Monday, 1 July 2013

Expat faux pas

Image source: Flickr

No matter who they are, you can be sure to meet someone who embarrasses themselves a little from time-to-time. Expats are no different and, at times, even more likely to experience  embarrassing situations, given the huge number of cultural pitfalls they face on a daily basis. Below, we’ve identified three common faux pas expats may face. Hopefully this makes you feel a little better the next time you have a bit of a slip up!

Saying the wrong thing
Learning a new language can be tricky, and while throwing yourself in the deep end can speed up the process, you’re bound to make some mistakes along the way. It’s bad enough realising that you’ve mixed up your tenses but there are few things more embarrassing than realising you’ve said something rude when you thought you were merely offering a round of tea!

Table manners
We often discuss food on this blog – there’s probably nothing that brings people together better than a good meal. But mealtime etiquette can be a social minefield for the recently-arrived expat. Potential upsets stretch far beyond clearing one’s plate and how many courses to have. Did you know that in Germany your hosts will cook you the same food that they ordinarily have for dinner, whereas in the UK they’ll pull out all the stops? If you ever find yourself hosting, it’s best to research in advance what your guests will have come to expect from a good host in the country you are in.

In Europe, perhaps the most contentious etiquette issue concerns standing in line. Stand around waiting when everyone else is rushing around and you’ll never get anything done. On the other hand, cutting into an established queue and you’ll make yourself very unpopular indeed! A good rule of thumb is to queue in the north of the continent and to be more assertive in the South, though there are obviously some exceptions of course!

What’s the most embarrassing faux pas you’ve made? Let us know in the comments below.

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