Random Culture Thread

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linguoboy
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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby linguoboy » 2021-03-09, 20:12

I find it a little uncomfortable to show up to a gathering empty-handed, but I can still do it if the host insists. (Here it's not unusual to ask a host, "Can I bring anything?" Unless you're very close and they have a specific need, they'll most likely say "no" or deploy some polite formula like, "Just bring yourselves!") In other cultures, though, the imperative seems too strong to resist. Germans impressed upon me that you never came to someone's without bringing something--if not a bottle of wine or some nibbles then some flowers. And I have a Chilean friend who seems literally incapable of coming to see me without bringing some sort of small gift. (Usually nibbles but when he last went to Chile, he brought me back four bottles of pisco.)

Birthdays are a special case, but I did find it weird to learn that adults were generally expected to supply their own cakes. Growing up, cakes were always something that someone else--you parents, your significant other, your friends, etc.--procured for you. If you go out to a restaurant together, the honoree is never expected to pay their portion. The exception would be if for a catered gala (planned in advance by a friend or spouse). The cake (or whatever stands in lieu of it) is either supplied by the restaurant or brought by someone else in the group.
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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby md0 » 2021-03-10, 14:15

Yeah, of course not empty handed. But in Cyprus we are expected to give presents (which can be cash and a birthday card if necessary). But all food is the responsibility of the birthday person.

Both from the scenarios in my German class and from the birthday party we had for our room-mate this week, the birthday person only contributed one dish, so the majority of the supplies came from us. But we didn't get her presents.

I guess it comes down to the same net effect, it's just so different.

PS. On the other hand, we almost always bring a cake when we visit a friend's house for a social visit or a dinner in Cyprus, something that I heard from Cypriot friends in Berlin is not actually expected here, and hosts perceive it as a burden.
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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby linguoboy » 2021-03-10, 16:19

md0 wrote:PS. On the other hand, we almost always bring a cake when we visit a friend's house for a social visit or a dinner in Cyprus, something that I heard from Cypriot friends in Berlin is not actually expected here, and hosts perceive it as a burden.

This is why in the USA it's considered polite to ask first. In Midwestern English, you might say, "I thought I'd bring a cake, if that's okay" and if that would be a burden, the host would say something like "Oh, I've already got something planned for dessert" (possibly following up with an alternative suggestion, especially if it's more of a potluck situation).

(The mere thought of burdening someone is enough to make most Midwesterners want to crawl into a hole and never come out of it again.)
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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2021-03-10, 16:59

In Indian culture, guests are traditionally considered equivalent to deities and definitely not expected to bring anything. On the contrary, it is very much the obligation of the host to go to any lengths necessary to ensure that the guest is well-fed and as satisfied as possible, and hosts sometimes take this to the extreme. In some of our traditional mythological stories, the guest really is a deity, and their visit is really a test from the gods of the host's humility (the host is usually a sage, priest, or king in these stories). I can recall right off the top of my head a story in which a host who has no other food to offer commits suicide so the guest can feed on their corpse.

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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby linguoboy » 2021-03-10, 17:09

vijayjohn wrote:I can recall right off the top of my head a story in which a host who has no other food to offer commits suicide so the guest can feed on their corpse.

:shock:
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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby md0 » 2021-03-10, 17:21

I didn't see linguoboy's reply because it fell on a new page

If you go out to a restaurant together, the honoree is never expected to pay their portion.

Oof, now that's quite a difference. Here, the honoree would pay for everyone (although celebrations at restaurants are probably only for children, in which case the parents pay - and it's also probably going to be a fixed menu).

I guess it boils down to whether you perceive a birthday party as a party you throw to entertain your guests versus a celebration of yourself that your guests arrange to honour you.
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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby Rí.na.dTeangacha » 2021-03-17, 18:03

I just went to a supermarket near me and found that, in the floor, visible through plexiglass panels, are the remains of an 11th century Hiberno-Norse house and in another area is a part of an 18th century theatre. There are little plaques on the walls beside the displays explaining the history. It's like a museum, but it's in the middle of a random supermarket. And I do mean in the middle; the queue for the checkout was on top of the 18th century theatre and the Hiberno-Norse house was between the frozen goods and the beans/pasta isle. Very bizarre.
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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby linguoboy » 2021-03-17, 19:00

Vienna is so crammed with churches that it actually has one within the Stephansplatz U-Bahn station. They found it while excavating in 1973 and figured out a way to incorporate it into the finished design.

It's really interesting to me how different countries handle the tradeoff between preserving archeological heritage while allowing for economic exploitation. Historically in the USA we didn't care because the dominant society is one of European settlers who felt no connexion with the previous cultures, downplayed their achievements at best, and tried to exterminate them at worst. My hometown of St Louis was known as "Mound City" due to all the Mississippian mounds located there; with one exception, all the ones on the Missouri side (including some impressively large ones) have been completely destroyed to clear land for building.

Now, like other Western nations, the USA has begun practicing "rescue archaeology" where teams are brought in to learn what they can from sites before they're bulldozed. It's an improvement over just looting and destroying them, but it still a long way from true preservationism.
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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby md0 » 2021-04-12, 18:52

I'm curious what's everyone's default interpretation of "your name", when you are asked to provide it for identification reasons at reception desks. Do you give your full name, your last name, or your first name?

A specific scenario, the one that got me wondering. I had a coronavirus rapid test appointment this morning. That's pre-booked and I scan a QR code to be let in the testing centre. The person at the desk asks me for my name, as some basic authentication. I gave just my last name. In all situations vaguely similar to that, I just give my last name.

What would you do?
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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby Rí.na.dTeangacha » 2021-04-12, 18:59

"Name" to me generally implies first name and surname, but if I know the context doesn't usually require both, I'd give whichever name the context demanded (usually the first name only, if anything less than the full name is required) and I wouldn't find the use of the term "name" to be strange in such a context even though it wouldn't match my "default" connotation.
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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby linguoboy » 2021-04-12, 19:09

md0 wrote:I'm curious what's everyone's default interpretation of "your name", when you are asked to provide it for identification reasons at reception desks. Do you give your full name, your last name, or your first name?

In that sort of situation, I just give my surname. It's extremely rare (there are less than dozen people with it, all close relatives of mine), so that's usually enough. Occasionally the person will respond with "[given name]?" for confirmation.
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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby Car » 2021-04-12, 20:40

First and last name, unless I've already said it before, then just last name.
Please correct my mistakes!

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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby TheStrayCat » 2021-04-13, 0:06

If I know the person has my name on a list, I say my last name and sometimes clarify the first two letters to avoid confusion. Otherwise, I say my first and last name and usually show them my ID card, because my full name is specific to my ethnicity and letting them read it from the ID is a lot faster and more reliable than spelling each letter.

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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby md0 » 2021-04-13, 7:01

I always had to do the ID thing in Finland, because my last name has a consonant 'y' in it but in Finnish that's always a vowel and they had trouble matching what they heard with what's on their list.
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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2021-04-13, 8:26

I'm not sure whether I understand the question. :para: I got my COVID rapid test at the airport in Taipei itself, so I had to give my full name exactly as stated on my passport.

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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby md0 » 2021-04-13, 10:00

Because of the pre-booking and the QR code, they can already see all my relevant details. They are just asking to make sure that the computer pulled up the right file when they scanned the QR.
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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby Naava » 2021-04-13, 10:03

I would give my last name especially if I knew they were expecting me to come there at a certain time, e.g. if I had an appointment or if it was a hotel or a restaurant. If I didn't have an appointment etc and someone asked for my name, I'd most likely say "last name, first name" because that's the order they usually write them in. I don't think there's ever been a time when I would've needed to give my middle name too.

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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby Varislintu » 2021-04-14, 16:17

md0 wrote:Yeah, of course not empty handed. But in Cyprus we are expected to give presents (which can be cash and a birthday card if necessary). But all food is the responsibility of the birthday person.


I'd say in Finland the food is also the responsibility of the birthday person, unless they specify that the party is a special type where you bring food along and share with everyone. Is it called a potluck in English? "Nyyttikestit" in Finnish.

I'm dreading birthday parties among kids in my kid's future in the sense of presents. I've read online that nowadays the expectation is that you bring a material gift, like a toy, to the birthday child, even if we're talking kids under 7 years old. I find that pretty bonkers. If a kid has a party with 10 invitees, they all should bring a toy? That stays in your house and your kid's room, or worse, is not to their liking and you need to donate it or throw it right away? Why?? And the parents need to hunt down something age and gender appropriate every single time there's a friend's birthday? Oh my god...

I don't know if I'll be able to stick to this when the time comes, but I've been planning to organise parties for my son in such a way that I strongly emphasize in the invite that no gift needs to be brought. Bring a bag of candy for sharing among the guests at the table instead. A card is nice, but not obligatory.
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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby linguoboy » 2021-04-14, 16:35

Varislintu wrote:I'd say in Finland the food is also the responsibility of the birthday person, unless they specify that the party is a special type where you bring food along and share with everyone. Is it called a potluck in English?

It is.

Varislintu wrote:I don't know if I'll be able to stick to this when the time comes, but I've been planning to organise parties for my son in such a way that I strongly emphasize in the invite that no gift needs to be brought. Bring a bag of candy for sharing among the guests at the table instead. A card is nice, but not obligatory.

In US culture, you can say something like "No gifts please!" and most people will respect that (though there are always exceptions).
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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby Gormur » 2021-04-14, 17:52

md0 wrote:But all food is the responsibility of the birthday person.
I know this one. Also, you can do a favor for the birthday-er or take them to dinner instead of a present. This is just for adults. Of course if it's your significant other it's going to be different

For kids, you give them (a little) money or bring food; but never a cake. That's what their parents do. If you're not close friends or relatives you can bring a nice birthday card and that's enough. I bet if you asked your average North American though, they'd say it's rude to show up to a party without an actual gift, so yeah. It's fine for me but not for them I guess :)
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