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FAQ, Trivia and Information on Life in America: Ask-A-Desi

This section will attempt to address some of the Frequently Asked Questions on Life in the US, Canada and North America that immigrants, visitors and others from different cultures attempt to address. If you have any additional inputs or wish  to see more topics addressed, mail us at

Etiquette is a code that governs the expectations of social behavior, according to the contemporary conventional norm within a society, social class, or group. Usually unwritten, it may be codified in written form. Etiquette usually reflects formulas of conduct in which society or tradition have invested. Manners involve a wide range of social interactions within cultural norms as in the "comedy of manners", or a painter's characteristic "manner". Etiquette and manners, like mythology, have buried histories especially when they seem to have little obvious purpose, and their justifications as logical ("respect shown to others" etc.) may be equally revealing to the social historian.- Wikipedia

Trivia on Etiquette

Etiquette at Buffet

Some "Food for thought" while discussing "Thoughts of Food".

Why do many restaurants insist that you take a new plate every time you go thru a buffet line?

Isn't it actually increasing the restaurant's dish-washing load?

Okay, I don't know about other States, but in our Illinois State, it's the law. Illinois Dept of Public Health explains: "You pick up your first load of grub from the buffet and sit down to eat. As you transfer food in one direction from plate to mouth, you are also transferring germs in the other direction, from mouth to plate, on your eating utensils. If you then take that plate back to the buffet, the reasoning goes that you will then transfer said germs from the plate to the holding pan full of food on the buffet line by means of the serving spoons, tongs etc."

Washington D.C, as far as I know, also requires a clean plate for each trip thru a buffet line and for the identical reasons as Illinois. New York city has no such rule but the custom/tradition very much prevails there too.

On a lighter note, one can hog as much as one wants without embarrassment because, others in queue will think you are joining afresh even though it's your Nth helping  :-)
Line for Buffet...with a Fresh Plate. Buffet Etiquette - Everytime Fresh Plate.


Sneeze - God Bless You!.... How or why did saying "God bless you" become associated as an expression one says to another after a sneeze?


Is it because

1. When someone sneezes his heart stops, and saying "God bless you" means "I'm glad your heart started again." ?

2. Saying "God bless you" when you sneeze keeps the devil from flying down your throat ?

3. When you sneeze your soul tries to escape and saying "God bless you" crams it back in ?

The Pope Story

The custom of saying "God bless you" after a sneeze was begun literally as a blessing. No sooner Pope Gregory the Great (540-604 AD) ascended to the Papacy than the start of the sixth century devastating plague in Italy. Gregory called for litanies, processions and unceasing prayer for God's help and intercession. Columns marched through the streets chanting, "Kyrie Eleison" (Greek for "Lord have mercy"). When someone sneezed, they were immediately blessed ("God bless you!") in the hope that they would not subsequently develop the plague. All that prayer apparently worked, judging by how quickly the plague of 590 AD diminished.

The connection of sneezing to the plague is not the first association of sneezing with death. Many cultures, even some in Europe, believe that sneezing expels the soul (breath of life) from the body.  That doesn't seem too far-fetched when you realize that sneezing can send tiny particles speeding out of your nose at up to 100 miles per hour! No speeding ticket, no "Mama" there :-)

Sneeze.... Aaa..chooo

We know today, of course, that when we sneeze, our heart doesn't stop, nor will our eyes pop out if we can keep them open, nor does our soul get expelled. What does get expelled are hundreds and thousands of microscopic germs. Best advice when you sneeze is to cover your mouth with your arm rather than your hand. That way, all those germs won't be on your hands when you touch the countless things you're going to touch in the course of the day.

And lastly, what if the entire population of US sneezes simultaneously?

Well, then it's the now-very-popular-and-famous "GOD BLESS AMERICA" !!!

Links of interest:

  • Basic Essentials of Dinner Table Etiquette
  • Formal Dinner Etiquette: The formal dineer never begins before seven o'clock; the time usually is eight or eight-thirty. It is very discourteous for a guest to be late. Arrive at least five minutes before the hour set for the dinner. If for some unavoidable reason you cannot arrive on time, telephone the hostess and explain the reason to her. If it has been impossible for you to notify her and she has started the meal after having waited the required fifteen minutes after the hour set, go to her, offer apologies, and take your place at the table as quickly as possible. The tardy guest begins with the course that is then being served.
  • Eating Buffet Style - Etiquette: When eating at a buffet, you will most likely be seated at a table with little utensils already placed. Your plate will be filled to your liking by walking down a serving table and having your plated filled as you pass each dish. You will retrieve your eating utensils and flatware at the serving table.
  • Social Etiquette and Good Manners: Buffet Tipping: Question
    Are you suppost to tip at a buffet (where the waitor/waitress does nothing more than bring your drinks and refills, and occassionally a napkin). I go to a casual dining Chinese buffet pretty regularly. It's family owned and operated, except for the mexican busboys. Many other patrons leave no cash on the table. I'm wondering if this is the norm or if some tipping is expected. If so, how much?

    Answer: Dear Amanda, There is no need to tip the traditional 15 - 20 percent at a buffet. However, it is appropriate and optimal to tip something. The waitress is still serving and some of the tip probably is shared with the bussing staff. I suggest 10 percent. Thanks for asking. Robin


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Trivia and Questions for Indians and Immigrants in America

General Trivia : Introduction //Dollars and Cents // Social Security Number // About Mail and USPS // Story of The Old Glory // Green Card– Why Not Green? // Telephone Area Codes // Convex Mirrors and Caution // Bankruptcy and Chapter 11 // Radio and TV Broadcasting // Consumerism: Trivia on Wal-Mart. // Retail Trivia // Gas Prices– What's 0.9 Cent? // Roads and Interstate Highways // Road Driving Trivia // Finance 101 // Daylight Saving Time // Trivia on Etiquette

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