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View Full Version : Oh, Those Nutty Cultural Differences!


Misty
04-21-2010, 02:35 PM
So I've been living in Japan for close to three years now, and I've experienced a lot of "culture clashes." In some ways our cultures are similar, but more often they are a complete 180.

One of the biggest differences I've noticed is customer service; in three years I haven't had bad service ANYWHERE, not even once. I walk into a restaurant, convenience store, or department store, I always get a greeting, a smile, and a bow. When I leave I get a thank you, a smile, and a bow. The service itself is always excellent; in most restaurants, for example, there is a button you can push to summon your server.

There's no tipping, either. A Japanese friend once asked me to explain tipping. Then she asked me how much you were supposed to tip. I told her the amount of the tip was anywhere between 15% - 20%, depending on the quality of service. I also said if the service was bad enough you left maybe 10%, if anything. She was very surprised, because in her mind, there was no such thing as "bad" service.

Of course, Japan has its quirks, too. A co worker of mine once had one of those Tamagachi electronic pets (all the rage in America a few years ago as the latest hip Japanese import). She bought it at a regular toy store in Tokyo and it featured Hello Kitty (or 'Kitty' as she's known here). However, instead of taking care of her like a pet, the objective is to make sure she doesn't gain so much weight that her boyfriend dumps her. You control what she eats and how much exercise she does, and if you ignore her for too long, she'll raid the fridge for sweets, and you'll have to berate her to make her weight go down again. As a foreigner, I fin it both hilarious and sad. :D:( Can you imagine the uproar a toy like that would cause in the U.S.??

So, does anyone else have a tale of "culture clash" from your travels abroad? Spill!

It shouldn't
04-21-2010, 03:03 PM
When I first moved to the US, there was a few things my hubby forgot to mention to me........

The one that sticks out is baggers at the grocery stores. In Germany there is no such thing (think Aldi's, a german store) everyone has to bag their own groceries. Sooo, the first time we went shopping, I unload the cart onto the belt, cashier begins to scan and I skip to the end of the register and furiously begin to bag. There was a nice young man in a uniform that kept asking me if I wanted some help. "Naw, I'm fine" Then he kept pestering me if I wanted help getting it to the car.
I finally asked my hubby what was wrong, when I noticed everyone staring at me.

He also forgot to mention that Americans eat their Pizza with their hands, not with fork and knife as I was raised. Same thing with fried chicken............... more funny looks at the Pizza Parlor and Chicken joint.

MaggieTheCat
04-21-2010, 03:14 PM
I'm amazed at the cultural clash just within the U.S.! I was born and raised in Wisconsin, pretty close to the Canadian border. I live in Texas now, and there are a lot of differences! Just to name a few:

-Soda vs. Coke: In Wisconsin (at least where I grew up), carbonated beverages like Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Dr Pepper, etc. are called "soda." Sometimes they're called "pop." In Texas, they're called "coke." Yeah, all carbonated beverages are just known as "coke." If you want an actual Coke (the brand name) you have to ask for a Coca-Cola.

-Chili: In Wisconsin, chili always has beans in it, and usually at least some veggies, like onions and celery. A lot of "true" Texans who I've met wouldn't consider anything with beans in it chili. There are exceptions to this rule, but my husband is pretty adamant about his chili: Meat, peppers/spices, tomato sauce. That's it. No beans, no veggies. (I still make my "chili" with beans/onions/etc. in it, but he calls it meat stew.)

-Cheese curds: Deep-fired cheese curds are a STAPLE in Wisconsin. You can't walk into a restaurant without seeing them on the appetizer menu. Even most Chinese or Mexican restaurants in Wisconsin have them. The only place I can get fried cheese curds in Texas is Culver's.

-Friday Night Fish Fries: In Wisconsin, it's usually cod and/or haddock. In Texas, it's usually catfish. Texas also has hushpuppies, which are unheard of in Wisconsin.

-Tacos everywhere: In Texas, you can get tacos at a Dairy Queen. The first time I saw that, I was really weirded out by it. It's like cheese curds in Wisconsin, I guess! (yes, the DQ in my hometown in Wisconsin served cheese curds.)

-Attitude: This is based on a pretty limited area. But, where I'm from in Wisconsin, people are very opinionated and judgmental. If you are not like the rest of the town, you are WRONG and you are BAD and you get weird looks and nobody will talk to you (although they'll talk ABOUT you plenty, behind your back.) People in Texas are a lot nicer, from what I've seen. They're not nearly as opinionated and it's a lot easier to start a conversation with strangers. Like I said, this is just based on the small town I grew up in in Wisconsin...it might not be like that everywhere. (blas? Irv? blaquekat? Anyone else want to confirm/deny this?)

I haven't really been outside the U.S. much at all (been to Canada once for a few days and Mexican once for...a few hours), so comparing Wisconsin to Texas was the best I could come up with. :lol:

lordlundar
04-21-2010, 03:32 PM
Can you imagine the uproar a toy like that would cause in the U.S.??

<thinks back to the controversy from the "fat princess" download game a few months back>

Yes, yes I can. Vividly in fact, and knowing full well how the US mainstream media will pick up on it...:(

AdminAssistant
04-21-2010, 04:02 PM
-Chili: In Wisconsin, chili always has beans in it, and usually at least some veggies, like onions and celery. A lot of "true" Texans who I've met wouldn't consider anything with beans in it chili. There are exceptions to this rule, but my husband is pretty adamant about his chili: Meat, peppers/spices, tomato sauce. That's it. No beans, no veggies. (I still make my "chili" with beans/onions/etc. in it, but he calls it meat stew.)

*snip*

-Friday Night Fish Fries: In Wisconsin, it's usually cod and/or haddock. In Texas, it's usually catfish. Texas also has hushpuppies, which are unheard of in Wisconsin.

I'm between you and your husband. I make my chili with vegetables and meat, NO beans.

I moved from rural Arkansas to KCMO, and now to Eastern Kansas. I miss good fried catfish. So much that one day I drove to Olathe to eat at a Cracker Barrel. There's this place back home that has good fish, the best hush puppies*, and pickled tomatoes.

I went into major culture shock when I moved to KC. People were rude, there was so much crime, beggars everywhere....not the usual friendly atmosphere I was used to. It's much better in my current town. Although I still notice some things - I tend to get interrupted a lot, which I think is extremely rude. Others think that's just a normal way to have a conversation. Because I speak a bit slowly and have a storyteller's nature, I often never get to finish what I wanted to say. :(

Other than that, there are food differences. Sweet tea, the aforementioned fried catfish, simple, homestyle, country cooking. I have at least found a passable BBQ joint in town, and Oklahoma Joe's (in Olathe/KCK) is worth the 40 minute drive and 45 minute wait. I occasionally have Southern food dinner parties at my house, much to the delight and amazement of my friends (from all over the US). The first time I had one, my friend from Oklahoma nearly cried at the sight of fried okra - I guess she missed it as much as I did!

*For the uninitiated, hush puppies are a cornmeal dough dropped into oil and fried. And, like a good cornbread, it should only be cornmeal dough. I've seen places contaminate perfectly good hush puppies/cornbread by adding jalapenos, corn, onion, or sugar. Cornbread should NEVER be sweet.

jedimaster91
04-21-2010, 04:15 PM
-Soda vs. Coke: In Wisconsin (at least where I grew up), carbonated beverages like Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Dr Pepper, etc. are called "soda." Sometimes they're called "pop." In Texas, they're called "coke." Yeah, all carbonated beverages are just known as "coke." If you want an actual Coke (the brand name) you have to ask for a Coca-Cola.

This one drives my husband nuts. He's from Oregon and I grew up in Kentucky (which is where we live now). If it has bubbles, it's Coke.

-Chili: In Wisconsin, chili always has beans in it, and usually at least some veggies, like onions and celery. A lot of "true" Texans who I've met wouldn't consider anything with beans in it chili. There are exceptions to this rule, but my husband is pretty adamant about his chili: Meat, peppers/spices, tomato sauce. That's it. No beans, no veggies. (I still make my "chili" with beans/onions/etc. in it, but he calls it meat stew.)

For the longest time I had no idea the rest of the world didn't put spaghetti in the chili.

-Friday Night Fish Fries: In Wisconsin, it's usually cod and/or haddock. In Texas, it's usually catfish. Texas also has hushpuppies, which are unheard of in Wisconsin.

*gasp!* No hushpuppies in the Great White North?! I would never survive such a place seeing as how I LOVE hushpuppies. Although I can't say I'm a big fan of catfish. It's too "fishy" of a fish for me.

One of the biggest differences I've noticed is customer service; in three years I haven't had bad service ANYWHERE, not even once. I walk into a restaurant, convenience store, or department store, I always get a greeting, a smile, and a bow. When I leave I get a thank you, a smile, and a bow. The service itself is always excellent; in most restaurants, for example, there is a button you can push to summon your server.

There's no tipping, either. A Japanese friend once asked me to explain tipping. Then she asked me how much you were supposed to tip. I told her the amount of the tip was anywhere between 15% - 20%, depending on the quality of service. I also said if the service was bad enough you left maybe 10%, if anything. She was very surprised, because in her mind, there was no such thing as "bad" service.

Li'l Bro spent a couple weeks in Japan for school and told me something very interesting. Apparently, it's considered extremely rude to walk into a store and not buy something. I can't remember if he said it was mostly food-type places or shopping in general, though.

Irving Patrick Freleigh
04-21-2010, 04:24 PM
-Attitude: This is based on a pretty limited area. But, where I'm from in Wisconsin, people are very opinionated and judgmental. If you are not like the rest of the town, you are WRONG and you are BAD and you get weird looks and nobody will talk to you (although they'll talk ABOUT you plenty, behind your back.) People in Texas are a lot nicer, from what I've seen. They're not nearly as opinionated and it's a lot easier to start a conversation with strangers. Like I said, this is just based on the small town I grew up in in Wisconsin...it might not be like that everywhere. (blas? Irv? blaquekat? Anyone else want to confirm/deny this?)


Without getting too much into specifics...this is very true.

r2cagle
04-21-2010, 04:28 PM
As told by a coworker:

"Never ask anyone where they are from. If they are from Texas, they would have already told you. If they are not, you don't want to embarrass them."


This was in response to some joking about how much bigger and better things were in Texas. :lol:

MaggieTheCat
04-21-2010, 05:04 PM
For the longest time I had no idea the rest of the world didn't put spaghetti in the chili..

My mom always put elbow macaroni in her chili, which I thought was perfectly normal growing up, but have since found out is really WEIRD. I hadn't heard of spaghetti in chili until recently, either. Down here in Texas, pasta isn't added to chili ever, that I've seen...the staple grain to add as a filler is rice.

Also, I admit that I make sweet corn bread. :( I'm a bad southerner.

Becks
04-21-2010, 05:40 PM
-Attitude: This is based on a pretty limited area. But, where I'm from in Wisconsin, people are very opinionated and judgmental. If you are not like the rest of the town, you are WRONG and you are BAD and you get weird looks and nobody will talk to you (although they'll talk ABOUT you plenty, behind your back.) People in Texas are a lot nicer, from what I've seen. They're not nearly as opinionated and it's a lot easier to start a conversation with strangers. Like I said, this is just based on the small town I grew up in in Wisconsin...it might not be like that everywhere. (blas? Irv? blaquekat? Anyone else want to confirm/deny this?)

Small towns can be horrific, big cities are pretty okay.

(Saying this having moved from Milwaukee to Eagle in my youth.)

Magpie
04-21-2010, 05:55 PM
Moosewood adds bulger to the chili, I find it makes it unpleasantly heavy. However, I consider chili to be a vegetarian dish, unless you specify that it contains meat. (Basically it's already got protein and iron, why add meat? Yes, money was tight when I was a child, why do you ask?)

As for cultural differences, you don't even have to move to discover them. Granted, there is some geographical stuff here, as many people in my husband's ethnic/religious group came up through South America, but just the differences in what I consider acceptable and he does are interesting. Unfortunately, I suspect that I'm making up some of the restrictions, but there's stuff that I would have thought was generally considered inappropriate or borderline that he says is perfectly normal.

draftermatt
04-21-2010, 06:11 PM
My cousin grew up in Maryland, at 18 she got married to an Army man stationed in Georgia, where she promptly moved.

She said the pace of life down there is so different, it took her months to get used to it. At work things got done when they got done, whereas up here it's "GET IT DONE NOW!!!".

I went to Nashville for 3 days for work (training) 5 years ago. Despite having my Prevacid with me I had heartburn every night. I don't know what they were putting in the food, but damn was I in pain.

My honeymoon was in Myrtle Beach, SC. We stayed in a cabin on a campground. Our neighbors were all French Canadians who never left their cabins.

They cooked every meal on the grill they brought, never went to the beach, etc. Every morning when we got up to head to the beach they would look at us funny. Then when we'd come back, shower and drive out to wherever we were going that evening, they'd look at us funnier.

phantasy
04-21-2010, 06:29 PM
I love chili with anything and everything in it. Pasta, meat, beans, veggies, lentils (I'm really bad with eating food the way it should be eaten)

Cultural differences drive me INSANE. Why, you ask? Because I come from Baltimore, Maryland, where there's a countless list of things that can be considered rude. I, being a baltimorean, now live in Peru. Peru, where people have no manners and every holiday is highly religious, and where you must decorate your car obnoxiously (I'll describe this robably in another thread) or you won't be accepted.

People have their opinion, and you are WRONG if you think in another way. This makes my doctor visits very terrible.

Doctor: (to my husband) You snore because you dno't sleep enough. Sleep at least 9 hours a day.

Me: No, he has sleep apnea. I want him to do a sleep study test.

Doctor: Why would you think he has apnea? That's incredibly rare! I don't know where YOU come from, but we don't get that here.

Me: (Wha....what? Have I just unknowingly stumbled across a race of people immune to all diseases and medical conditions??) I'm from the U.S. and it's not rare. Apparently it's underdiagnosed. My husband has rapidy gained weight, suddenly snores like a freaking piece of metal stuck in the engine of a malfunctioning motor boat. I want a sleep study for him.

He then refused to listen to anything I say.

I should also mention that people think that there is no difference between a common cold and the flu. If I say "resfriado" (cold) or "gripe" (flu), it pretty much means the same thing to them. If you're coughing slightly and have a runny nose, you immediately have gripe, and you better take antibiotics. This is how they think.

I don't mean to threadjack! I'm just ranty.

trailerparkmedic
04-21-2010, 07:41 PM
Minor difference--in Texas, you can get Dr. Pepper everywhere. Drove my fiance nuts when we were in Maryland and he couldn't get it at any restuarant.

phantasy
04-21-2010, 08:18 PM
Really? I used to get Dr. Pepper to go with my cheesesteak subs back home. (Then again, I do consider pizza/sub parlors to be "restuarants")

RetailWorkhorse
04-21-2010, 09:06 PM
He also forgot to mention that Americans eat their Pizza with their hands, not with fork and knife as I was raised. Same thing with fried chicken............... more funny looks at the Pizza Parlor and Chicken joint.

My Dad does that. He's of German descent (So's me! :D). According to him, he's just a neat-eater (and I'm MESSY).

This is the same man that calls knives "toad-stickers".


-Cheese curds: Deep-fired cheese curds are a STAPLE in Wisconsin. You can't walk into a restaurant without seeing them on the appetizer menu. Even most Chinese or Mexican restaurants in Wisconsin have them. The only place I can get fried cheese curds in Texas is Culver's.

....<snip>...

-Attitude: This is based on a pretty limited area. But, where I'm from in Wisconsin, people are very opinionated and judgmental. If you are not like the rest of the town, you are WRONG and you are BAD and you get weird looks and nobody will talk to you (although they'll talk ABOUT you plenty, behind your back.) People in Texas are a lot nicer, from what I've seen. They're not nearly as opinionated and it's a lot easier to start a conversation with strangers. Like I said, this is just based on the small town I grew up in in Wisconsin...it might not be like that everywhere. (blas? Irv? blaquekat? Anyone else want to confirm/deny this?)

CHEESE CURDS. <3 Used to get them from the Test Kitchen Cracker Barrel in Tiftonia, TN. Then they were discontinued (Along with EQ's Fried Shrimp Salad).

As for the Attitude here in Texas....it's gotta be Corpus Christi, because no one here seems all that polite. They don't respond when ya say "hi" or wave and the traffic is worse than Carter County in TN(Sarlon, I think, should know what I'm on about). Dad says it's only because we're in a bigger city, but I dunno, back East just seemed more laid-back. He also says that moving AGAIN will be good for me, seeing as our next stop this Autumn will be a German Town north of Corpus.

I've seen places contaminate perfectly good hush puppies/cornbread by adding jalapenos, corn, onion, or sugar. Cornbread should NEVER be sweet.

.......ew....... o.O

Magpie
04-21-2010, 10:02 PM
Oh, and curds aren't curds unless they're squeaky.

AdminAssistant
04-21-2010, 10:12 PM
Minor difference--in Texas, you can get Dr. Pepper everywhere. Drove my fiance nuts when we were in Maryland and he couldn't get it at any restuarant.

I do remember having a hard time finding Dr. Pepper anywhere out of the South several years ago. But I think they were bought by Pepsi, and it's really widespread.

Custard Chick
04-22-2010, 12:53 AM
Let's just say I now understand why there are some stereotypes associated with certain races/genders now that I live in the NoVA/DC area.

Also, it's "soda" down here. :P People look at me weird when I ask if they want "pop".

XCashier
04-22-2010, 03:15 AM
When I moved from Phoenix Arizona to Eugene Oregon, I experienced not only climate shock but culture shock.

Phoenix is a sprawling major metropolis with lots of heat, lots of pollution, yucky water, and tons of conservative, Type A people. There's racial conflict, road rage and general unpleasantness (which gets worse when the weather gets hotter). On the other hand, the well-lit streets are laid out in a simple, easy to follow grid, and there are lots of good restaurants (especially Mexican food).

Eugene is a medium-sized town with lots of trees and hills and a winding river. The weather is mild, there's very little pollution (it gets slightly hazy during the summer dry spell), and the drinking water is sweet enough to drink straight from the tap. Most of the people here are either college students or original hippies, so the political climate tends to be rather liberal. Lots of artist types, folkies, generally laid-back people. Lots of fresh delicious local produce and dairy products, lots of good seafood. The street layout is insane: streets that change direction without warning, fold back on themselves, suddenly go one-way or dead end and change names halfway across town (not to mention a very poorly lit freeway). Good ethnic restaurants are difficult to find, as well; the last time we went to a Mexican restaurant here, I had a chili relleno that tasted more like a celery relleno! :cry:

Andara Bledin
04-22-2010, 06:10 AM
I do remember having a hard time finding Dr. Pepper anywhere out of the South several years ago. But I think they were bought by Pepsi, and it's really widespread.
Dr Pepper is owned by Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc, but it is bottled and then distributed by Coke or Pepsi, depending on the region.

Oh, and it's soda. Made with soda water. I'll have none of that "coke" nonsense, although I'll accept pop. And soft drink is always good, until you add something hard. ;)

^-.-^