During a conversation recently with an overseas missionary couple, they shared that one of the things they learned about their host country’s culture was that where you “clink” your glass during a toast with someone reflects what you think of that person’s position — either honor or subservience. When toasting a guest of honor, for example, you want to clink toward the bottom of the bowl of the glass, to show that they are of higher esteem than you.
However, they will often try to return the favor in deference to the host. What happens is sometimes a comical contest of each person trying to clink lower on the glass than they other person. The missionary husband told me, “I never thought we’d need ‘clink training’ as we prepared to serve overseas!”
We may laugh at the idea of “clink training” but there are hundreds of these types of customs and behaviors in every cultural context, whether in another country, in our own country, or even from region to region, organization to organization, or family to family. These customs are associated with deeply held cultural values and it’s easy to unintentionally offend if you are not aware of these values and customs.
If you are venturing into an unfamiliar culture, make sure you ask someone for clink training to learn the behaviors that are unique to that context. And if you’re in charge of welcoming newcomers (church visitors, new family members, prospective missionaries, new employees), make sure you provide clink training to help them acclimate to their new setting.