Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Some Cultural Differences

Jerónimo, a music teacher I help with English on Mondays, sent me an article on 39 customs Spaniards should learn in order to integrate more effectively into life in the United States.  "Take a look and tell me what you think," he wrote.

So I did.  After the first two, my hair was standing on end from excitement.   I WASN'T CRAZY, AFTER ALL!!!  The little things that have been accumulating in my brain... right here in front of me!  I hastily wrote him back (probably too enthusiastically, truth be told) and pointed out what have been the biggest differences for me.

Although they probably lose a little of their poignancy with the distance, I thought they might be interesting to the outsider, so I've popped the best items into Google to translate and pasted them here (with little modification... sorry, too lazy).

In order to fully appreciate what this is trying to explain, please assume that Spanish custom is the exact opposite of each, and then try to imagine what that would be like for them here if they didn't adapt, and us there with our myriad of American expectations.

1.  Smile. This muscle movement is very widely spread throughout the North American geography, especially as you are telling someone you're going to sue or you don't agree with him.
2.  Say Thank you for everything. Even if you just got stabbed. Saying thank you is a habit so important that the most important American holiday of the year is Thanksgiving Day. We must always give thanks for everything. One of the most important industries of the country is in the cards "Thank you cards," cards that are sent by post where you give thanks for the go to the party, you give thanks for the invite to the party, by dinner last night, for the gift you have received your child from school. Saying thanks with a Thank You letter that includes a Starbucks gift card for $ X is a common habit to thank a co-worker who will help with this or that on Friday afternoon. Thank the teachers, teachers (there is a Teacher's Appreciation Day, where parents in different ways to thank teachers for their hard work.) We thank the airport to veterans when they return from Iraq, Africa or wherever. Etc.

3.  De- shoe when you get to someone's house. At least ask or make a gesture to try. It is the homeowner who you excuses from that obligation. Hence the importance of not going with tomatoes socks.

4.  Respect the flags and patriotic symbols in general. If the American national anthem plays, it is proper up and listen with respect. No whispers and giggles. And no need to put your hand on your chest like you're the Greco or look at the sky and Santa Teresa in ecstasy.

5. Do not prejudge people or by their appearance, race or religion.  Americans do not pay attention to these things; they are very used to dealing with non-caucasian people. Moreover many of them are not white or Caucasian themselves. So do not ever give anyone you refer to as "the Chinese next door" or "the Indian of the third floor," they are most likely  American. Nor should you ever despise a highly respected social class: the military.

6. To speak with an American you do not need to throw the breath on my face.  Respect safety distances. We talked about it earlier. Normally a safe distance are greater than those we have in Spain or other Hispanic countries.
7.  Learn to hug people who are not familiar. It is an interesting custom. Often replace the two kisses that greet the Spanish. If there is some confidence, and depends on the U.S. zone, the guy can give a kiss on the cheek to the girl. Among friends and neighbors hugs are widely used. Congratulations for graduation, anniversaries usually come with hugs. I found more and more Americans who have accepted both Spanish and actually kisses love, but first "we must test the waters", which is very muddy.

8. I consciously point number 15 I left for tips. This is usually the average tip to be left in restaurants. No tip is legally binding, but tips are supposed to finance so the waiters can pay taxes. It is horribly impolite to leave without leaving one and you will earn more than a dirty look if you try it. If the service was excellent, leaving 20%. If it was bad normalito shooting, give 10%. If the service was horrible miserable leaves two cents to realize you've been upset but not to yell that they've left no tip because they betray to others by the poor service offered.

9.  Learn the flavors are not the same as in Spain. The Americans love the sweet, in fact you will find some products which are in Spain as the Nesquik and yet see that the taste is different, usually more sugar. They cook food under a lot of sauces and flavors that camouflage the original flavor.

10.  Punctuality. We talked about the lack of punctuality as something to be banished from the Iberian customs. Something that will help is that events here usually have a start time, and even more importantly, a final time that everyone starts to leave your engines.

11.  Learn to be polite to your colleagues and do not openly criticize the company. Appreciates a job well done by a partner, applaud. Recognize an effort by a boss or colleague with a difficult project or a goal achieved commended when it has signed a business or has had any personal or professional success.

12.  How's it going leaning English?

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