Random Culture Thread

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Johanna
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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby Johanna » 2016-09-28, 17:39

vijayjohn wrote:So what does it mean in Swedish culture to be engaged? To me, being engaged means you're going to get married. (How soon you're going to get married is another issue, but I guess I thought it was supposed to seal the deal* or something).

Most of the time the intention is that it will result in marriage somewhere down the line, it's just not the only option nowadays. Those who get engaged without ever intending to marry see it as a romantic gesture or a way of showing people that they're really serious about their relationship without being married.
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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby Luís » 2016-09-28, 21:36

My impressions from the Baltic countries (I apologize beforehand for the generalizations):

Lithuania
Even though it's the largest and most populated of the three countries, it felt somewhat more "backward" than the others. Vilnius is a lovely city with a church on every corner and everything is quite cheap as well. Even though people are nationalistic, they seem to think their language is useless and are surprised a foreigner would ever want to learn more about it. Apart from the delicious bread, food consists mostly of meat and potatoes (or potatoes filled with meat). Not that enticing...

Latvia
Riga is the largest and most cosmopolitan of the three Baltic capitals. There's a charming Old Town and plenty of things to see and do around the city. Lovely forests and lakes.There's a huge Russian community and you can definitely notice it. At times I heard more Russian being spoken in the streets than Latvian. It also felt like the most "Soviet" of the three. People are quite proud of their language and will be happy to tell a foreigner about it. You can eat delicious fried rye bread and kvass and also some fish, but other than that it's mostly just meat and potatoes (again).

Estonia
Estonia seems to be the more developed country of the three and the one that feels less "Eastern European". In fact, if I didn't know beforehand where I was, I could be easily convinced I was in Finland or Sweden. It definitely has a more "Nordic" feel to it. The forests and the Baltic sea coast and beaches are great. They're once again quite proud of their language and culture and will gladly tell a foreigner about it. As for the food, well... it's meat and potatoes again (though the meat can be more exotic there: elk, beaver, bear)

One think lacking in all three countries seems to be customer service. I don't know if it's a reminiscence of Soviet times, but hardly anyone will smile or say "thank you" and "please". You can forget about small talk, that doesn't work either. Other than that, people seem to be relatively friendly towards foreigners. It was a pleasant experience and I would definitely go back!
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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby Lada » 2016-10-01, 17:20

Luís wrote:One think lacking in all three countries seems to be customer service. I don't know if it's a reminiscence of Soviet times, but hardly anyone will smile or say "thank you" and "please". You can forget about small talk, that doesn't work either.

What for do you need these fake smiles? I still don't understand this part of western culture. Small talk? You don't have anyone to talk to and go to a shop? Here everything is strightforward - you come, take what you need and go and don't expect unknown people to talk to you and you also don't really prefer talking to strangers. And it's a norm. :yep:

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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2016-10-01, 17:23

Lada wrote:What for do you need these fake smiles? I still don't understand this part of western culture.

To avoid spreading negativity, or at least to avoid giving off the impression that you bear ill-will towards the person you're looking at?

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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby Lada » 2016-10-01, 17:30

vijayjohn wrote:
Lada wrote:What for do you need these fake smiles? I still don't understand this part of western culture.

To avoid spreading negativity, or at least to avoid giving off the impression that you bear ill-will towards the person you're looking at?

If you behave according to a social norm, don't smile, don't look angry and look good, it's enough. Smiling to strangers is not really a norm in ex-Soviet countries and it doesn't spread any negativity at all. "Laughter without a reason is a feature of a fool" - Russian proverb. There must be a real reason for smiling - something funny at least.

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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2016-10-01, 17:36

Lada wrote:If you behave according to a social norm, don't smile, don't look angry and look good, it's enough.

So what do you do if you don't behave according to a social norm? What if you can't behave according to social norms?

EDIT: Oh, also:
Luís wrote:Even though people are nationalistic, they seem to think their language is useless and are surprised a foreigner would ever want to learn more about it.

That sounds almost exactly like Indians, or maybe even South Asians in general.

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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby Luís » 2016-10-01, 20:15

I'm aware it's a cultural thing. I was not talking about chatting to random people in the street ( :P ), but rather interactions with people working in hotels or restaurants (where there are lots of tourists).
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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby linguoboy » 2016-10-01, 21:57

Lada wrote:What for do you need these fake smiles? I still don't understand this part of western culture.

This is by no means a universal norm of "Western culture" (whatever that is). A European acquaintance of mine once quipped that it was easy to recognise American tourists on the U-Bahn: They were the ones smiling. It's also not exclusive to it either. Thais, for instance, smile even more than North Americans (to the point of causing cultural confusion).

I've had some really pleasant customer service interactions over the years. Sometimes a stranger is exactly who you want to talk to, because then the interaction isn't freighted with any of the expectations and complications that occur between people who have known each other for even a short time.
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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2016-10-01, 22:19

Yeah, Indians smile a lot, too. There are several kinds of smiles we have, like the happy smile, the curious smile, the ridiculing smile, the nervous smile, the foreigner-obliging smile (which is often basically another version of the nervous smile), the you-are-making-an-enormous-mistake-but-I'll-let-it-slide-for-now smile (often combined with subdued laughter), and the I-wish-you-were-dead-right-now-but-I-can't-admit-it smile. :lol:

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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby Saim » 2016-10-02, 5:33

linguoboy wrote:This is by no means a universal norm of "Western culture" (whatever that is). A European acquaintance of mine once quipped that it was easy to recognise American tourists on the U-Bahn: They were the ones smiling. It's also not exclusive to it either.


Yeah, I remember when I was back in Australia from Catalonia I actually got reverse culture shock about the fake/overdone politeness/hapiness[1] in stores. It was really uncomfortable at first because I forgot how I was supposed to deal with it. :lol:

[1] I'm not saying it's bad or anything, just can't think of any other way to describe it. Although I do prefer the more subdued European approach to these kinds of professions.

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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby OldBoring » 2016-10-05, 3:00

I just think that Australians are nice and funny, like even the Australian customers that I met in our shop in Italy. :P
IpseDixit wrote:I was wondering, in how many cultures there's the concept of fiance? Here in Italy we don't really make a distinction between fiance and boy/girlfriend, one is boy/girlfriend till they get married, at that point they become husband/wife/spouse. What about your culture?

I remember when I looked for the definition of "fidanzato" in the dictionary, and was surprised that it was defined as someone who "promised marriage", cause in daily life I'd never heard it with that meaning, and that's when I learned the "proper" meaning of the word.
Things are more complicated, because "fidanzato/a" sounds a little old-fashioned to young people nowadays, who prefer "ragazzo/a" (lit. boy/girl), but sometimes it can be ambiguous, so people still use "fidanzato/a". Northern Italians solved this by using the word "moroso/a".
While the verb "fidanzarsi" is common usage and doesn't mean "engage" most of the times, but "become someone's boy/girlfriend".

I guess, this may be a remnant of the old traditional culture, where people didn't date and didn't become "boy/girlfriend", but instead they were introduced to each other by their families, or even if they met each other by themselves, if they stayed together it meant that they were going to marry soon (or rather, they were allowed to be together only if they were going to marry soon).
So probably at that time, the term fidanzato/a really meant "fiancé(e)".
Then when society customs modernised, Italian didn't come up with a new term for boy/girlfriend.

On the other hand it's interesting that Alessandro Manzoni's most famous novel is "I Promessi Sposi" (lit. "The Promised Spouses") and not "I Fidanzati". :P
Facebook translates "engaged" as "ufficialmente fidanzato/a" ("officially engaged") in Italian. But many people still understand it as "to have an official boy/girlfriend" and it looks weird when I change language on Facebook and see so many engaged friends from Italy. :P

_____________________________________


In Chinese the terms for boyfriend/girlfriend are the same as English: 男朋友 nánpéngyou (lit. "male-friend") and 女朋友 nǚpéngyou (lit. "female-friend").
So when you need to actually say "male friend" you may say 男的朋友 nán de péngyou (male [particle] friend, friend who is male) or 男性朋友 nánxìng péngyou (male-gender friend), and the same for "female friend" 女的朋友 nǚ de péngyou, 女性朋友 nǚxìng péngyou.

In China customs about marriage vary a lot regionally. But one thing in common is that a couple first gets engaged and then gets married.
"Engaged" means that the couple already chose the wedding date, in fact the Chinese term for "get engaged" is 订婚 dìnghūn (lit. "to book the wedding").
The formal terms for "fiancé(e)" are 未婚夫 (lit. "non-married husband") and 未婚妻 (lit. "non-married wife"); once I saw that an exam at a linguistics university even asked students to explain the logical flaws of such expressions. :lol:
But in practice, when two people get engaged, they call each other husband and wife, and their parents-in-law dad and mom (though that may happen even before the engagement).
And engagement consists in a dinner with the family members and friends too (I'm not sure if they also buy engagement rings, but probably yes), sometimes the couple's families give presents to guests like candies or cigarettes (yes, it's a Chinese custom to give cigarettes as gifts at weddings) and guests give cash in red envelops... so it looks like a simpler wedding.

So a Chinese engagement is like a simple wedding in the West, and a Chinese wedding is like a celebrity's wedding in the West. :P
Last edited by OldBoring on 2016-10-05, 4:02, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2016-10-05, 3:54

There's a ton of variation in Indian wedding customs, too. However, it seems to me that glamorous Bollywood-style weddings are becoming all the rage, and sadly, they may be threatening that variety of customs we have. They were clearly the sort of thing my sister-in-law's parents were going for. I remember one time, when we went to their house for one of the marriage-related ceremonies - and I think this may have been the engagement ceremony, but I don't even remember now - as soon as we opened the door, some Sikh(?) guy was shouting directions to my brother as if we were in a movie studio. Step this way! Turn in this direction! Now walk, walk up to this point, yes, like that, and stop! Face the camera! Smile! His wedding day was a bit like this also.

My sister-in-law's mom even wanted our extended family and friends to arrive at the wedding venue dancing and singing. That would have been almost impossible because my parents and their generation of our family don't know all that many American songs and my generation generally doesn't know any Malayalam songs. The discrepancy is so bad that at (extended) family picnics, the song we do sing is "Michael Row the Boat Ashore."

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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby OldBoring » 2016-10-06, 18:07

That's exactly what the Chinese think of Indians, that they behave daily like in Bollywood movies! :twisted:

Ah, we Chinese don't have to worry about the traditional weddings. We already lost them, except maybe some rural areas.
For example, in Pingyang, a village near Wenzhou, the bride wears a red wedding dress. While in most parts of China we imitated the West, with the bride wearing a white long dress and the groom wearing a suit. The only difference is that the bride changes to a more comfortable non-white dress during the dinner)

But yeah, modern Chinese weddings basically consist in two parts: photoshooting/filming + dinner.
At least, the Chinese people in Italy take the pics and film the video during the marriage.
While in China the bride and the groom take professional pics in a photographic studio, not on the same day of the wedding. :shock:

And the dinner consists in showing off by providing the most expensive food and alcohol possible, with everybody forcing other to drink and then everybody getting drunk. And all the red envelope thing...

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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby Kenny » 2016-10-16, 12:12

The only difference is that the bride changes to a more comfortable non-white dress during the dinner)

I'm not sure how cross-cultural this is, but the most recent weddings I've gone to had both the groom and the bride change into more comfortable clothes for the second part, because, you know, whoever wants to danse in those stuffy clothes. And I think the bride would usually don a red dress, at least that's how it was in the last 2 weddings I was invited to.

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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby Yantai_Scot » 2016-10-22, 8:51

My sister is getting married in a week and her 'evening' wear will be a white dressy outfit. But her husband will continue wearing his kilt suit. The majority of men (presumably) will be wearing kilts (being in Scotland).
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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2016-11-20, 7:05

OldBoring wrote:At least, the Chinese people in Italy take the pics and film the video during the marriage.
While in China the bride and the groom take professional pics in a photographic studio, not on the same day of the wedding. :shock:

And the dinner consists in showing off by providing the most expensive food and alcohol possible, with everybody forcing other to drink and then everybody getting drunk. And all the red envelope thing...

I honestly didn't think about this until just now, but maybe if everybody's drunk on the wedding day, it makes sense for the bride and groom not to take pictures on the same day. :P

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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby Varislintu » 2016-11-20, 11:26

How is it done in cultures where a lot of spices are used: at what age are babies introduced to spices or is there even such a thought that babies should be introduced to spices gradually?
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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2016-11-20, 13:21

From what I can vaguely remember from seeing my niece grow up so far and from what my parents have told me about our childhoods (and what I remember about said childhoods), at least, despite the large amount of spices we use in cooking, we strictly avoid giving babies any food with spices until they're able to eat various solid foods without any spices (and probably with a variety of different flavors). Then, once we think they might be ready to try it, we give them a little bit of some food that's mildly spicy and see if they like it or not. A lot of Indian kids even in India don't eat spicy food. Some Indians never do even in adulthood (unless I guess they don't get anything else when they're invited to a meal :P).

I once read somewhere that the first solid food Indian babies are introduced to is bananas. Perhaps it's more important to us that babies learn to eat food with a variety of flavors than it is for them to eat spicy food, because Indian cuisine relies on all kinds of different flavors probably even more than it does on spices.

In general, I wouldn't expect an Indian baby to be introduced to spices until they were almost one year old (although here, I'm mostly going off of my niece's experience).

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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby Prowler » 2016-11-21, 1:08

Customer service? Supposedly at stores in Japan they smile a lot at you. But isn't that because they work on commission? Just like American customer service tends to be friendly due to waiters living off tips?

Apparently there's countries where you don't have to greet the store owner when you enter their store. If you do that here they consider you pretty rude. Although I wouldn't mind not being "forced" to greet them when I just happen to enter a store and not buy anything. This is what I like about the French chain FNAC. No one talks to you unless you approach them first. Then again, their stores are always so packed that there's no way they could ever keep track of whom they'e greeted or not yet. But alas, that's a big store where I can just browse at ease and not feel I have someone breathing down my neck.

As for spicy food. I honestly have no idea. But considering many people brag here of drinking alcohol since they were 14 and drinking coffee since they were kids(not every parents allow their kids to do that, though) I doubt they wait a long time to try spicy food either.

For the record, I can't stand spicy food.

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Re: Random Culture Thread

Postby Saim » 2016-11-21, 5:15

Prowler wrote:Just like American customer service tends to be friendly due to waiters living off tips?


In Australia waiting staff are paid normal wages but they're still often expected by their employer to be nice and smile and stuff.


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