Culture clash – your stories

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This topic contains 20 replies, has 13 voices, and was last updated by  MarcusUK 19 Aug 2011
at 15:41

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  • Anonymous


    I thought it might be entertaining to have some readers share their stories of culture clashes. I will start with a vicarious one, since friends (rather than me) witnessed this one, but it is too good a story not to share…

    Said friends were living in Tokyo at the time, some years ago, when Japan was just starting to try to tap in to the annual bacchanalia that is Christmas in the West and make some money out of it. One of the large department stores in Central Tokyo had clearly heard about the concept of lavish Christmas window displays, and decided to do one of their own. They clearly also appointed someone to research and design this who wasn’t really familiar with the concept, since the end result featured, as its grand centrepiece, a lifesize image of Father Christmas… nailed to a cross

    Too much research can clearly be a very bad thing…


    And the christians burned down the store?!?


    Here in Belgium where I live some of the time, they have somebody very close to Father Christmas called St Nicholas (red cape, long white beard etc) however his helper is called “Black Pete” who is usualy played by a blacked up white person in an afro wig with white painted lips – think Black & White Minstrels 1976.

    Seeing the faces on a group of American tourists in Brugge at this incredibly non politicly correct action was priceless.


    Culture clash – Every time I encounter poor customer service when I have already paid for it.

    “I’m too busy to serve you, but I expect a tip” – ring any bells?!


    Going into a shop in Boston on my first trip to the States in 1978 (I was a mere boy) and asking where I could find some fags.

    I never tipped at all on that visit (I didn’t know about the custom) and came away wondering why so many Americans in the service industry were rude and surly.

    Trying to work out why the plane was making such a brief stop at the airport (it was landing “momentarily”).

    Wondering why I wasn’t given the time for a post-prandial chat and brandy at the end of my first banquet in China.

    Using my mobile phone on a train in Japan.

    Discovering that there’s no such thing as “last orders” in bars and pubs in Finland – the bell doesn’t ring, the staff just stop serving and the lights go out.

    I’ll probably think of a few more.



    Sorry if I am lowering the tone a touch;

    A restaurant in Washington state called W**nkers Corner

    A hotel in Charlotte, N.Carolina, advertising Sh**ging classes(apparently some kind of dance)


    Once asked an attractive married American diplomat if she had a rubber… front of her husband!!!

    As someone once said……..” two nations divided by a common language”


    I took a wonderful picture in a fancy restaurant in Shanghai in 2006. A no cell phone sign next to an ashtray. Heresy in the UK and US, not being able to talk in a loud voice on your cell phone while someone else was allowed to enjoy tobacco! Got some good mileage out of that… Just wish they would not spit quite so much…


    A few more:

    The Holiday Inn City Centre in Guangzhou had a “Smack Menu” in its bar when I was there in the mid-1990s.

    A restaurant in Riga had “Bull’s Eggs” on its menu, with the warning below “Real balls!!!”

    I saw a bottle of counterfeit whisky in a backstreet (and probably illegal) bar in New Delhi, called “Johnny Wa*ker.”

    Being addressed as “Mr Lowbelly” all over Asia took a while to get used too – a bit too close to the truth!



    I had a colleague called Farthing back in the 80’s and there was much junior school smirking amongst my less travelled co-workers when the Germans asked to speak to him on the phone (the H being silent in German pronunciation).
    The Japanese toilets confused the heck out of a British friend who could not work out the pictures and got an unexpected jet where she was not expecting it.


    Slightly off topic. In the late 1980s there was a BA pilot based at BHX called Captain Kirk, which always caused some amusement.

    I also once came across a Captain Oates. Can’t remember the airline; British Midland perhaps.

    Back on topic, I do recall my (then) young son almost causing a diplomatic incident through not realising what a Hammam was, on a trip to Malaysia. Also, a friend of mine once caused great offence in Thailand by patting a child on the head.



    An airline employee, Benjamin Gaye was using his travel concessions to fly with his friend Alan Jones. Being staff, Ben was allocated an unsold C class seat, Alan had a full fare seat in economy.
    As they boarded Ben offered to swap his seat with Alan as Alan had never travelled in Business Class. They swapped and took their seats.

    Whilst passengers were still boarding, there was an announcement by the purser – could passenger Gaye please make themselves known to a crew member. It went unanswered.

    A few minutes later, the purser approach Alan thinking he was Ben and asked – “Are you Gaye” to which Alan initially said no then sheepishly said yes. The purser then informed Alan – am afraid we are going to have to off-load you (due to a late arriving priority). At which point a nearby passenger, who had heard the exchange, rose indignantly declaring that both himself and his friend were gay and demanded what the airline had against gays and if they were going to try to offload them as well.


    And of course if he was in US, Bengay means a massage and pain relief medication.


    I have have seen so many cuture clashes I couldnt begin to list them.

    Not exactly culture clash but my first ever flight was on alitalia to linate, I was 18 at the time and teh meal was a prosciutto salad…except i had never had prosciutto in my life, I returned it saying the bacon wasnt cooked…….

    being in a bar in south carolina and seeing the a pretty young woman declaring to my colleague “thats jail bait” from the looks in the bar who heard me we made a very hasty retreat

    first time in china i asked the front desk for an extra pillow…they sent a hooker to my room

    and in a moment of madness I got caught up in a protest on a conti flight from San diego to houston back around 96′ itw as a smoking flight at teh back of the plane and there was a non smoker in amongst us who was complianing she wanted to move seats, stewards said no seats were free and she kicked off on one, the captain then decalred the flight 100% non smoking. There was uproar, not just from the smokers, including me but with teh non smokers who were shouting breach of rights etc, people were standing on seats, refusing to sit so we could taxi, eventually a non smoker swopped with the woman but the captain still refused to makle it a smoking flight so teh protest continued, eventually he caved in , smoking was resumed and so was the flight. could you imagine that now!! we would all be off to guantanamo! not a culture class, a change of culture.

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