Top 10 Cultural Differences that Can Cause Embarrassment, Misunderstanding and Even Troubles

Metal_Treasure
In a globalized world we need to know more about cultural differences because we communicate with people of completely different cultural origins - at school, at work, on vacation, on the street, and so on. To avoid troubles, keep in mind the significant cultural differences on this list.
While making this list I laughed hard at some possible embarrassing situations caused by cultural differences.

The Top Ten

1 People in the US use the “OK” hand gesture to convey that something is acceptable. In France, Belgium, Argentina and Portugal, the symbol means “zero” or “nothing.” In Japan, the same hand gesture means “money.”

It can also mean white power in the US by idiots (Maddox121 - Anonymous until Canada Day)

This is a great list. I just learned something from it today. - JoeBoi

Great list M_T! I definitely learned a few things. - THC13

Imagine people from these countries talking in English AND using that hand gesture, LOL.
Lawyer's office. American lawyer: What did you get from your ex-husband?

French lady: 👌

Japanese apprentice: You got only money? And nothing from his castles and vineyards?! - Metal_Treasure

1 Comment
2 In most Western countries, eye contact is a sign of listening, truth and understanding. In Latin and North America eye contact also conveys equality among individuals. But in many Asian cultures, avoiding eye contact is a sign of respect.

I had no space in the item title for this part: In Ghana, Africa, if a young child looks an adult in the eye, it is considered an act of defiance. - Metal_Treasure

I am Asian and I didn’t even know this. LOL
I keep avoiding eye contact ‘cause making eye contact makes me uncomfortable. - Misfire

3 In the United States, an employee disagreement with the employer / supervisor is more tolerable than in Japan. In Japan, an employee is unlikely to object against, or challenge a supervisor.

In a world of multinational companies this cultural difference can create tense situations: an American employee who addresses a Japanese executive too casually can get into trouble, whereas Japanese employees may seem too subservient or aloof to their American co-workers. - Metal_Treasure

4 Countries that are densely populated have much less need for personal space than those that are not. The Japanese are less likely to react strongly to an accidental touch by a stranger than Americans. Latin Americans don't need much personal space.

It's useful to know that the subjective perception of personal space and privacy varies greatly - you just don't have to stand too close to people from some countries and vice versa: Latin Americans may think you don't like them if you stand too far from them. In Brazil, business acquaintances stand close to build trust, so backing away may be construed as a rebuff. - Metal_Treasure

5 In Latin America, winking is a facial expression that usually means a romantic or sexual invitation. In China, the gesture is considered rude. In Nigeria, adults wink at their children if they want them to leave the room.

I had no space in the item title for this: In some countries, winking after saying something, may mean "I was joking". - Metal_Treasure

6 In the Middle East, it's rude to accept a gift or a business card with the left hand because the left hand is customarily used to handle bodily hygiene. In China and Japan you should use both hands.

As the business with China expands...learn to accept business cards with both hands if you badly want a contract or the job. - Metal_Treasure

7 In Polynesia, people stick out their tongue to greet people which is taken as a sign of mockery in most of other cultures.

Very unusual method of greeting, and it does raise questions of how this originated. - Archived

Don't get mad at that Polynesian kid standing next to the door of your hotel - he's greeting you! - Metal_Treasure

Another point to note Maori (a Polynesian subcultures) carved statues very frequently have their tongues out. However the tongue out is not always a greeting in Maori culture but can be an aggressive gesture thus it is often invoked in a haka (war dance).

REALLY? I had no idea! Thanks for telling me! Now I won’t have to get offended if a Polynesian sticks their tongue out at me😂

8 In America, standing with hands on the hips may suggest power or pride, but in Argentina, it may suggest anger or a challenge.

It's a big "NO" to show power or pride with hands on the hips in Argentina, or to Argentinians elsewhere in the world. Because for them this would be a challenge, like "I'm angry and I'm ready to fight with you". - Metal_Treasure

Weird things, dude - BorisRule

9 Touching children on the head is fine in North America and most of Europe. Yet in Asia, this is considered highly inappropriate, as the head is considered a sacred part of the body.

Not all parts in Asia are like this... I keep touching children’s heads and nobody stopped me. - Misfire

10 The Greeks use silence as a way to refuse things, while Egyptians use it to consent.

Egyptian: Want to eat?
Greek: *silence as a refusal*
Egyptian: Me too, let's go to a new restaurant.

Part Two

Greek: Hey dude, do you want to visit Athens?
Egypt: *silence as a acceptance*
Greek: You don't want to. It's a thousand-year world story teller that is very important for us Greeks! But since you're a foreigner, if you say so. - BorisRule

I can picture how business negotiations between Greek and Egyptian businessmen may look like. LOL. - Metal_Treasure

Well saying that tons of Greeks lived in Egypt or still do live Egypt it must have been difficult. - 2storm

The Contenders

11 In most countries, nodding your head means agreement and shaking your head means disagreement. In Bulgaria, it's the opposite.

I grew up with the worldwide, common variant, despite being born and living in Bulgaria. - BorisRule

This is an example for communication misunderstandings from my coursebook.

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List StatsCreated 27 May 2019

11 listings
197 days old

Top Remixes

1. People in the US use the “OK” hand gesture to convey that something is acceptable. In France, Belgium, Argentina and Portugal, the symbol means “zero” or “nothing.” In Japan, the same hand gesture means “money.”
2. In most Western countries, eye contact is a sign of listening, truth and understanding. In Latin and North America eye contact also conveys equality among individuals. But in many Asian cultures, avoiding eye contact is a sign of respect.
3. In the United States, an employee disagreement with the employer / supervisor is more tolerable than in Japan. In Japan, an employee is unlikely to object against, or challenge a supervisor.
Metal_Treasure

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