When you burp, it is common practice in most societies for you to say excuse me. There are only a few slight variations of this throughout the world.
In general, you should always apologize after a burp. Pretending that no one heard your messy burp will not help. Even if the country embraces burping, it is a good idea to observe others at the table. There’s always a chance that your hosts will be the exception.
A Natural Process
Burping, which is also referred to as belching or eructation, is the process of releasing gas from the upper digestive tract. It is a natural process that occurs in people of all ages, even babies.
However, while most people think it’s cute when a baby burps, many are not so enthusiastic about hearing an adult burp or belch. It’s even worse when the burp is accompanied by strong odors such as garlic or onions, which some people may find offensive.
Burping is a natural process but that doesn’t mean everyone likes it. It is always a good idea to apologize if you feel that you may have done something that offended another person, even if it’s a natural biological process.
As children, human beings may do things without any finesse or in a way that is not socially acceptable. As they grow older, they learn how to control their bodily processes in a way that suits them. For example, they learn how to release gases from their upper respiratory tract slowly, so that it doesn’t make any sound.
This is a helpful skill that allows you to feel comfortable when you’re making a speech or trying to woo a partner. Even older children will learn to release gas inaudibly if they are playing hide and seek because they don’t want the sound of their burp to give their position away.
Apologizing after burping is a way of taking responsibility for your actions. Psychologists have shown that little boys are not always taught to say sorry when their actions hurt others. Little girls are. A study in 2010 showed that men don’t always realize when their actions hurt others, which is another reason why they may be less likely to apologize.
We are all responsible for the type of relationships that we have with other people. Each individual in a relationship can often do things unconsciously, that impact the way they are viewed by the other person. Small actions can make someone feel hurt but they may not say anything.
This principle remains true for both intimate relationships and casual or work connections. If you constantly do things that cause others in your work environment to feel like you don’t respect them as much as you should, they will not put forward the effort that they should treat you in a good way.
For example, if you are working on a team project, they may not do more than the minimum. Some may not recommend you to make a presentation because they may not be sure how you will conduct yourself. They may even refrain from recommending you for a promotion because they think that you are impolite and don’t pay attention to the concerns of other people.
In Psychology Today, Beverly Engel, L.M.F.T., says that apologizing:
- Helps us remain emotionally connected to others
- Reminds us not to repeat the act
- Allows others to view us in a compassionate way
You may think that everyone should just understand when you burp but it’s not so at all. No one has to be sympathetic. However, there are things that you can do to encourage sympathy. If you really can’t help burping in public, verbally apologizing encourages others to forgive you.
A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and on ResearchGate by Michael McCullough et al showed that an apology produces increased empathy toward an apologetic offender. They found that apologies increase the capacity of others to forgive. The study also found that apologies make people less avoidant of the person who offended them.
If you tend to burp and not apologize, some people will start to avoid you. This is especially true if they are physically upset by that behavior and you do it a lot during meals. They will avoid eating lunch or other meals with you if they can. Saying excuse me helps to eliminate all of that.
If you find that you are burping too much for comfort, there may be habits that you need to adjust. For example, if you chew gum a lot, this may be contributing to excessive burping. If you drink through a straw or smoke, this can also be causing you to burp more than usual.
Even dentures can cause you to burp more than you normally would if they don’t fit properly. You may need to talk to your doctor if you notice that you are burping too often and you cannot figure out why. Some people have Gastroparesis, which is a condition in which food moves through their digestive tract more slowly than it should. This can cause them to burp or even fart a lot more than normal.
Respecting Cultural Traditions
Some people apologize when they burp out of respect for cultural traditions. Even in one country, how people respond to a burp can vary slightly from one neighborhood to another. There may be areas where people will be seriously offended if you burp and don’t say excuse me.
People in this setting may think that you saw them and still went ahead and burped loudly anyway. Some may think that you are uncouth. Others may even wonder if you were never taught good manners at some stage of life.
Some people will be so offended that they will start an argument over it. Apologizing after burping is basic and if you do something offensive around them, it may be seen as disrespectful to them. It may be interpreted as intentional disrespect.
Make the Best Impression
People are careful with the way they dress, their posture, and their mannerisms because they want to portray themselves in a positive light. No one wants people to misinterpret their behavior or think less of them because of a bad habit. As human beings, we will look down on someone if they appear to have bad manners or show proper consideration for others.
Case studies show that a humble apology can help even a brand to save face. When KFC ran out of chicken and had to close 900 restaurants, they apologized. This cooled down the growing social media backlash and helped to save their brand. Whether you know it or not, you have a personal brand and saying excuse me after burping helps to maintain your good image.
Burping in A Corporate Setting
Many people spend most of their day at work, so some of the people who hear you burp will likely be your coworkers. It is unfortunate when a business leader is addressing a crowd or speaking on television and a burp escapes.
To make the best impression in that situation, they should apologize immediately. Good PR covers slights, at both the personal and professional levels.
Exceptions to The Rule
There are exceptions to almost every rule and burping is not any different. If you go to some countries, it is expected that you will burp loudly and audibly. This is because burping is a way of showing appreciation for the meal that you have had.
In China, for example, you should burp and ensure that you don’t apologize afterward. Instead, you should ensure that you look pleased and satisfied. If you are in Taiwan, the same applies, so if you plan to eat anywhere there as a guest in someone’s home, get ready to put your usual cultural practices away for a bit.
In Singapore, if you burp gently, it is viewed as a sign of appreciation for your meal. The burp here is different from that in China and emphasis is on the gentleness of your burp.
Even in India, there is heated debate over whether it is polite to burp at the dinner table, so observe what others are doing and make sure your behavior is not offensive.
Don’t Overdo It
If you had peas, cabbage, or something else that makes you feel extremely gassy, you may find yourself burping several times in a meeting. In this scenario, you can run the risk of irritating others with too many apologies.
In that kind of situation, you should stop apologizing after the second apology. Try to drink a little water or do something else to help control the gassiness. You can also aim to burp as quietly as possible.
Sophie Hammond is a journalist, psychologist, and freelance speechwriter for people in politics and business. She lives on the edge of the Rocky Mountains with her dog and a lifetime supply of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through nature or journaling at a coffee shop.