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Adopt these foreign customs at home for a happier life

Treat yourself at breakfast. Go on.
FORGET teaspoons and I heart NY T-shirts. Bring home a cultural souvenir next time you're abroad, because other countries have some damn lovely (and quirky) customs. 
1. Treat yourself

Nope, this doesn't mean gorge on the breakfast buffet at your hotel. The French are famous for their small portions, but that doesn't mean they skimp on the indulgence.

At le breakfast, for example, a single buttery croissant or chocolate brioche stands in for the big brekkies we've become accustomed to over here.

And for their savouring, the French have a much lower obesity rate than Aussies.

 Why send a text when you could give a squillo? 2. Give a squillo
Why send a text when you could give a squillo?
A what? An Italian squillo is when you give a friend a quick call but hang up before they answer.

In Australia, we know it as pranking, and you might've done it when you ran out of credit once and needed a friend to call you from their phone.

But the Italians do it for a much lovelier reason: just to let a friend know you're thinking of them.
Add some Euro-mystery to your keep-in-touch routine and leave a missed call to let someone know you care.

3. Inspect with respect
Taking care of business ... cards. It's customary in Japan.
Taking care of business ... cards. It’s customary in Japan.
It's the homeland of sumo wrestling, but there's a surprising Japanese custom that marvels onlookers more than all the others.

It's called meishi - the exchanging of business cards that occurs when you meet someone new in business.

Obviously in Australia you wouldn't bow, hand a business card over with two hands and carefully inspect all the information, as meishi calls for.

But taking a little extra time and paying attention to the card is certainly a worthwhile practice to adopt. Don't stuff into your pocket, don't scrawl something on it and don't bend it in front of its owner.

And maybe put some more thought into your next business card order, like these psychos.

4. Hang out beyond the house
Home is where the heart is, but beyond the home is a great place to catch up too.  
Home is where the heart is, but beyond the home is a great place to catch up too.
In countries like the Netherlands, mates don't hang out in the homes of mates. Instead, they meet on mutual turf like cafes and town squares.
As well as getting you off the hook with hosting duties, the happy habit of meeting in a public place also opens you up to possibilities you wouldn't get at home.

You might find a new food or drink you like, or a new friend might join the conversation (OK, that's decidedly un-Dutch, but give it a try on our shores).

5. Do the siesta

You know that slump you get about three o'clock when the joy of lunch is over and there's still a long slog ahead until home time? Ugh. It's the worst.

Well the Spanish avoid that altogether with siesta - the (unfortunately dying) custom of leaving work to nap between 2pm and 5pm.

There's no way your boss is going to agree to this in Australia, but you could modify the custom so it's workplace appropriate. Eat your lunch outside the office instead of at your desk, jam out to a few songs on your iPod for 15 minutes, or take a 15 minute catnap to recharge the batteries.

You'll return to your desk with renewed energy and the remains of the day will fly by.

6. Have an after-dinner sobremesa

Aside from Christmas, when was the last time you sat around the table after eating?
Aside from Christmas, when was the last time you sat around the table after eating?
Can you remember the last time the family - or housemates - sat around the table after dinner? What's that? You can't even remember the last time dinner was eaten at the table.

You're not alone. It's increasingly common for families to eat dinner in front of the telly or distracted by work. So maybe the Spanish custom of sobremesa needs an introduction.

Sobremesa refers to the hours - yep, hours - that Spanish people spend talking around the dinner table after dinner. We're so lame at this practice, there's not even an English word for it.

Try sitting around for 30 minutes after dinner tonight and talk about your day, or whatever. You might be surprised by what comes out.

And next time you're in another country, take some time out from taking happy snaps and take some notice of the local customs. You'll enjoy bringing them home more than any shot glass or tea towel.

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