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Old 08-15-2007, 08:38 PM
 
72 posts, read 78,280 times
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As an American of asian background now living in Asia, there are times I feel like a fish out of water-- sometimes doing things which make me want to evaporate from the scene, and sometimes giving others a big laugh. I think this must happen a lot, even within the U.S., but probably more often when people are visiting or living in a foreign country.

Have you ever committed an embarrassing faux pas or found yourself in an culturally awkward position in an unfamiliar environment? What did you do and how did you know it was a "mistake" ?
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Old 08-18-2007, 03:18 PM
 
137 posts, read 762,565 times
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I know what you're saying......once when visiting my parents in Brazil we went to a market and as I didn't speak Portuguese I gave the 'okay' hand sign (meaning 'yes that's the one I want') and when I saw the shocked look on the stall holders face I immediately realized what I had done was an insult, basically the same as flipping someone off. I smacked my hand and apologized profusely, and we all had a good laugh, but phew. My mother had warned me about this but I completely forgot and it was just a natural reaction.

Are there any kind of ex-pat organizations you can go to that may be able to tell you the do's and don'ts of the culture where you're now living?
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Old 08-19-2007, 05:04 AM
 
72 posts, read 78,280 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by momma4 View Post
Are there any kind of ex-pat organizations you can go to that may be able to tell you the do's and don'ts of the culture where you're now living?
I don't think so around here (very few foreigners at all in this city), but generally I'm okay except for sometime random situations where my reactions/instinctual behavior are against what is presumed common courtesy, etc. Haha. I just posted as I was curious to hear other stories from people in other countries!

Last edited by whoIam; 08-19-2007 at 05:35 AM..
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Old 08-19-2007, 05:45 AM
 
Location: on an island
13,374 posts, read 40,164,204 times
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I've made some innocent mistakes, and some downright idiotic moves.
They happened when I was much younger than I am now.

At a fruit/vegie market in Spain I picked up and handled the fruit, which the market people soon informed me was a no-no. Now I know better.

A friend who spoke Italian had told me a Italian few cuss words, which I, in the midst of conversation, unthinkingly blurted (I was just sort of trying them out) while we were crossing Lake Como.
My friend instantly shushed me and of course I realized my asinine faux pas.
Fortunately, the noise of the hydrofoil probably drowned it out. (At least, I fervently hoped so at the time.)
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Old 08-20-2007, 09:36 PM
 
Location: Europe/USA
64 posts, read 370,348 times
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Default Oh I have one

One time I was in Budapest, Hungary and I asked the lady at the front desk of the hotel if she knew where I could get some gas.... she started to laugh and I couldn't figure out why... then she said "umm, at a bad restaurant?"

Quickly I realized that gas means GAS>FARTING in Europe. In Europe gas in your car is Petrol. Wow... did I feel stupid.
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Old 08-21-2007, 03:27 AM
 
Location: on an island
13,374 posts, read 40,164,204 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The French Maid View Post
One time I was in Budapest, Hungary and I asked the lady at the front desk of the hotel if she knew where I could get some gas.... she started to laugh and I couldn't figure out why... then she said "umm, at a bad restaurant?"

Quickly I realized that gas means GAS>FARTING in Europe. In Europe gas in your car is Petrol. Wow... did I feel stupid.
heehee
That reminds me of my awkward moment when an older English couple, over tea, told me that tomorrow was Humping Day for them. I really was nonplussed and sat there speechless. Recognizing my confusion, the wife told me that tomorrow they were moving to a new house.
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Old 08-25-2007, 09:58 PM
 
Location: Tucson, AZ
2,162 posts, read 7,487,378 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by momma4 View Post
I know what you're saying......once when visiting my parents in Brazil we went to a market and as I didn't speak Portuguese I gave the 'okay' hand sign (meaning 'yes that's the one I want') and when I saw the shocked look on the stall holders face I immediately realized what I had done was an insult, basically the same as flipping someone off. I smacked my hand and apologized profusely, and we all had a good laugh, but phew. My mother had warned me about this but I completely forgot and it was just a natural reaction.

Are there any kind of ex-pat organizations you can go to that may be able to tell you the do's and don'ts of the culture where you're now living?
I don't know any organizations but there is a great book about learning the local customs in Rio de Janeiro called "How to be a Carioca". Carioca is what the "locals" in Rio are called, and this book was written by a woman from the US who is married to a Carioca and had lived there for many years. The book even got rave reviews from inside Brazil for it's wit and insight, and no topics are off limits. Everything from bribes to tips, the rules for parking cars, all the goings on at the beach, etc, etc.
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Old 08-27-2007, 07:58 PM
 
Location: SanAnFortWAbiHoustoDalCentral, Texas
791 posts, read 1,980,775 times
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I was standing along the Seine, watching the bateau cruise by. I think someone on one boat was waving at the shore so in an effort to wave back held up my hand with the index and little finger extended, which in Texas we recognize as a 'Hook 'em Horns' sign. You could hear some laughing from the boat. Someone later explained that in France, this means 'your spouse is cheating on you'.

Another occasion I was standing at a corner of Pont Neuf, leaning on the bridge, watching the rush hour traffic walk by. I was 'scratching' my chin but in the fashion of brushing my fingers off the bottom of my chin. I must have been doing this for a while and finally realized a guy walking towards me... I just turned and walked away. Seems as though this was equivalent of the US extended middle finger.

Maybe I'm part of the reason Euro's don't like Americans....
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Old 08-30-2007, 01:52 PM
 
58 posts, read 202,831 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by whoIam View Post
As an American of asian background now living in Asia, there are times I feel like a fish out of water-- sometimes doing things which make me want to evaporate from the scene, and sometimes giving others a big laugh. I think this must happen a lot, even within the U.S., but probably more often when people are visiting or living in a foreign country.

Have you ever committed an embarrassing faux pas or found yourself in an culturally awkward position in an unfamiliar environment? What did you do and how did you know it was a "mistake" ?
I went to a fancy dinner one night at a French boyfriend's house with his parents. I raved about the food all evening, since my French was pretty choppy and his parents spoke little to no English. Well, I came to find out later that talking about the food overtly is considered to be really, really BORING! I felt a little embarassed, but given the language barriers involved, I doubt there was much else for us to talk about.
Vicki
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Old 08-30-2007, 01:59 PM
 
575 posts, read 2,816,690 times
Reputation: 255
Quote:
Originally Posted by Willys View Post


I was standing along the Seine, watching the bateau cruise by. I think someone on one boat was waving at the shore so in an effort to wave back held up my hand with the index and little finger extended, which in Texas we recognize as a 'Hook 'em Horns' sign. You could hear some laughing from the boat. Someone later explained that in France, this means 'your spouse is cheating on you'.

Yes, this means the same thing in Italy. It means kind of like you're giving someone bad luck and your wife is cheating on you and growing the "devil horns"

In some cases, its worse than the middle finger.
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