|Is McDonald's lovin' this?|
Photo by Andrew Yee
I'm not going to explain the context of those situations because that would kind of kill the point of highlighting the importance of knowing another culture. Suffice it to say that many Americans who've watched an episode or two of Monty Python come over here and think they "understand" Britain. After Canada, the UK is probably those closest country to the US in terms of both politics and culture. We were part of the UK, for cryin' out loud. However, I strongly expect that many Americans could have watched me in the various offending situations above and not realized I had done anything wrong.
If you're moving to another country, remember that you are the foreigner, not them. More than once I've watched Americans berate staff because — gasp — things are not the same as their ignorant asses were used to in the US! What? You didn't want to pay for the water with your meal? You should have asked for tap water. Bottled will be assumed. You're upset that the restaurant didn't offer table service? Many of them will have numbers on the table and you're expected to order at the bar and give your table number. No waiter/waitress is going to come by. Or my favorite (so to speak) was watching two American women in Albert Hijn (a Dutch grocery store) scream at a clerk because they didn't realize that they had to weigh and label their own fruit and vegetables (er, this was a decade ago and I don't know if that still applies).
|Who would have thought this|
is rude in some cultures?
Photo by avlxyz
And honestly, before the shoe was thrown at Bush, how many of you knew that showing someone the sole of your foot was a strong insult in many Arabic nations? I certainly didn't.
I don't care how easygoing you are, it's worth your while to study your target country's cultural practices and at least get to know the taboos. You may just save yourself considerable embarrassment.