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Off topic: I have an English guest coming soon, is there anything I should know?
Thread poster: paula13

paula13  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 05:38
Member (2005)
Jul 18, 2005

Hi everyone,
I’m expecting an English guest pretty soon and am wondering if there’s anything I should know to make sure my guest feels comfortable.
I’d like to know about cultural differences that might be important. For instance, I was raised in the U.S. and when I moved to Argentina the first time a guy tried to kiss me on the cheek for no reason I thought, “Wow, people here don’t waste any time, do they?” I later found out (much to my disappointment) that that’s just how they say Hi in this country.
While talking to my American half of the family we blab on for hours about absolutely nothing and avoid certain topics, like politics and religion, at the dinner table. Yet my Argentine half of the family shares political views all the time!
What is there to know about the English? Are there any "touchy" subjects I should avoid? Should I go buy tons of tea? Are there any words that are not "bad" words in the U.S. but would be offensive to an English person?

Paula


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Jeannie Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:38
German to English
+ ...
depends Jul 18, 2005

I think it all depends on your relationship with this person more than their nationality. If you know them well, then any topic of conversation is ok, but if they are not close to you, I would also suggest avoiding religion, politics, personal topics etc. until you can find out their views/prejudices/hangups!

The UK is also a varied society and we have people of different classes - so again this will make a difference as to how familiar/chatty/relaxed/formal your guest will be.

I would not worry with any preparations (except maybe buy some tea!!!). Instead wait until they arrive and take it from there. Most people in the UK have had contact with numerous cultures and are aware of cultural differences with greetings etc. and I cannot imagine that they would be offended by anything.

Bear in mind - they are probably just as nervous at the thought of being your guest and not wishing to upset you by making cultural blunders - why not make a joke of this worry! Humour is always a good ice-breaker - and most of us Brits appreciate a good laugh - even at our own expense.

Good luck

Jeannie


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Graciela Carlyle  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:38
English to Spanish
+ ...
an anecdote Jul 18, 2005

Hi Paula,

I'll tell you a funny anecdote.
I am Argentinean and my husband (at that time, my boyfriend) is British.
On his first trip to Argentina, we went one day to a supermarket and when we were already queueing at the till, I remembered we needed some cans of pop. As I could see the fridge with the cold cans from where I was standing, I sent my boyfriend to go get some.
When he was next to the fridge I saw him trying to ask me "how many", so I decidedly put my hand up and make the sign of 2 (like the V sign but with my hand in the same position as you'd do the rude middle-finger-up sign). He looked at me shocked, with his eyes open in astonishment
When he told me that in England that sign was as rude as the middle finger sign I couldn't stop laughing, so I explained that for us it's a normal way of indicating "2".
Of course I said I didn't mean nothing of the sort and sent him for another can (because with the confusion he only brought one)

So there you go, that sign is so common in Argentina that you might be better off explainig from the start, as well as the kissing stuff, just in case

As for tea, yes, get loads because they drink it all the time

Cheers,
Grace.


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:38
German to English
+ ...
No tea please, I'm British Jul 18, 2005

Must say I'm amused by the advice to buy tons of tea for your British guest. Perhaps he/she drinks it, perhaps not.

I hardly ever drink it (I prefer coffee). Now that I live in Germany that is perhaps not so surprising. But when I was a student in the UK, coffee was the most common drink among students, whatever subject they were studying.


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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:38
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Marmalade and coffee Jul 18, 2005

Some good English marmalade for toast at breakfast makes a good start to the day.

By all means have some tea available, but remember that tea generally tastes different and disappointing abroad. The water is different, annd so are the tea blends. I never drink tea when away from home.

In any case, recent figures show that these days, more people drink coffee than tea in England.


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Graciela Carlyle  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:38
English to Spanish
+ ...
you made me realise Jul 18, 2005

Victor Dewsbery wrote:

Must say I'm amused by the advice to buy tons of tea for your British guest. Perhaps he/she drinks it, perhaps not.

I hardly ever drink it (I prefer coffee). Now that I live in Germany that is perhaps not so surprising. But when I was a student in the UK, coffee was the most common drink among students, whatever subject they were studying.


My mother-in-law "dies" without her coffee!!
But what Peter says is very true...the water is different and the blends of tea are different.
To be honest, I don't like tea so much when I go back to Argentina!


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xxxsarahl
Local time: 01:38
English to French
+ ...
Marmalade? Jul 18, 2005

Peter Linton wrote:
Some good English marmalade for toast at breakfast makes a good start to the day.


what happened to marmite?


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FRK
Italy
Local time: 10:38
one more thing Jul 18, 2005

....don't forget a copy of THE TIMES every morning.

how's that for perpetrating yet another cliche?


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xxxtazdog
Spain
Local time: 10:38
Spanish to English
+ ...
don't be alarmed... Jul 18, 2005

..if your guest asks for a "rubber" (in the U.S., we would call this an "eraser"). The first time this happened to me, I was rendered speechless...

You might want to have a quick look at some of the differences in British vs. American English. Here's a pretty useful site:

http://www.effingpot.com/index.shtml

Good luck, and have fun,
Cindy


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Alison Schwitzgebel
France
Local time: 10:38
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Don't try to turn your family life into a "Little Britain"... Jul 18, 2005

The Brits are generally very polite and also very willing to find out about foreign cultures - that's probably one of the reasons your guest will be visiting. So I wouldn't try to make them British tea, or even provide orange marmalade for breakfast. Do what you normally do in your country.

Act naturally, be polite, and I'm sure you'll get on just fine.

HTH

Alison


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Burrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:38
Member (2004)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Marmite Jul 18, 2005

sarahl wrote:

Peter Linton wrote:
Some good English marmalade for toast at breakfast makes a good start to the day.


what happened to marmite?



Have you tried buying it abroad? We bring tons of marmite for our british friends in Portugal every time we go there. You cannot buy it in other countries. Mind you, I am not English and do not eat marmite, but I understand the national value of this product.


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Thierry LOTTE  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:38
Member (2001)
English to French
+ ...
No Tea : "Maté" Jul 18, 2005

Peter said :



By all means have some tea available, but remember that tea generally tastes different and disappointing abroad. The water is different, annd so are the tea blends. I never drink tea when away from home.



Let him try "Maté" !

Take some flicks...


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xxxCMJ_Trans
Local time: 10:38
French to English
+ ...
forget the tea, marmelade, marmite, baked beans and what have you... Jul 18, 2005

your guest is not coming to Argentina to be served all those old clichés. How about buying in some local food and wine and offering your guest what you would eat and drink yourself? One of the great things about travelling is the chance to try out other cultures. I'm going/coming to Argentina myself at the end of the year and if our friends in Cordoba serve me tea and scones with cucumber sandwiches, I'll be totally disgusted!
As to kisses on cheeks and the like, be spontaneous and play it by ear. It is no big deal, unless it's HM the Queen you are expecting (in which case, you would be given full instructions in advance anyway!)


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:38
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Common vocabulary problems between US & UK English Jul 18, 2005

“Bum” means a hobo in US; in UK it means asshole.

“Fanny” means ass in US; in UK it means vagina.

“French fries” (or is it “freedom fries” now?) in US are chips in UK.

“Chips” in US are crisps in UK.

There must be more, but that’s all I can think of for now.

(Thank you, Cindy, for the "effingpot" reference.)


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