When you travel, you will undoubtedly be confronted with it: cultural differences. For some a horror, for others an enrichment. Differences in culture amount to behavior, habits, traditions, religion, language and even gestures. Differences will always be there.
The realization of cultural differences when you go to another country can be important. This can be for vacation, internship, work or because you join your partner.
Even in the Netherlands, not only between natives and immigrants, but also between the Dutch themselves, many cultural differences can be found. Frisians will have different traditions compared to the Limburgers. Think of carnival or language. For example, a plastic bag in Limburg and a Friesland is a kiss. This can of course create funny situations if you do not take each other into account.
So you have to watch abroad, especially with hand signals. For example, keeping the index finger and thumb together is a gesture for ‘okay’ or ‘fine’ in many countries, but in Turkey, for example, it is an obscene gesture. In parts of southern Europe it is as bad as raising a middle finger.
Two fingers in the air is a peace sign in Western countries, but in the English-speaking languages (with the exception of the US), it means the same as a middle finger. So be careful.
Not only with gestures can misunderstandings arise, but also through behavior. For example, it is terribly rude in the Netherlands to slurp during dinner, unlike Japan. You indicate that you like it. You also cool your hot noodles with it. Handy!
In China, for example, it is impolite to empty your plate. This actually lets you know that the host has not given you enough food. The best thing is to leave a little bit of food on your plate. Your host will understand that you were so full that you could not eat that last bit anymore.
For many people certain habits are weird or incomprehensible, but this can also be interpreted the other way around. Slurping is terribly dirty for us to hear. In Japan they find it logical that they do not want to burn their palate.
When someone in the Netherlands has a bad cold, we do not mind if this person wants to blow his nose. In Turkey people think differently about this. You hear such things privately.
It is therefore very important to be open-minded when dealing with people from a different culture. Even with Western cultures. We, the Dutch, are very direct. When we say ‘yes’ we also mean ‘yes’. Also with ‘no’ and ‘maybe’. In England it is the case that ‘maybe’ usually means ‘no’ and an invitation to come to dinner when you just know each other, does not mean that you can come by soon for a bite, but rather friendliness.
Where people travel, relationships will also arise. In multicultural relations, communication is very important, both in friendly and romantic relationships. Why does someone react as he / she reacts? What exactly does it mean? Talk about it well.
In romantic relationships it can be a bigger stumbling block. Discuss what you find important in a relationship, but also in the future, so that both of you know what you have and what you can expect from each other. All of the above can be addressed, but what really can be a breaking point in a relationship is religion. Different views and principles also come with different religions. And these are difficult to change. Just as your principles and beliefs can not be changed just like that. Some think it is very important to educate their future children with their faith. If you yourself are also religious or not religious, this can be a huge collision. As a non-believer you can still fit in, if you have a different belief then it becomes more difficult. Perhaps you can come to a middle way and make arrangements about it.
In the beginning a relationship is always exciting and new and you feel that you can endure everything together, until it becomes serious. Therefore, get to know each other well before you take big steps!
Anyway you can say one thing about cultural differences: it keeps it interesting! 🙂
Have you ever had to deal with cultural differences?