MS. BEHAVING is always delighted to have a cocktail – what kind depends on the season, her workload. But readers tell me that even this delightful custom can lead to angst. To wit:
A READER WRITES: At a gathering of friends in Finland, one lifted her glass and said “Skoal!” I lifted mine, nodded to her, and took a sip … but the others around the table were waiting. For what?
MS. BEHAVING REPLIES: Yes, this has happened to Ms. Behaving as well, and therein lies a lesson: in many countries – particularly Scandinavian ones, as well as Austria and Germany – a toast is a signal for everyone to lift his/her glass, make eye contact with everyone at the table, saying “Skoal” to each one. The key here is eye contact with each guest (they will each be looking in your eyes, too). A good rule of thumb, I think, for any toasting occasion, as it includes everyone in the good wishes. Failure to acknowledge all, they say, can lead to seven years of either bad luck or a sexual drought. Whether or not this is the case, don’t chance it and drink to all!
A READER WRITES: I am always confounded by the heavy drinking in business and social situations in Japan. How do I not insult my host but remain relatively lucid?
MS. BEHAVING REPLIES: Drinking traditions include abundant alcohol in group-oriented cultures like Japan, China and South Korea; variations on this can also be found in some Eastern European countries. To teetotal is considered rude (and even untrustworthy in some business situations), but Ms. Behaving has the solution. Since any host is obliged to keep your glass full, take a sip or two –or even a glass or two – then keep the next one full for the duration of the meal. No refills = no hangover.
WHAT’S YOUR QUANDARY? Have questions about etiquette, local or global travel customs or awkward moments on the road? Fear not! Ms. Behaving is ready to answer. Send your queries (putting "Ms. Behaving" in the subject line) .
Photo above: Ms. Behaving at Royal Ascot.