08 Jun 2011

Some cultural differences, in time for your summer holidays…

Every culture has subtleties and linguistic variances that can only be fully understood by locals, and some things just cannot be translated. So here are a few things to consider if you are lucky enough to be traveling abroad during the coming months.

            Firstly, does anyone know what hygge means? According to the Danish Tourist Board, this word is as Danish as ‘pork roast and cold beer’. Sounds good…
With no accurate translation, hygge is apparently an expression of warmth, companionship, or to be cozy and snug. Also sounds great…but there is just no direct English translation. Nothing that can make us understand the same way a Dane would understand and feel hygge.
            Some other examples:
    • Schadenfreude, classic German word that has entered use in English that essentially means to derive pleasure from another’s unhappiness.
    • Litost. Supposedly only felt by Czech people, defined as ‘a state of torment created by the sudden sight on one’s own misery’.
    • Cultural peculiarities extend beyond differences in language. Body language and expressions vary as well.   We have all seen the French using their faces in ways never before seen to communicate emotions ranging from frustration to surprise.
    • Italians take it up a notch and use their faces AND their hands to make sure they get their message across in no uncertain terms. It is said that Italians can use their hands to say anything from ‘what do you mean?’, ‘let’s eat spaghetti’, and ‘don’t worry, everything is under control’.
 

British people, however, are cryptic with their communications. The British often say something and mean something else, and have a variety of long-winded ways of disagreeing in order to be polite and try to avoid conflict at all opportunity. For example, when a British person starts talking by saying  ‘with the greatest respect’, what they really wish to say, and what they are about to detail, is ‘I disagree, and here’s why’.

 

             English speakers in Britain and the US use  acronyms heavily and this often confuses non-native English speakers. Aside from colloquialisms like OMG, LOL, BTW, and ASAP, English speakers have a habit of shortening anything that they can, including FAQ (frequently asked questions), OJ (orange juice), and AWOL (absent without leave).
            So here are just a few cultural differences. Keep these in mind when on your holidays abroad this summer!


 
 

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