Little-big cultural differences

feet vs meters = culture clash

It’s always fun to hear of the tiny, non-serious quibbles one cultural group has about another. Particularly if you’re watching the clash unfold in person. The looks of confusion on both sets of faces is priceless! And they’re good reminders to never take yourself, or your habits and expectations, too seriously.

These are some of my recent favorites:

  • Hungarian women at the Folklife Festival were horrified by how pale the yolks were in the eggs they used for cooking demonstrations. And don’t even get me started on the potatoes… Inferior! (I had never thought about potatoes that way before… have you?)
  • When I interned at a small tech office near Paris, my coworkers considered it of monumental importance that everyone take a minimum one-hour lunch, preferably together. With cocktails. Have you ever tried the same experiment in the States? Heathen hedonist!
  • A non-American mother was incredibly confused about why her son should write anything during his American high school gym class. Writing’s not a sport… right?
  • Here in my own home, my DC-native husband has had a fun time adjusting to the California lifestyle. Driving à la DC is a particularly difficult habit to drop. Myself, I’m just getting used to the emphasis on meat-and-beer menus. Who would have expected that in Cali?!

What minor culture clashes have you experienced recently? Share your own examples in the comments!


2 thoughts on “Little-big cultural differences

  1. Restaurants do seem like a big one. A Japanese coworker and I were talking about how we sometimes feel uncomfortable in restaurants in our nonnative countries: in Japan, you call “Excuse me!” when you’re ready to order and need a waiter. To me, that’s hard to do because in the US it’s rude. Whereas her mother recently embarrassed her in a US restaurant by calling out “Excuse me” thinking that not indicating her readiness would be rude (how else is the waiter supposed to know?).

    • Oh, gosh, yeah, restaurants are a fun source of these incidents! My husband and I absolutely fell in love with waitstaff in Quebec—they served in our very un-American, but preferred, style of “don’t bother me while I’m eating.” Versus here in the States, where we’re always trying to politely tell the waiters to stop hovering over us, please. Sometimes we go to restaurants specifically because Americans report they have “poor” service. Usually just the kind we like!

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