Brochure on cultural differences/Broschüre “Andere Länder, andere Sitten”

Der ADÜ Nord (Assoziierte Dolmetscher und Übersetzer in Norddeutschland e.V.) hat eine Broschüre “Andere Länder, andere Sitten” veröffentlicht (auf “Publikationen” klicken). Die Broschüre kann kostenlos als PDF-Datei, oder Teile davon als PDF-Dateien, heruntergeladen werden. Länder, die behandelt werden, sind Großbritannien, USA, Frankreich, Spanien, Russland und Kasachstan.

ADÜ-Nord has a brochure (in German) on cultural differences in various countries: the UK, USA, France, Spain, Russian and Kazakhstan. It’s very useful and fills a number of gaps in cultural knowledge.

Germany is missing, but there is a constant comparison with Germany that is very useful.

Here is a remark on Britain and Germany that is useful:

bq. Viele ehemals eiserne Regeln verlieren allmählich an Verbindlichkeit, beispielsweise der Grundsatz, dass als Gruß am Ende eines Briefes Yours faithfully statt Yours sincerely stehen muss, wenn die Anrede Dear Sir/Madam lautet. Im Zweifelsfall ist es jedoch besser, den Partner mit vornehmer Zurückhaltung zu amüsieren, als ihn durch übertriebene Lockerheit zu verprellen. Während – vor allem in E-Mails – auch in Großbritannien eine informelle Freundlichkeit immer üblicher wird, dürften die in deutscher Korrespondenz um sich greifenden betont fröhlichen Grußformeln wie Mit freundlichen Grüßen aus dem sonnigen Ottensen nach London für das britische Gegenüber noch gewöhnungsbedürftig sein.

(Some rules are less strictly observed nowadays, e.g. ending with Your sincerely only if you address the recipient by name at the beginning. But it’s better to be amusingly stiff than over-friendly. Informal friendliness is becoming more and more common in email in Great Britain [becoming? I thought email had always been friendly], but British people will have difficulties getting used to the emphatically friendly ‘Best wishes to London from sunny Ottensen’).

I think I have serious problems because I don’t write these greetings. On German mailing lists you see ‘Mit hungrigen Grüßen’ if the topic is food, and often ‘Liebe Grüße’. I tend not to do this, although probably I should adapt to the country’s customs. Having learnt to be brief and address people by their name alone in English-speaking Usenet groups, I was shocked to see, in the probably deceased that if people don’t have an especially friendly, i.e. typically German, address and closing, they are often flamed by other users. A serious cultural dilemma.

This follows the general rule, stated earlier, that the lack of a du/Sie distinction does not mean that there is no distance between people.

I haven’t read much of the brochure but on glancing through it I was disappointed to see the old chestnut about the car called Nova not being saleable in Spain.

There’s a quiz at the end. One of the points I wonder about: Germans use their forks like a shovel, but British people ‘spießen die Speisen mit der Gabel auf’. Well, you certainly can use your fork to spike bits of food, but with things like peas you will not spike them individually but are supposed to push them precariously onto the rounded side of the prongs. (I also learnt to eat soup differently from the Germans, letting the soup into the spoon on the far side and drinking it from the near side, and I had to learn in Germany to leave my hands visible on the table all the time).

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