Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Can you say 'faux pas'?

Cultural Anecdotes, Part II

Thanks to those of you who responded with your own cultural faux pas stories. Unfortunately, they all came through Facebook and are therefore not posted on this site. That darn Facebook is just too convenient.

Here are a couple that have come through:
On the first day of classes, a university freshman in the States who has been raised in Europe and learned English only from her mother and foreign language classes, asks a classmate for a rubber. (Don't get it? Ask someone.)

In one of my own French classes years ago, one of my students, who is a recording artist, was trying to tell me how her husband's voice blends well with her own. She was making a gargantuan effort, truly; but instead of saying 'He blends,' she said 'He changes my diaper.'

And finally, a dear friend who was living in Switzerland and learning French thought she knew a thing or two about predicting whether a pregant woman's baby would be a boy or a girl, depending on how the woman was carrying the baby. In faltering French, but confident it was a boy, she proudly informed the dubious woman that it was going to be a fish.

Keep them coming! And post them here so non-Facebook members can appreciate them!


julianalovespy said...

On our first trip to Argentina, Rob and Eric and I went to Iguazu Falls all by ourselves. None of us spoke Spanish, but Rob had been reading a book on how to speak it for 6 weeks, so he was the designated translator.

We were supposed to have dinner at the hotel, but they closed the restaurant and gave us vouchers for our meal that we could redeem at another restaurant somewhere down the road. We wandered around this tiny town after dark and finally found a restaurant.

When we were ordering, I wanted some orange juice, and Rob knew exactly how to say that in Spanish. He asked for some "hijo de arana" which is REALLY close to, but not quite, "hugo de naranja".

The waiter seemed very confused, but after MUCH MUCH repetition and an elaborate game of charades, he laughed and laughed and said, "OH....hugo de naranja!" and brought us some orange juice. We all smiled and said, "Muchas gracias!" and were very impressed with Rob's language skills.

When we met up with the rest of our group a couple of days later, Rob was relating the story of the waiter laughing at him when he ordered something that wasn't on the menu, and someone who spoke both Spanish and English LAUGHED and LAUGHED. If you speak Spanish, you already know that we found out Rob had asked for some "son of spider" instead of "juice of orange".

Thankfully, Son of Spider is not a citrus-flavored intoxicating beverage in Argentina or I might have gotten something completely different!

tish said...

I heard this at the YWAM base in Lausanne, Switzerland... An American student was visiting her boyfriend's family in Germany. Just before dinner she asked where the bathroom was and upon discovering that there was only a bath and a basin in it, she was too embarrassed to go out and ask again as everyone was now already to cut along story short...the diners heard a crash and found her and a broken basin on the floor.

Jim said...

When I first moved to France, I was glad to find a cafe in the little village. After a few months, I found out that the owner rode a Harley. The next time I went back to the US, I bought a plaque from the Harley shop, and upon my return gave it to him. It was a very awkward moment.... it was just two strange to him for me to give a gift, even a touristy, kitschy, inexpensive thing like that. I thought it would open a door for a friendship, by showing interest in what he did. Instead, it made the situation very uncomfortable. Gifts giving in France is reserved for significant relationships. The gift was about two years, and a lot of time in the cafe, early. oops. We never recovered.