From a Presidential candidate's trip to the loo to how we save a seat in a Dubai cafe, etiquette fails us sometimes

A look at a couple of recent faux pas of society’s customary code of acceptable behaviour

By Michael Jabri-Pickett/Editor-in-Chief

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Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy. Photo: AP
Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy. Photo: AP

Published: Wed 13 Dec 2023, 3:59 PM

Not all societal rules are transferable from country to country, but a breach of etiquette is something we can all easily identify no matter where we come from or where we live.

Two incidents in as many days this week brought to light that although we live in Dubai, where decorum is often dictated by the country’s laws, we can still recognise bad behaviour wherever it happens.

On December 11, an incident took place that was not only a major breach of etiquette but was also a crime.

Faruk Koca, the 59-year-old president of Turkish football club Ankaragucu, ran onto the pitch after a match and punched 37-year-old referee Halil Umut Meler Meler in the face.

Reuters reported that state broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television Corporation “showed Koca entering the field and hitting the referee when the final whistle blew after Rizespor scored a 97th minute equaliser”.

“The related club, the club chairman, club officials, and all those guilty of attacking referee Umut Meler will be punished in the strongest terms possible,” the Turkish Football Federation posted on X, the wire service said.

A detention order was issued for Koca, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said in a post on X, Reuters said.

A judicial investigation is underway, and two other people have been detained, according to the ministry.

It was such a break from decorum that even Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had to share his views on X. “Sport means peace and brotherhood. Sport is incompatible with violence. We will never allow violence to take place in Turkish sports.”

Contrary to what the Turkish president said, sports has always been an outlet where rage can be harnessed to achieve greatness. What makes this incident a major faux pas is that it involved a non-player and a referee. Players punching players is common in just about all sports, but a club official striking a referee goes beyond the pale.

The second incident, this one on December 12, involved Vivek Ramaswamy, the Republican presidential hopeful and son of Indian parents who moved from Kerala to the United States, where Ramaswamy was born.

Ramaswamy was on a live X Spaces chat with Elon Musk and others when, while speaking, he decided to take a trip to the loo.

One of the people on the call said: “Vivek, Vivek, that’s your phone, Vivek. I’m not able to mute you.”

The 38-year-old Ramaswamy could be heard conducting his business in the washroom.

The transcript of the chat goes on:

“Sorry about that,” Ramaswamy said.

Musk responded: “Well, I hope you feel better now.”

“I feel great, thank you,” Ramaswamy said, laughing.

Such lack of concern that a major faux pas had occurred is – often unfairly – a reflection of one’s upbringing. Regardless, we can all look at this episode as a failure to follow society’s polite code of conduct.

UAE etiquette is sometimes on another – unrealistic – level. If you have lived in Dubai for any length of time, you know there are certain societal codes we have come to respect, even if they are careless in other cities.

In Dubai, an expensive mobile phone and a pair of designer sunglasses left unattended on a table in a café indicates that a seat has been saved.

While certain rules are respected in this city, there are other breaches of etiquette that we do not always follow.

Perhaps it is a pet peeve rather than a breach of etiquette, but refusing to clear one’s mess after eating in a public place is offensive to some.

Another irksome practice is when fellow café patrons scroll through Instagram with the volume on their phone turned up to the point where it is easy for others to hear the social media post.

And one more breach of etiquette: talking too loudly on a mobile phone while wearing airpods. I lived in Japan for many years, and the practice in some of the world’s most densely populated cities is to cover your mouth and lower your voice when speaking on the phone in public.

While Dubai might not be at the level of Japanese etiquette, I think we can all agree that a trip to the washroom while on the phone is never going to turn out well.

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