1. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    Cultural quirks

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Ivana, Aug 28, 2015.

    I thought that posting our country's cultural quirks would be both fun and useful (in case anyone is planning to visit a certain country, they could learn "small things" that they could use while interacting with that country's residents). Also, it could be useful from a writer's point of view.

    So I'll start with my own country, Serbia. This is all from my personal experience. Of course, quirks can vary a bit troughout a country:

    1. Taking off your shoes - when you enter someone's home, it used to be a custom to take your shoes off. The host would usually provide a pair of slippers for you. Nowadays, in my surroundings at least, people don't usually take off their shoes, but it's polite to ask. So when you enter someone's home, you should ask "Should I take off my shoes?" and they'll probably say "No, just come inside" or "It's up to you. If you feel more comfortable that way, I'll give you slippers." But it's still considered more polite to take them off (your host will probably be glad).
    2. Barbecuing - when you're invited to a barbeque, or any sort of party, it is not expected to bring your own food/drinks. It's quite normal that the host pays for the whole thing. However, when you're among close friends, or barbecuing on a neutral field, everyone can bring something that they would like to eat/drink. But, of course, you won't be eating what you brought exclusively; everyone can eat/drink whatever they want.
    3. Paying restaurant/bar bill - Men pay bills in Serbia. It's almost always the case. Splitting the amount between man and women he asked out is unthinkable. But if there's a group of friends out, girls can sometimes contribute, although this is rare, too. Usually if there are 2 or more guys they would have an argument about who's going to pay the bill (everyone will try to pay, even if they're low on cash - it's a matter of pride). If there's a group of girls in a bar or restaurant, they'll usually split the bill or pay for their own drinks.
    4. Garlic - even though we all know how healthy it is, smell of garlic in someone's breath is considered rude.
    5. Getting on time - Serbs are not the most punctual nation in the world, but when it comes to business, we prefer being on time. Appearing 10-15 minutes late is usually tolerated. When it comes to private visits, it is normal that you're 15 - 30 minutes late. If you're going to be more than half an hour late, you should probably call.
    6. Eating in public - it is tolerable to eat on the street, while you might get a few strange looks if your eating in a public transportation.
    7. Gifts - it is expected to bring a gift when going into someone's home. A bottle of wine would do. And it is normal that the host opens a present before you and thank you.

    Sooo, I guess there's a lot more but I can't think of it right now...
    How about you? What are you cultural quirks?
     
  2. PrincessSofia
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    PrincessSofia Active Member

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    In France :
    about the "taking off your shoes" thing, most people ask their guests to take them off, or it's the guest who asks if they should take them off, but anyway you're expected to remove your shoes when entering someone house.

    Apparently I thought it was normal, but some foreigners told me they didn't do this at home :
    When entering a store, saying hello to the employees.

    Men will also pay the whole bill at a restaurant if on a date with a woman, but not if with friends who happen to be girls.

    When having a dinner party, people always ask if the host wants them to bring something particular, and most often the host says no, so people bring varying stuff, like wine or pastries or a home-made dessert etc..

    People are often very rude in the streets. When you say hi to someone you don't know, that person will look at you like you're crazy, or if you ask someone for direction, most of them will say I don't have time or I don't live here, or just don't reply at all and ignore you.

    In most situations, when eating together, people will wait for the other person to eat to start eating as well ( so weird !!)



    In Algeria :

    When you go to someone house around dinner or lunch time, or even if it's like 5PM in the afternoon, they'll ask you to stay for dinner and if you refuse they'll "force you" to .

    When going to someone's house, most women bring a bag full of groceries, like fizzy drinks, fruits, cakes, boxes of coffee, sugar, oil.. Or if they have a garden they'll bring a whole box of their home made vegetables .

    Most people eat dinner around 9-11 PM in Algeria.

    Since it's so hot out in the afternoon, shops close around 1 PM, and most people stay home and take a nap until it's 4 or 5 PM.

    It's very easy to engage conversation with strangers in the streets or public transportation, especially with women, they will talk about their kids, or their job etc with complete strangers and looking at them you could think they've known each other for decades.

    I don't know if it's a cultural quirk or not, but algerian people are obssessed with turkish soap operas. Even the little kids watch them, and apparently several algerian women left their husbands after watching a particular tv show because they thought their husband wasn't as nice and attractive as the male lead character hahaa.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2015
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  3. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    Really? :eek:
    Even though Serbs are known as being extremly friendly, even I was surprised couple of weeks ago, when I was on a holiday in South-Western Serbia (mountains, lakes, wild nature). People from small mountain villages rarely encounter visitors, so they were all making us come to their houses for a cup of cofee and some homemade juice (and a lot of advises of what to see and visit).
    Even in cities, people are usually willing to help and show you direction etc. But sadly, that's slowly changing.
    Haha, don't say, same here. First there were "telenovelas" from latin America (the whole country was crazy about them) and now there are Turkish and Indian soap operas. I was watching couple of them too (Turkish ones) :p, recently finished watching one called "Ezel" (the modern version of "The Count of Monte Cristo") :D It's definitely a cultural phenomenon.
     
  4. PrincessSofia
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    PrincessSofia Active Member

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    It's mostly in big cities, but smaller ones, too. Honestly, when I first lived in Paris and didn't know any direction or when I had way too much luggage to carry in parisian train stations, it was always almost african/caribbean/arab people who helped me, without me asking, they would carry my luggage for me because I was obviously struggling to do so, and in one year, I can recall that only 2 times french people helped me with my luggage or even replied to my question regarding what train I should take. I think french people are very individualist sadly.

    Haha yeah the telenovelas from brazil and mexico ! My mom loves them , and now she's watching an indian soap opera too lol. I don't know if you've watched this turkish show, "Aşk-ı Memnu" ( or at least it's what's the title is on wikipedia) it's about an older man who has a young and beautiful wife and his wife and his nephew( which he raised like his son) are going to fall in love.The actor who plays the nephew,Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ, is just so handsome ^^.
     
  5. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    In the UK:

    A slap on the arse is a sign of friendship.

    If you are eating and you are full, you should place any spare food on your neighbour's plate.

    "Better out than in" originated here. A burp or fart is considered an "ill wind" so let it out.
     
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  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Tipping at restaurants in the US. It's stupid for various reasons, and it confuses a lot of foreigners (I get the impression some places don't like foreigners because they tip poorly). Hell, it confuses a lot of Americans, too! Imagine this: you're eating and drinking and having a gay old time, and then at the end of the night, you have to do math. :dry:
     
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  7. PrincessSofia
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    PrincessSofia Active Member

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    I don't understand it either, the concept that you have to give someone extra money for a job that they are already paid to do, therefore you're paying for more than you should for your food and the service, is stupid to me.
     
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  8. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It's because a lot of places don't pay their waiters minimum wage (and this is legal by the way), so their income depends on tips. The same goes for bartenders.
     
  9. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Basically it's all about the American masses subsidizing businesses so that that business owners can make more money.
     
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  10. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    All of these are true. Also, good friends here insult each other more than your worst enemies.

    In my part of the UK, you can't really consider someone your best friend unless you can can have a 'slagging match' with them while laughing with them.
     
  11. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    It's customary here in the States to let nineteen year olds drive, go to war, get sued, get tried in an adult court, smoke, hold a job, do everything EXCEPT legally drink alcohol in public. :p :D
     
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  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    In the States, you can show a bloody corpse on network television, but not a sexual organ, or even a naked female nipple.

    The latter are considered obscene, but the former is not.

    Violent acts are tolerated, loving acts are not.

    No wonder T-Rump is leading the polls. Hatred trumps love.
     
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  13. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    i see what you did there
     
  14. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    To add to your post: scantly clad lady on a magazine? Not bad at all. Naked lady on TV? The world has come to a burning end, the Horsemen of the Apocalypse are upon us. Rivers turned to blood, it's raining fire.

    According to our social media: If you're not rocking a six-ab body with chiseled biceps, or look like Barbie herself, get the fuck out.

    Also in the States, anything can be offensive. ANYTHING!! Got a thing? Someone's offended by it. And they'll sue you for damages to their feelings.
     
  15. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes to the above about tipping in American restaurants (why can they not just fucking pay their waiters decent wages?) and America's prudishness about the human body and about adolescent drinking.

    On a positive note, though, polls show Americans are the most charitable nation in the world. (Though Myanmar did catch up and tie with the US in 2014.)
     
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  16. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    Wow. In Serbia, unless you're a close friend of the same sex, you'd probably get a slap in a face for doing that.
    Or, if you're a guy slapping another guy, they'd probably suspect you're being gay (and we are extremely homophobic nation).
    :eek: Really weird one.
    Wow again. To fart in public is considered extremely rude in these parts.
     
  17. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    Over here you can leave a tip or not, it's up to you. But we usually tip really poorly. When i was a kid, I don't recall anyone leaving a tip, but nowadays I guess this American trand is spreading, so waiters usually expect at least a small tip (although they do offer change unless you tell them "it's ok".
     
  18. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Quirk 1: Untalkativeness and all purpose rudeness

    I thought Brits were supposed to be closed off and reserved, especially in London. However, every time I've returned home, I've sworn to take with me some of that openness and politeness I've experienced and implement it to my daily life in Finland, which should tell something about the incredible level of closed-offness, inwardness, and nigh-on-rudeness that is prevalent around here. Bus drivers don't greet you, co-workers start to warm up to you after about a year, and it's only when Finns are drunk you can tell for sure they are people after all, instead of zombies (and not even the brain-eating type! More like the braindead type). There is nothing more awkward than a Finn who didn't read the How-To-Finn manual. Oh the squirming, toe-curling, and nervous glances that shall ensue when someone who appears for all intents and purposes perfectly, stereotypically Finnish (pasty white skin, mousy brown hair, pale eyes, frumpy clothes) goes off on a tirade about their personal stuff, stuff you are allowed to discuss only with your spouse, cat, and that one good friend you've known since kindergarten.

    Quirk 2: Alcohol consumption and associated behaviors

    I don't know if this is acceptable in any other civilized nation, but for Finns it's perfectly normal to celebrate, say, May Day, Midsummer's Day, Halloween, Christmas, or just about any Friday like it's the Olympics for the Sheriously Shitfaced. My German friend was just chuckling at the limp, passed out bodies by road sides, at the drunken men and women pissing in the bushes, at the sloshed ladies cat-fighting in the park, cawing insults at one another like they were only two steps away from premeditated murder... And the best thing is; alcohol is your Get out jail free -card. If you did it drunk, no worries, that's understandable, we've all been there, blah blah. Alcohol is like the confession for Roman Catholics: you are absolved of all your sins as long as you vow to never repeat them.

    Quirk 3: Nudity

    Finns are cool with it. You'll look like a tool if you bring a towel to the sauna, even if you were bathing with strangers. It's sometimes difficult to make it through the day without a pair of boobs or a schlong appearing on TV or in the streets. I've sort of managed to cut down on my daily dosage of random peen after getting rid of the TV, though.

    Quirk 4: Incessant complaining

    You always look for the shitty lining in everything. Seriously, sometimes the level of negativity is simply staggering (as evident in this post alone).
    -You had a baby, congrats, you must be over the moon!
    -I'm in so much pain still, and the baby won't stop screaming!
    -Hey, I heard you got a raise; that's great.
    -Like that's gonna do any good now that they've raised prices again.
     
  19. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not that you're paying more than you should; you paid less than you should, and you make up for it by tipping.

    Or, to put it another way, you paid the restaurant for the food; now you pay the waiter/waitress for the service, because the restaurant effectively doesn't pay them at all. (They get a sub-minimum wage, and when the taxes are taken out for tips, it's not unusual for them to get a zero paycheck.)

    Hmm. Customs. Customs. There's the fact that many American restaurants serve FAR more food than many people can eat, so for many people it's standard practice to bring home a "box" or a "doggie bag" of leftovers home. A restaurant meal can end up being another full meal at home the next day.
     
  20. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I live in the UK (Scotland.) Farting IS considered kind of a 'statement' among the Scottish macho male fraternity. Putting food on somebody else's plate, though—never ever saw that happen as an automatic thing. Sometimes a person you're eating with will say 'do you plan to finish that?' and if you say no, they might ask if they can have it. Or you might ask them 'do you want the rest of my chips?' or something like that. But you wouldn't automatically plop uneaten food on their plate—unless of course you know they want it. (Maybe you know your spouse likes olives and you don't, so you automatically give him yours. But you wouldn't do this to somebody you're just out to dinner with.)

    This isn't really any different from food behaviour in the USA, really.

    As to slapping the arse as a sign of friendship? No. Never ever heard of that happening at all.
     
  21. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    The mentions of taking shoes off when entering a house reminded me that one of the longest online debates I've ever see was between people who thought decent humans OF COURSE take off their dirty filthy shoes when entering another person's home, and people who thought decent humans would NEVER DREAM of taking off their shoes and walking around another person's home in their dirty filthy socks or bare feet. Both groups of people were residents of the United States. So you can never be positive which rule you're walking into--though different regions do seem to have an approximate consensus on the point.
     
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  22. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    @jannert, I suspect our friend may be extracting the urine. ;)
     
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  23. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I've lived in Scotland for so long now (nearly 30 years) that it's hard for me to remember my first impressions of the place. But I've been dredging my mind, and can come up with a few 'cultural quirks' that seem to exist here.

    1) Buying a round. If you go to a pub with some friends, one friend will 'buy a round' for all the people in the group. Now here's the catch. Each person in the group is expected to buy a round as well. So if you're with five people, that will be five drinks you're expected to consume by the end of the night. And NOBODY ever leaves alcohol sitting on the table, un-drunk, unless there is a fire. It's fine to leave food on your plate, but not any portion of your drink in your glass. Fortunately, now that drink-driving is such a forbidden thing, it's fine to refuse alcohol. However, that doesn't get you off the hook when buying rounds. You just buy a soft drink or something like that for anybody who isn't drinking alcohol. It's still 5 drinks of something if you get involved in a round. The best way to escape this little ritual is to say, at the very beginning 'no, thanks, I'm buying my own tonight.' This gets you out of the round, but you must say it before anybody buys you a drink. You can also take a rain check on your 'round' if you drink frequently with the same people. "I'll buy the drinks next time." But you better well do it, or you won't be regarded well. Lots of stories abound about people who suddenly remember an important engagement and leave the group just when it's their turn to buy the round!

    I do believe this stems from the Scottish delight in sharing what they have with others and fostering group bonding. Contrary to the stereotype, which is cruel because it's so absolutely wrong, Scottish people are anything but stingy. They will give you their last penny, and not let on. They are very generous, especially to people who are less well off. Charities do very well in Scotland. If you do a good deed for somebody, you can expect it will be returned, ASAP.

    2) The downside of this, though, is that old saw: Chop down the poppies so the cabbages will thrive. That's a very Scottish attitude.

    It's not a good thing, in Scotland, to attempt to stand out from the crowd in any way. While you may be initially encouraged to excel, there is always a sting in the tail. If you do excel, people will turn on you, start picking fault, and implying that you're no different from them REALLY, that you're just too full of yourself. "Ah kent his faither," is a common saying. It means I used to hang out with his dad, so the person in question is nothing special. He came from the same place I do.

    3) There is another phrase that gets used a lot here. "The done thing." It means tradition, in the sense of how one behaves in certain social situations. "It's the done thing to wear black to a funeral." "It's the done thing to bring a bottle of wine to a dinner party." "It's the done thing to leave the first couple of rows of seats on a bus vacant, so people who are elderly or handicapped can use them."

    It takes quite a while (and many mistakes) to learn all the fine-tuning of these unwritten rules, so you don't make a complete arse of yourself while dealing socially with Scottish people. Chances are they won't tell you that you've screwed up, and you can go on making the same mistake for years until you finally discover your error. (I only just discovered that it's the 'done thing' to write or phone to thank people if they've sent you a birthday card!) Usually they will make allowances for foreigners, so whatever you do, KEEP that accent you came with! It'll get you out of many a sticky situation while you learn the ropes.

    I absolutely love living here, and would never go back to the USA. Scots are hilariously funny (intentionally) and very kindhearted, underneath an occasionally gruff exterior. They'll give you a hard time if they like you, and probably ignore you if they don't. They'll say something is 'brilliant' when it's fine but nothing special, and something is 'no bad' when it's memorably amazingly wonderful. 'No bad' is about the highest compliment you can pay somebody for anything they do. :)

    While I don't feel as if I 'belong,' in the sense that I'm a product of a different culture and had a different kind of upbringing, I do feel very much at home and have been made very welcome. It's a great place to be.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2015
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  24. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    'The done thing' isn't unique to Scotland either, it's commonly said in many parts of the UK.
     
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  25. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Different parts of the US uses different names (coke, pop, soda) to refer to that drink. Really, people, why couldn't you just pick one? :p

    People from the Deep South, as I understand it, are a bit more friendly than people in the northern states. We refer to the Northerners as 'Yankees'. And yes, the Civil War is still a touchy subject for us. Especially for those who had family who fought in that war.
     

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