Social Traditions, gestures, clothing, and culture

Time is flexible and situational. Armenians are generally on time but don‟t be surprised if schedules aren‟t rigidly followed. Rules are also flexible and situational. Individuals may work to “get around” rules by offering a bribe or involving an influential friend. Traffic flow is fluid and based on immediate circumstances. For this reason, please be extra careful when crossing the street. Business is “embedded” in family and personal relationships. A friend‟s loan may not need to be repaid directly. Armenians ignore strangers on the street; avoid eye contact and do not smile. When greeting those they know, it‟s customary to embrace or kiss on the cheek. Casual, friendly relationships between men/men, men/women and women/women are expressed in relaxed physical contact such as kissing, embracing or holding hands. Personal space is rare. Current living conditions are crowded and offer very little personal/private space. Armenians usually walk and stand in close proximity. On the sidewalk they may walk abreast in groups and are inattentive to creating space for others to pass by. A visitor/guest in Armenia is treated as a “king.” Armenians take pride in being hospitable, it means they will likely be sensitive (particularly men) about who picks up the bill for meals, trips, gifts, whatever. Meals include many individual dishes and are served “family style.” A traditional meal may extend over several hours. Guests are served by those seated nearby and refusals for more food/drink are generally ignored. An empty plate means it needs to be filled up, so if you don’t want more, leave some on your plate. And if you don’t want more and they are ‘forcing’ it on you, let them (it saves face) and then simply don’t eat it. Toasting is an important part of drinking in Armenia. Usually one person is in charge of toasting, he is called the “Tamada.” His job is to keep a semblance of order to the toasting and, at long ceremonies, to monitor the pace of drinking. If you would like to give a toast, ask the Tamada for permission. Do not toast with anything other than alcohol unless you are in a familiar setting where they really don‟t mind. If you don‟t want to drink, use the shot glass to clink with everyone else and then either just put it to your lips or simply set it down. Using other drinks, especially mineral water, shows disrespect. Clinking your glass lower than the other person shows respect.

 

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