Thursday, April 1, 2010

Are we culturally aware?

When travelling or working in the tourism sector, you are likely to meet different people of different cultures. Different cultures have different protocols. So it is very important to be aware of such differences so as to deal with people in a suitable way and not to create tense or offensive situations. What is considered appropriate behaviour in one culture can be inappropriate in another. When working with people from different cultures, you need a solid understanding of the norms of that culture.

It would be really interesting if you could share with us any cultural faux pas tourists or foreign people make while in your country. I will be waiting for your comments.

Here are two videos Gabriela, a teacher of English and Italian living in Paris, sent to me about this topic. Thanks Gabriela for sharing them with me: VIDEO 1, VIDEO 2


Pauloix said...

This is a very interesting topic, Mª Luisa. We are always talking about it in my lessons of translation. I have an example: in Japan, when people are in mourning, they wear white clothes and it contrasts with the colour of the clothes that European people wear: black.
Another example is the form of address. I am going to explain a personal experience: When I went to France, I went to a bakery and I asked for some croissants. Then, the woman told me the price and I said to her: "Est-ce que TU veux des petites monnaies?" or "Do YOU(second person) want loose change?". Then, she looked at me and said very angry:"Ouais" or "Yes"
Then, my friend said to me that it was very rude of me to say "YOU/TU".
So it is very important to know the culture about the country and the way they express themselves.

Gonzalo said...


Most of time we are not really aware of differences between cultures, so I find very useful this topic, especially the links about doing business successfully in Asian countries. They are really different and I would emphasize the respect they have to older people, once I read they even use especial words to name them, not by their real names.

Here in Europe, there are clearly two cultural groups, Latin countries such as Spain, Italy, Greece; and Anglo-Saxon people as England or Germany. To give an example I experienced in Austria, when you drink a toast, it is very important to be looking at the eyes of the other person while drinking, you can get into a trouble if you don´t.

Having respect and being interested in knowing different cultures are the main points when travelling abroad.


Gonzalo Corral.

Fran Mora said...

Hi Mª Luisa, I'm Fran Mora. I want to share my experience abroad with you. I arrived to Würzburg, a small city located in Babaria (Germany) six months ago. I came here to improve my German and also to improve my english. When I decided to spend my Erasmus schoolarship in Germany, many people told me that citizens were close-minded, serious and a very polite person. About that, I would like to say that stereotypes are not always true... From my point of view, I think that German people are very polite and serious but however, they are not so close minded people as we think. I mean, each time that I have needed some help they have try to help me as much as they could, even I have been lost on the street without know were I had to go, some people have surprised me asking if I need any help. so I want to defend the concept that German people are great person.

Also, we must be aware that Spanish people speak so loud, that when we're speaking with other people from diferent countries, they can fell worried about our tone of voice, and we must take care with this when we travel abroad.

To sum up. I think that before of a trip to other country, we must look for some information about culture, lifestyle and more about this country to be informed and to have a great time.


Fran Mora

annie said...

I love this topic. I think is very important to speak a language but you have to know also the culture of the language you are speaking. For example, in an arab funeral you have to wear white clothes, whereas in Spain or in western countries you have to wear black clothes. I agree with Pauloix because when I went to France I asked for something using the wrong form ("tu" instead of "vous") and a person told me: "you are wrong, you are bad-mannered."
It's very important to us to know the culture of other countries in order to avoid any mistakes.

Juan Luis Pino Cruz said...

This is a really interesting topic, I have learnt a lot with this videos and I would like to share my experience with you.

When I went to Greece 4 years ago I made a cultural gaffe because in Greece you can not stop a taxi in the street as we do in Spain putting your hand up, this is considered as a very rude gesture! But the taxi driver explained it to me in a very friendly way.

Since that time, I look for information about it before I travel to other country.

Anonymous said...

I think there is a very interesting topic because nowadays everyone is frequently travelling and nobody thinks in this problem. It's true that in the more industrialised countries people is used to accept these mistakes that normally are only comprehension troubles or even it turns funny, that's because here our religion or beliefs ar not so strong or present than other countries where somthing that we could think that is a little mistake could be interpreted like an offend.

Rocio Suero said...

Uau! It's really interesting. I never thought in this question; maybe because I only have visited European countries, and I think that the customs in Ireland or France are really similar to the spanish customs. But now, I'm sure that when I travel or when I work with foreign people, I need to learn about the history and the norms of that country. Thanks English for Tourism!!! ;-)

Rocio Suero said...

Oh!! I forgot to say that I agree with Fran Mora about the German people. I'm not so lucky like him, and I never have been in Germany,but I was working for two years in a Fuerteventura's hotel, where all the guests are German, and I have to say that they are really nice people, also sometimes they are very very funny!

marykate1988 said...


I think that people shouldn’t have stereotypes about any place or country, because these don’t show the reality many times.

The most of people in the world think that they will find in Spain to people wearing typical Spanish dress all the time, dancing and singing Sevillanas, eating Spanish cured ham or drinking wine, but it isn’t in this way, because it happens only when we celebrate some festivities. Other stereotype about this country is that Spanish people don’t work and they are always in parties and festivities, but this isn’t absolutely true. These stereotypes happen sometimes inside of the same country: for example, people think that Cataluña’s citizens are very mean; or that Andalucía’s citizens are more cheerful and friendly that people who live in the Northern Spain, and these statements aren’t always true.

Finally, I should tell that people should know the culture about a country before travelling to him.

Mari Carmen Serrano González

Emma said...

Hi. I also find this topic very interesting and I often use it in my classes (I teach English for Tourism in Paris). My students come from very different cultural backgrounds and every year I have the pleasure to learn new cultural gaffes! For example, in Japan, it is crucial that the manager's room in a hotel is on a higher floor than his team. One of my student had a little misunderstanding because she was offering him a better room but on a lower floor and couldn't understand the fuss it made within the group. Spitting is also a subject that is brought up every year - especially with students from India or Pakistan. When my students have at least an intermediate level I use abstracts from a wonderful book : When cultures collide by Richard D. Lewis ( It is intended for managers but you can find many bulleted lists on the specifics of different cultures. Thank you so much for your blog - my students and I will tremendously benefit from it.