Exposed Extraterrestrials: Averted entirely, for reasons as disparate as regulating temperature, protection from environmental hazards, etiquette, and perhaps most significantly of all, pockets. (Literally everyone in the galaxy who isn’t actually sessile has invented pockets, and arguably the ones who are have too, except they call them cabinets.) Even those species (say, the dar-bandal) whose fur privilege takes care of the first three above still wear a Waistcoat of Style for the sake of the pockets.
Our Nudity is Different: Oh, boy.
Well, it’s a little complicated, given the sheer number of species involved. The chapter of the Common Social Protocol (that consensus standard of basic etiquette that imposes on everyone as equally as possible) that covers this is thereby unfortunately long.
The CSP, of course, only applies as a matter of law to Empire-managed property. Within private volumes, you can do whatever you like, and on private property, the owners can set whatever rules they like – although most save themselves the trouble and just default to the CSP rules. (Who says libertists can’t coordinate? Ha!)
What the CSP asks in general is that except where otherwise posted (public baths, certain beaches, etc., etc.) you cover your excretory organs (unless they’re lungs or skin, but if you should happen to excrete anything substantial other than gases through your skin, it is considered impolite and incorrect to leave ooze on things), primary sexual characteristics, and anything else you might have that triggers involuntary (i.e. not readily overridable by volition) instincts in your fellow sophonts. This last is intended to recognize that (a) allure is not indecency, but yet and at the same time, (b) it is impolite to push involuntary reactions on people who don’t want ’em. Basically, it’s Wheaton’s Law applied to dress codes.
(The luckiest people in the galaxy in this respect by and large are sophonts who have fur, inasmuch as due to the irritation that comes with trying to wear many types of clothing over fur, fur is clothing for all purposes of etiquette. If you want to wear something over it, that’s fine, but you’re not naked unless you’re also shaved.)
(I was reminded the other day of one particular conference that makes a point that it has no detailed “code of conduct” because, well, “It is presumed that those attending the conference are of sufficient moral grounding and intelligence to be well behaved. If we have to explain how you should behave, you probably don’t belong in the first place. […] can be summed up as this: if it becomes apparent you need a policy to know how to behave at the event, you’ll probably already have been ejected from the event.”
Which, y’know, got me thinking of how those convention centers and so forth in this ‘verse deal with these issues, especially considering that many of them necessarily cater to outworlders who may not quite grasp the rigors of the CSP. And so, without further ado:)
“Welcome to the Meridia Rim Convention Center!
…several pages down in the FAQ…
“It is not our policy to have an explicit Code of Conduct, since we prefer to presume that anyone attending a conference held here is a gentlesoph, and thus aware of how to conduct themselves as a civilized sophont. Moreover, being overly specific as to undesired behaviors only encourages the ungentlesophly to inform themselves – we trust this is not your purpose, gentle reader – and game whatever rules are set forth.
“It is possible that we may be incorrect in this assumption, and thus we offer the following guidelines:
“Should you find yourself perpetually ignored, as if you had become invisible, you have probably gone too far, your amalgamated civility meta-reputation score has dropped sufficiently far to engage your fellow visitors’ sense-filters, and you will shortly be ejected from the Convention Center by our meta-rep enforcement robots. Your voluntary departure would be appreciated in the interest of the common peace.
“Should you feel the exquisite sting of a knife in the ribs, you have definitely gone too far, and should consider yourself both ejected and blacklisted for events held at the Center for a period not less than 144 years.”
“Those visitors unfamiliar with local custom in such matters should avoid those bars and other drinking houses displaying above the entrance a knotted wooden club, or a spaceman’s marlinspike. Such establishments thereby indicate that they are “brawler’s bars”, and as such, establishments which tolerate a nice friendly brawl between their patrons as long as no weapons are drawn and no-one’s actually trying to kill anyone else, without the usual legal and often lethal consequences that would attend trying to start a fight anywhere else. Fighting is not organized or obligatory – and indeed, may happen relatively infrequently – but entering an establishment so signed is considered informed consent, for legal purposes, to being propositioned for such an affray, and/or caught up in one that starts while you are present, and all consequences resulting therefrom.”
“(Members of any gentler sex, race, clade or caste which there might happen to be for your species are also advised that Imperials take a rather ecumenical view on such matters, and as such, while it may be possible to observe, there can be no guarantee that observation will not lead inexorably to participation.)”
“If this is the sort of thing you’re looking for in your evening’s entertainment, however, most brawler’s bars have good on-site medical support for routine traumas, and more sophisticated medical services on-call in the event of an accident. However, as with everything else in the Empire, these must be paid for, so make sure that your medical, tort and/or travel insurance policies are up to date and offer appropriate coverage before visiting. You should also familiarize yourself with the relevant sections of the Common Social Protocol – again, like everything else hereabouts, a nice friendly brawl has rules.”
– A Visitor’s Guide to the Empire: Startown and its Denizens
Culture Clash: All. The. Time.
The really big ones, like between the Imperials and the Hope Hegemony or the Equality Concord at one end of the spectrum, and between them and the Rim Free Zone at the other, and between the Photonic Network and all meat intelligences everywhere, etc., are just the most obvious, but when you wander away from the rough consensus of the CSP, CEP, and trade protocols of the Accord, well, these are cultures which may not be completely alien to each other, folks, but they can get pretty close. What were you expecting?
Cross-Cultural Handshake: While there are any number of othercultural handshakes, the standard Common Social Protocol greeting, based off an old Eldraeic one, is a simple brush of manipulator against manipulator (note: brush, don’t grip), which is something that just about every species can handle to some degree.
[A comment left on the original posting of this trope read:
“I shall take this to mean that a fistbump is considered an acceptable formal greeting in Eldraeic culture.”
Yes, it can be, if done gently. But note that if executed with too much zeal, ‘twould be on the aggressive end of the scale, like those people in our culture who insist on turning a handshake into a wrist-wrestling contest. After all, at least part of the reason for the standard protocol is that not every species shares the same compressive strength of flesh range, and what is a tap to us could be severe bruising to them.]