1. Edward
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    Edward Active Member

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    Cultural Mannerisms

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Edward, Mar 18, 2008.

    Does anyone know where I could find a list of things like cultural mannerisms and idioms? I want to flesh out the characters and cultures of my world.

    Cultural Mannerisms aren't as obvious as idioms, so examples of what I mean would be good, ne?
    Anime is a veritable smörgåsbord of Asian mannerisms: Bowing as a greeting, bowing for forgiveness; The bicep polishing gesture (think Rosie the Riveter); Flipping the table; cleaning someone's ear out with an ear pick is a symbol of intimacy; picking at your own ear with your pinky is a sign of boredom and impudence; Pinky swearing is still big in Japan, not so much here anymore; burping is said to be saying thanks for the meal in Chinese; There's that cutting the fingers to ward of bad luck thing (two fingers held together, then someone makes a cutting motion with their hand to the first person, it was shown in Spirited Away if I recall); The French expect people to address them in French, at least to start with; Speaking of France, the Okay gesture means worthless; There's the Fretalian hug-cheek kiss thing; As long as you ask it's okay to sit with strangers in a restaurant in Germany; the Germans also knock on the table instead of clapping after lectures. I could go on for pages (mostly because I have teh Wikipedia open in another tab, still other cultural things besides the Great Wiki would be nice.) but I think everyone gets my point.

    And for those who don't know what idioms are, they are figures of speech. "All right", "easy as pie", "Piece of cake", things that don't actually mean what the words in them mean. Also hard to hard to translate due to the cultural contexts, such as the chinese four character idiom "Break the woks and sink the ships" after a general had all cooking utensils and
    boats destroyed when in enemy territory. Means no turning back, the point of no return.

    Foreign slang would be good for cultural characterization as well...
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it would help to know which cultures you need the idioms/mannerisms for... i doubt you'll find a site that can include all the many thousands of different ones our world consists of...
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Cultural mannerisms and idioms can vary tremendously even within a small geopgraphic area. For instance, Greenwich Village in New York City is very different from Harlem or Manhattan, even though you could pretty easily walk from one to the others.

    There is no substitute for writing what you know, and knowing the minutiae of local culture is very difficult without spending actual time there - long enough not to be immediately recognized as an outsider.
     
  4. Edward
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    Edward Active Member

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    Well, I'm not looking for any specific cultures, just things to give me ideas for some quirks.

    For instance, the Risar. A matriarchal oligarchy ruled by a peaceful but powerful military. The men are treated like women in other cultures, so when they go out amongst the world they wear female clothes and use female pronouns. The women on the other hand, dislike being referred to by masculine pronouns.

    The Urkai have an intolerance (that is to say, a physical one) for alcohol, and therefor it is impolite to offer any to one. They also find it more offensive than most to blaspheme (that is to say, use one of the god's names as an oath) This even extends to other religion's deities. Giving a gift of flowers is a common custom, but never white (those are for funerals)

    Among the Darrow it is impolite to refer to an individual by personal name unless you know them well. Any request given by an older person is supposed to be followed, provided it isn't outlandish or dangerous (sort of like "Respect your elders", but ruder not to).


    I don't really need to know every subtle nuance of a culture, just a few things to give me ideas. Idioms though, those are harder, because when you think about it, some of the things we say make no sense in context. I mean, piece of cake? Lame Duck? These words mean nothing!
     
  5. -NM-
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    -NM- Active Member

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    Hmm..

    I'm not aware of any sites that simply list mannerisms/sterotypes, etc.. of lots of different races/people, etc..

    If you have any particular groups in mind i suggest just googling them and see what you can come up with. Also Wikipedia is always good :)

    I suspect there's plenty of books on different cultures as well, which may well list some info that you are looking for. So maybe a trip to the library as well?

    Sorry i can't be more specific with my help..:(
     
  6. Edward
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    Edward Active Member

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    Well, the problem wikipedia leaves me with is that they don't differentiate between "Cultural mannerisms" and "Etiquette". Etiquette tells a person what NOT to do to fit in, not what TO do to fit in. Though it does give a few things, like in Greece the palm up, fingers bent 'come here' gesture means goodbye.
     
  7. Charisma
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    Charisma Transposon Contributor

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    Like everyone said, a particular culture would be needed to give you some information. E.g. in Arab countries, one should eat with the right hand. But it may not be so with other places. So, you need to specify a culture. As far as knowing a site is concerned, I'm lost.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    are you trying to write about an existing culture, or one you're making up?...
     
  9. Edward
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    Edward Active Member

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    Making up new cultures, for my fictional world. Making a conworld is dorky, but it's a hobby. Also it's great to know your setting in a fantasy story.

    You know, I hate to go off on a tangent, but being intangential is near impossible for me. Wikipedia says it's proper manners in the West to eat with the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right, but all my life I've been incapable of doing that, and couldn't use a fork worth crap in my left hand...
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    well, if you're making up a culture, why not just make up your own cultural quirks!?... since you're its creator, they can be whatever you dream up and don't have to be based on any existing ones...

    seems to me you're making this harder than it needs be...
     
  11. Edward
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    Edward Active Member

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    Well, the problem with making things up out of whole cloth is that they end up far too alien. I don't plan on just picking and choosing things, I just like to study things for ideas.
     
  12. TheFedoraPirate
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    TheFedoraPirate Contributing Member

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    I'd think alien would be a good thing for another world.
     
  13. Edward
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    Edward Active Member

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    well, the problem with that though is that too alien isn't a good thing, and these people are still human. Most of the cultures are loosely based on real world places. My belief is that to make something new you need to know what's already there.

    If not any web pages, does anyone know of any cultural mannerisms, real or fictional, that could give me some ideas? That is to say, if you don't know of a webpage, a few examples you know of would do.
     
  14. Luminous
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    Luminous Member

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    When it comes to cultural mannerisms, nothing can be too alien from reality in nonrealistic fiction.

    You shouldn't worry about it feeling too out of touch with what we already have, but instead make sure it makes perfect sense in the culture you are creating. When you think about it, most real world mannerisms are extremely not sensical, until you look at it as simply new communication. Ashgardleshad, not a word, but once we give it a definition and start using it, it will make perfect sense.
     
  15. TheFedoraPirate
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    TheFedoraPirate Contributing Member

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    Luminance is right, cultural mannerisms are just a sort of visual shorthand for communication.

    Or to give an example, say I wrote about dragons and on my dragons the only place they were really vulnerable was their throat. So, when greeting another dragon, as way of showing your mutual trust, you would bare your throat. This could range from a slight nod upward if the person you are greeting is close to your same level to practically bending over backward if you are greeting Emperor of Dragonkind or whatever.

    Basically pick something you want to communicate and think of a way that species/race/people/whatever would/could communicate that without words.
     
  16. Edward
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    Edward Active Member

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    hmmm... I guess that gives me a few ideas...

    though the point of this is so that I can know what a civilization does, because then I can adapt that kind of thing to it's Fantasy Counterpoint. A culture with a reverence to elders, a strong sense of honour, a concept of Face, and a strict adherence to a warrior's code would likely adapt similar mannerisms to the Japanese. A mildly empirical country with a sense of adventure, a bit of pigheadedness, a little jingoism, and a uniting belief in 'justice' would... well, actually, I won't say which country, but you can take a guess.
     
  17. ieuan
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    ieuan Senior Member

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    Regional/National Good Manners

    An Interesting thread Edward. In Wales English visitors can easily be offended by our unusual interest in their circumstances. If a Welsh person takes an interest in a visitors they may ask the most direct and personal questions. The English being in the main a reserved kind of people and may experience some discomfort at the line of questioning and feel akward. They may feel that this is impertinent, nosey or perhaps the Welsh is person trying to be rude or obnoxious.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. A Welshman that ask such questions as:

    'Where are you from then?' Notice the 'then' this means you have been accepted for further questioning. To the Welsh, where you are from could be start of a long lines of questioning. In the old days where you were from was all important because it could mean you were related, and that meant something then because of the laws of Hywel Dda. It meant you owed an obligation to close relatives and could mean money cost or otherwise. The old laws meant that close relatives could be fined as a group for any disdomeaners or crimes. recounting their geaneologies under the rocks wa sa common Welsh apstinme even in the Christian era. On weekends person would gather to recount their histories and only die dout in the 17th century ot therabouts.

    Being Welsh I am used to it, it's a grilling proccess and can take an hour or so. But on meeting new people I would be asked to take a chair and then answer all the questions, during the process common friends and enemies were indicated and even anecdotes from the past exchanged. This was also a shortcut to lsting friendships or otherwise. If the questioning estabished that your friends were his enemy the conversation could be stilted. But if on the othe rhand you had common friends the bonds were stregthened.

    Wales is a very small place and ina way evryone knows evryone else. In the olden days the Welsh had no surnames, so when the indutrial age came to Wales the business men and mine oweners were usually English and we copied a lot for them including the borowing of surnames. That's why there are so many Jones' around. John's son aka Jones. Johnson, Johnston. There were so many with the name of Jones that it became normal to call a man by the name of what they did. For instance Jones the shop, for a shop owner, or even rfine it further, Jones the ironmonger and Jones the Glazier. Jones the Cornerhouse shop Abercymtych. There was in WW2 even a Jones the Spy!.

    I don't know if this is any use Edward, but I suggets every country needs search for itself.

    Ieuan
     
  18. Edward
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    Edward Active Member

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    Actually, it's incredibly useful. Though you sort of lost me at "Abercymtych". Am I correct in assuming it's Welsh for some occupation or other?
     
  19. ieuan
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    ieuan Senior Member

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    Aber cym tych is a village near Swansea. pronouced as aber- cumb- tuch (soft ch sound)
     

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