Welcome, class, to your first official lesson in hookah etiquette. You are welcome to find a chair, beanbag, or Central-Asian rug to sit on before we begin.
Now, unless you are in the Mediterranean or doing business with foreign diplomats it’s unlikely that you are smoking hookah for any reason other than your own entertainment. Keep in mind that all of this course will be based around what actions a person would take to make themselves and those around them the most comfortable and in the coolest way possible. Yes, believe it or not “coolness” is definitely a major factor here. If you are unfamiliar with what it means to be cool I suggest you read Dale Carnegie’s highly acclaimed “How to Win Friends and Influence People” or simply watch any film with Samuel L. Jackson playing a major role.
The basic rules of hookah are pretty self-explanatory. I should see no one in this class hogging the pipe and even moreso I shouldn’t see anyone do anything that might cause the hookah to tip over. Everything is fun and games until someone has a hookah coal sized hole in their table.
It should also go without saying that the inside of a person’s mouth should have the least amount of contact with the pipe as possible. If you are helping to organize the smoking event be sure to make an attempt to acquire pipe “condoms”. These hollow plastic cones have a flat end rather than a point. They should fit easily over the top of the pipe and are a respectful way of making sure your particular cocktail of local bacteria isn’t spread to the friends with which you are trying to hang out.
The passing order is debatable. Some will always go left and others will pass to their right. As much as you may be told one way or another, there is no consistent direction to which you need to pass. Simply make it your goal to assure that all people present who would like to hit from the hookah get a chance. That being said, it’s important to respect other people’s choices not to smoke. Too often have I seen people rushed into a coughing fit simply because a hookah-er was too self-conscious to allow others to not smoke around them.
Ultimately, hookah etiquette is as simple as any other social laws; it’s all about recognizing that those around you are people and that they have feelings and motivations that are completely separate than your own. If you allow people to be natural and comfortable around you they will reward you with kindness and courtesy. This pastime is no different except that it more regularly entices people to be uncomfortable due to the stigma behind inhaling smoke. All it really takes to be the bees knees of hookah is not break anything and respect other people’s boundaries.
Here is also another good article on hookah etiquette from Hookah.org.
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