Lost in Translation – interacting with other cultures

Cultural mores and differences are a funny thing. What is acceptable in one country can be a complete taboo in another.

What means nothing in one country can have extreme significance in another.

Take China for example. A rapidly emerging economy with a rich culture and booming population. One of their beliefs is that the colour red is lucky, whereas in some cultures red denotes danger, death, murder and other negative connotations. Think of the expression – “going in the red” – now in western culture that is a sign of financial woes. So it is always very interesting to see how different cultures perceive different things.

Take for example in the West African culture. If you visit a person’s house, you are traditionally offered some sort of “kola” – which can be in the form of drink or something to eat. Now whether you are hungry or not, or indeed interested in eating or drinking it – you are expected to accept this “kola” otherwise your host will be extremely offended and consider you rude.  Languages also play a very important role whilst travelling to a foreign country and dealing with their culture. No wonder why people need reliable translation services whilst exploring new cultures.

These are just examples of how good intentions and meanings can be lost in translation when you visit other cultures and it is a good idea to be aware of these cultural norms before embarking on a journey to a foreign land, particularly one outside your area of experience. Cultural differences have resulted in breaking barriers between countries like India and Pakistan.

For example, if you are invited to dine at an Arab’s dinner table, you are expected to belch very loudly at the end of your meal to denote your satisfaction with the meal and it would be considered a compliment to the chef and or host. However, if you were to do so at an English dinner party, you would be considered gauche, ill- mannered and uncouth. Do you see what I mean?

Cultural mores, ideas and identity are fascinating and should always be taken into account when faced with a situation where you are going to be interacting with those from another culture, be it at a meeting, dinner table or other social gathering.

So the next time you are in a gathering with those from different cultures, countries or creeds, take the time to understand who you are dealing with and where they are coming from.

About Readers Cafe

We are three writers joining forces to conquer the blog world! Or just have fun doing what we love the most: Writing!

Posted on June 6, 2012, in About Life, Culture and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Great points to consider- it really pays off to read up before you arrive at your destination to avoid these faux pas!

  2. So many ways we can involuntarily offend others – even if we have done our homework before we travel! I do enjoy your blog and – as a fellow translator – have nominated you for a Versatile Blogger Award. I hope you’ll accept it. You can pick it up from my blog post Unexpected Honour (Parts I and II). All the best!

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