactly the same one that I was though by my parents to practice. To add one: It is disrespectful to talk over some one else. I was told to wait until the other person finish talking and respond. Things are changed nowadays.
Berhanu, USA




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