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Poll: Have you ever advised anyone on how not to commit a cultural "faux pas"?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 16:40
SITE STAFF
Aug 4, 2009

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Have you ever advised anyone on how not to commit a cultural "faux pas"?".

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A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see: http://proz.com/topic/33629


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Stephen Rifkind  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 02:40
Member (2004)
French to English
+ ...
"Turkish coffee" Aug 4, 2009

I was out with a group of people, onrof which was a lady who apparently had taken very little interest in history. We were at an Armenian restaurant. She wanted to order Trkish coffee. I loudly whispered "Greek coffee". She ignored me, unfortunately. The waiter's reaction was succinct: I do not serve TURKISH coffee.

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Minoru Kuwahara
Japan
Local time: 09:40
English to Japanese
+ ...
Names in cultures Aug 4, 2009

In Japenese, it's not very common to adderss people by their first names especially in social situations, where we conventionally call them by their family names by adding up courteous "san" as a general indication. I recently confronted a situation during a translation assignment in which there appear only westerners' first names in scenarios in a company survey. The Chinese project manager seems not to be very familiar with this convention in Japan and was not very convinced when I decided to translate using the first letter of the names accompanied by "san". I consulted him, if that is unsuitable, transliteration of the names would be applicable, which I myself was not asked for correction.

In short, I feel it's sometimes quite difficult to convince people according to cultural literacy of this kind. Or should we be aware to that extent in our translations? Outfitting in culture can be an issue other than simply placing technical terms into their definitions.

[Edited at 2009-08-04 08:43 GMT]


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Valérie Catanzaro  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:40
Member (2008)
English to French
+ ...
Telling westerners in Japan Aug 4, 2009

Warning them not to play with chopsticks, not to walk with shoes into the houses, bedrooms, fitting rooms (in shops)...

I like to teach that kind of things. It makes the trip even more interesting to compare culture and see the surprise in the eyes of your friends or family.


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Sophia Shishatskaya  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 07:40
Member (2009)
English to Russian
+ ...
Don't say "Na zdorovie" when you drink with Russians Aug 4, 2009

I don't know where it comes from (maybe from phrasebooks), but each end every foreigner with whom I had a meal together felt it was appropriate to say "Na zdorovie" when drinking and clinking glasses. Not that it offends anybody, but still it's funny that everyone says that.

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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:40
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
All the time Aug 4, 2009

One of my direct clients says I should run a consultancy. (He was an architect bidding in China and I advised him to read seriously up on Feng Shui. He got the contract, too).

Most stuff deals with mundane things, like not to be impatient with small talk in Arab countries, not to eat up everything on your plate in Asian countries where they tend to pile it on once they see an empty dish...

One funny translation incident was between a Spanish waiter and an Italian traveller. The Italian either didn't know or couldn't remember the word for butter and I saw the waiter flush red. I turned and simply told him, "mantequilla". (The Italian word means "ass" in Spanish).


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N.M. Eklund  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:40
Member (2005)
French to English
+ ...
get less insulted Aug 4, 2009

I had to advise a team of French accountants that there was no need for them to get so upset when corresponding with American accountants.

When sending back and forth several emails during the day, they found the Americans so rude because each of their emails did not include each time the Bonjour, Cordialement,

I explained that these formalities are often done away with as people get into an 'email conversation'; and that they should see these emails as an extension of instant messaging. You don't really say Hello, and Sincerely, every time it's your turn to talk.

Things went a lot smoother after they realized that.


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:40
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Clarifying "na zdorovye" Aug 4, 2009

To clarify Sophia's comment, perhaps it should be explained that "Na zdorovye!" is said when someone sneezes, as "Gesundheit!" is in German. To wish someone good health in a toast, say "Za vashe zdorovye!"

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Inga Jakobi  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:40
Member (2006)
Chinese to German
+ ...
"deportieren" in German Aug 4, 2009

Just the day before yesterday, a Croation friend asked another (Turkish) friend of mine in German, if he will be deported (German: deportiert), if he had no success with all the paperwork he needs to stay in germany. We then explained her that "deportieren" (to deport) was used for the jews being brought to the Ghettos in WWII and that this word still has a bad connotation.

I also was asked by a Chinese once if I was "Arier" just because I am blonde. I was shocked and a friend politely explained to him, that it is not as common to talk about races/ethnic groups in germany as it is in China.

Very interesting topic by the way


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Lenah Susianty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:40
Member (2004)
English to Indonesian
+ ...
special cultural class Aug 4, 2009

I was once invited to talk in a class for business people who were going to be posted in my native country Indonesia. I had around 2 hours to tell them what not to say and what gestures which are considered to be rude (for example inserting your thumb in between your pointy and middle fingers. It is equivalent of swearing with your middle finger).

The class was run by an US-based consultancy company which specializes in cultural training for those who are going to work in a foreign country. It was a good experience for me.

[Edited at 2009-08-04 10:29 GMT]


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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:40
Spanish to English
+ ...
Goodbye, goodbye,goodbye Aug 4, 2009

Whenever I have friends or family visiting me here in Spain, I make certain to let them know that pleases and thank yous are very nice, but in Spain it’s just as important to greet people and say your goodbyes.

When my family comes to visit, I warn them that we can’t just say goodbye at a social gathering and get up and go. In my experience, a proper Spanish goodbye means saying goodbye, chatting for awhile longer, saying goodbye again and chatting some more. At that point, it’s safe to go or you can continue the process several more times.

It might seem obvious, but I think people in any culture appreciate it when you are willing to adapt to their customs and traditions.


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svetlana cosquéric  Identity Verified
France
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Clarifying "na zdorovye" - 2 Aug 4, 2009

Sorry, Jack, but
"na zdorovye" is used in another situation. You 've just had breakfast/dinner/supper and you are going yo leave the table. You say : "Spasibo (Thank you)" and the person who cooked/invited you (it could be your mother/grandmother/hostess/etc.) answers "na zdorovye".
If someone sneezes, the typical answer "Budte sdorovi/bud' sdorov"


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Alexander Kondorsky  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 03:40
English to Russian
+ ...
Steak Aug 4, 2009

Maybe it is just a joke, but I heard that if you order a "bloody steak" in a British restaurant you risk being offered "f...king potatoes" for garnish)

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Laureana Pavon  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 21:40
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...

MODERATOR
Kissing when greeting Aug 4, 2009

This is a tricky one!

Here in Uruguay, when people meet (men or women) they kiss once on the cheek. This happens even when meeting someone for business purposes, at least between two women or a man and a woman. In some Argentine provinces they will do it twice, and I even know of some places where they kiss three times.

However, imagine greeting a business acquaintance you have never seen before, in the US, with a kiss!
It's the little differences that count


[Edited at 2009-08-04 13:41 GMT]


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Stephen Rifkind  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 02:40
Member (2004)
French to English
+ ...
How many kisses? Aug 4, 2009

There are, to paraphrase Dr. Suess, the one kiss, two kiss, and three kiss varieties! You have copy the natives.

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