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The funny thing about your culture... 
10th-Dec-2009 07:01 pm
Have you ever done something out of custom(culture?) then you realized "Why am I doing this?"

I just realized that in Indonesia, we have to ask permission from other people to eat, if you know them and at the moment they are not eating with you.
We are cultured to say things like "makan dulu, ya" (let me eat first?) or offering it"makan, mba?"(would you like to eat?). We don't really offer it though.

So, is there any funny thing like this you realized about your culture?
I'd like to know from as many country as possible;)
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10th-Dec-2009 12:27 pm (UTC)
I live in the US and I was raised to say the same things, but in English. My grandma takes it so far as to never eat in the presence of people who aren't eating. If she offers her food and they decline, she doesn't eat either.
10th-Dec-2009 01:53 pm (UTC)
Is there a set phrase to say to people who are eating? In Spain when you enter a room where people are eating you have to say "que aproveche" (sort of like "bon appétit", it's also said before eating and when people tell you they're going to eat). I always feel like that sentence is missing in English, I sometimes use "enjoy your meal" when people tell me they're going to eat, but it doesn't really work. Of course you have to offer food, but it's ok to keep eating if the visitors have already eaten (otherwise I'd have starved during my childhood, there was always somebody coming in during lunch!). And for some reason in my area there has to be something left on the serving platter, taking the last bit is quite rude.
10th-Dec-2009 01:58 pm (UTC)
I know in some middle eastern cultures if you compliment something, the person has to give it to you. I made this mistake when I complemented a Turkish girl on her bracelet. The next day - she had bought one for me just like it! And she was just an acquaintance I had met on the bus.
10th-Dec-2009 02:43 pm (UTC)
(That reminds me of the space pen on Seinfeld)

Does that mean that people complement other people's things more or less often?
10th-Dec-2009 02:00 pm (UTC)
queuing, its not that i wonder why english people have the custom of doing it... but apparently other cultures arent so big on it. Thats a head scratcher for me....

Shaking hands too... i have no idea why we do this.

Kissing....i wonder how that got started, but thats hardly cultural.... or is it? lol
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10th-Dec-2009 06:18 pm (UTC)
One place Americans are very queue-conscious is lining up to take a car ferry. I've seen what happens when a (rich/tourist/better-than-you) person tries to slide into the queue. They will be immediately reported to ferry personnel and forced to go to the very back of the line. Only exceptions are emergency vehicles and cars with a verified doctor's letter.

One of the very rich people where I lived tried to get around that with a private helicopter. Imagine his outrage when the community insisted that he couldn't buzz over their houses at all hours of the night. He no longer lives there.
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10th-Dec-2009 11:28 pm (UTC)
This one still trips me up! I'm originally from Colorado and growing up, I don't really recall people asking this but then I move to Texas and everyone says "how's it going?" as a greeting. I've lived here several years now and still haven't gotten the hang of this greeting especially when passing someone. I can't seem to keep it down to just two words so by the time I've finished, we've already passed each other. It's odd.
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10th-Dec-2009 06:28 pm (UTC)
Americans salute a flag with stripes that symbolize blood. Women are allowed to wear pants, but men aren't really given license to wear skirts. If you want someone in America to give you marijuana, say "no" the first time they ask. Then they know you're not just a leech. If you see a stranger, especially a foreigner, don't make eye contact. It's considered impolite. So is having a lot of children and taking them with you to a public place. If someone has a dog and you start talking to them, they will be hurt if you don't want to pet it. If you do want to pet it, it is also considered impolite to pet it without asking first.
10th-Dec-2009 07:40 pm (UTC)
If you see a stranger, especially a foreigner, don't make eye contact
I've never been taught this. I make eye contact and smile at everybody no matter who they are. If you don't I've always been taught that it's rude.
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10th-Dec-2009 07:41 pm (UTC)
We take our shoes off in our house because we have white carpet ;)
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10th-Dec-2009 07:00 pm (UTC)
In America, it is rude not to introduce someone new and someone you know; first-time introductions and professional meetings are usually accompanied by handshakes. Americans eat with utensils, usually the fork in the right hand and the knife in the left, unless you're a lefty and then it's switched. Sometimes it is said that if your ears are itching/burning then someone is talking about you. If you ever want to see some really interesting customs and rituals, check out an American baseball game sometime! :)

Following up on the sneezing/"God Bless You" thing... as a Medieval and Renaissance Studies (and Anthropology) student in college, I always heard that the custom originated as a result from the belief that the devil could get "into" you at the very moment you sneezed- unless some said "God Bless You". Another belief was that by sneezing you could "blow out your soul" (oh no!)- again, unless someone said "God Bless You". Either way, the devil stays out, your soul stays in, and you're good to go. :)
11th-Dec-2009 08:37 am (UTC)
As an expat, I noticed a few "things we do and they don't".

We French people kiss to say hello. Nowadays, boys rarely kiss boys, they just shake hands, but the older generation keeps the habit. And kissing is still a natural greeting between girls, and boys and girls. The number of kisses changes according to the place of France : for example in the South West, you make four kisses (the younger generation tend to skip to two kisses only), in the South East, that's three, and near La Rochelle only one.

We do not speak while eating. Well, we speak during the meal, of course, but we wait till our mouth is empty to speak, or to answer a question. Speaking with the mouth full of food is something that does not bother the Japanese people at all. One of the most difficult cultural difference to cope with : when you've been raised with your parents telling you all the time not to speak with your mouth full, you consider it really disgusting.

Another important cultural difference (in my opinion) is the behaviour toward a running nose. In France sniffing is rude, you have to blow your nose. In Japan, it's the exact contrary. Blowing your nose is (extra-)rude, you have to sniff. I can't help considering them disgusting, but I know that if they were to come to France, they would consider us disgusting. But going to the toilets to blow your nose each time you need it when you have a cold is a real bother (there is no way I could sniff, even if I know nobody would consider me strange doing it...).

In France making noise when you eat (especially soup) is rude, in Japan, it shows your appreciation of the meal. I got used to this, that's quite funny.
13th-Dec-2009 10:50 pm (UTC)
In the U.S. South I learned (not explicitly taught, but picked it up) to either preface or follow something negative said about someone with "bless their heart".

E.g. "Bless his heart, but he's such a homely child."

This seems to be especially true when speaking of the dead.
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