I’d just come back from an amazing whirlwind trip in China where I’d visited the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square in Beijing, I’d eaten some great food and cuddled a Panda in a sanctuary deep in the jungle of Chengdu and what was the first question that almost everyone asked me once I was back? ‘Do they really eat dogs in China?’
It seems that some traditions, laws and customs from other countries really intrigue and astound us. As a nation we are utterly devoted to our pets so the thought of eating a dog seems completely alien and incomprehensible to us here in the UK. My mum loves her dog so much he pretty much rules her house, she talks to him, brushes him, even wet wipes his face clean (don’t ask). But you have to ask yourself, what is the difference, really, between eating dog and eating pig? If we hadn’t of domesticated them thousands of years ago, we could all be craving dog butties with brown sauce as a hangover cure without a second thought.
This idea has inspired me to take a brief look into some of the random questions you might get asked on your return from a trip, and to see if the customs, traditions and laws that inspired them are actually fact, or if it’s all been a little joke that got a bit out of hand…
Strange Laws, Customs And Myths From Around The Globe
Do They Really Eat Dog In China?
The short answer is yes – in some parts of the country.
In the south of China, especially in the Guangdong and Guangxi regions dog is still a fairly popular dinner time treat, as it’s not too expensive and is etched in the history and traditions of the country. People in China have been eating dog as a source of food since around 500 BC, back then it was thought to have medicinal purposes and was especially popular during the winter as many believed it generated heat and body warmth.
Dog meat is thought to have medicinal purposes in China. Image courtesy of Greg Walters
While it remains an acceptable part of a persons diet in certain parts of the country, it’s become quite a hotly contested topic amongst Chinese animal rights groups and pet-owners, who increasingly speaking out against it. In 2008 officials at the Beijing Olympics we ordered to remove any dog meat options from the menu’s in the city’s Olympic restaurants to make sure no one from visiting nations were offended.
China isn’t the only place to chow down on mans best friend, dog is also still eaten in some parts of the Philippines, and Korea.
Is The Rule ‘Left Hand For Wiping Right Hand For Eating’ in India Real?
Before visiting India I wasn’t sure if this was truth, or a myth that you hear passed around like a Chinese whisper. Having come back, I can confirm that it is true, and that it actually makes a lot of sense.
In a country where so many people have nothing at all, including items such as knives, forks and toilet paper, that we in the west would call necessities, the left/right hand rule has evolved into an important cultural etiquette.
General food hygiene rules in India (yes there are some!) indicate that you should only offer or accept food with your right hand, never your left, this hand is specifically for wiping your bum, picking your feet and other generally unhygienic tasks only.
To be fair there are varying levels of strictness on which this rule is followed throughout the country, with some places adhering to it much more strongly than others, but just to be on the safe side I’d try and remember and abide by it yourself to make sure you don’t offend – or get sick!
It's polite to eat with your right hand in India. Image courtesy of ezola
Does The Water Go Down The Plughole The Opposite Way In Australia/New Zealand?
Now, I have to admit this one has puzzled me slightly, so my first stop was good old reliable Google, where I found a heap of clashing opinions. Brilliant.
So let’s start with fact – there is a scientific law (stay with me) called the Coriolis Effect which explains how weather systems are affected by the world spinning around. Coriolis shows that tornados and hurricanes almost always spin anti-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.
Some people believe that the Coriolis effect is the reason that the water flows a different way down the plug hole down south, but most say that the action of water falling down a plug hole is far too small to be effected by Coriolis and actually the result is due to something as simple as the shape of the basin and how you pull the plug out.
Guinea Pig In Peru?
Guinea pig (or cuy as they’re known locally) is a delicacy in Peru, and while it might make us just a little bit sad to imagine our furry friends on the BBQ, the Peruvians have been gobbling up this great source of protein for thousands of years.
What does Guinea pig taste like? Well, I’m glad you asked. Our blog editor Ant has the low down and if you’re not tempted to sample it now, maybe you will be after reading this….
BBQ Guinea Pig anyone?...Anyone?....No?
Is It True Chewing Gum Is Illegal In Singapore?
Better keep the consumption of garlic to a minimum in Singapore as you won’t be able to get your hands on any chewing gum to freshen your breath afterwards.
A law bought in during 1992 made the import and distribution of chewing gum illegal in Singapore and while chewing itself isn’t actually illegal, the ban means you’ll struggle to get your hands on any.
Apparently this is because the government got tired of people sticking their used gum on the subway, on cars, under tables, on chairs etc and decided to ban it for the good of the city.
Also, FYI, it’s illegal not to flush a public toilet after you’ve finished with it too – now that’s a rule I fully support! Yuk.
Do They Really Have Square Watermelons In Japan?
They sure do!
Some enterprising farmers decided to grow their watermelons in glass boxes so the fruit would naturally grow into a cuboid shape.
This came as an answer to the problem of shoppers having trouble trying to cut the fruit when it kept rolling around and trying to fit the large round fruit in their home refrigerators.
Today, the cuboid watermelons are hand-picked and shipped all over Japan.
Sounds pretty cool eh? Only problem is that each melon is on sale for the equivalent of about £55. Yowza.
Is It True That Everyone In Australia Drinks Fosters?
You’ve all seen the ads, Fosters lager is as Aussie as Joe Mangle right? Ummm, well not quite. It’s all just a clever marketing ploy by Fosters to align itself with our fun loving, surfing, sunshine basking cousins from down under. The swines!
STA Travel Marketing Exec, and real life Aussie, Saxon gives us his view on the fosters debate.
“Foster’s (otherwise known as ‘The Blue Death’) is almost non-existent in Australia. Only old blokes in blue singlets seem to be able to sniff it out at their local RSL. It does seem to taste different in the UK so I drink it all the time here, but if I asked for it at home I’d cop a ribbing from my mates. For me VB is the Very Best”
Thanks Saxon although Victoria Bitter (VB) is made by the same company as Fosters so maybe that means that technically the answer to our question is yes. Kind of…
Do They Really Drink Umbongo In The Congo?
Unfortunately Um Bongo remains unavailable in Congo, daaaamn.