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By jdippel529

Coming to Europe as an American, I knew that I was in danger of committing some cultural faux pas. What I didn’t realize was just how silly these faux pas would seem to me, and how often I would be embarrassing myself. One of the most important things I have learned while living here in Spain is that culture is a pretty remarkable force. Culture shapes the way we think so drastically that what seems completely ridiculous to me, makes all the sense in the world to someone else (and vice versa). Just so you can see what I mean, here is a quick list of the most “offensive” Spanish faux pas I have committed, to date:

  • Eating an un-peeled pear
  • Walking around my apartment without slippers
  • Taking a bite out of a piece of bread without breaking it first
  • Tipping the waiter at a restaurant
  • Taking a sip from my water bottle on the metro (crazy, right?!)

BUT, committing all of these heinous crimes has taught me to not be afraid to laugh at myself, and to just cut myself a break sometimes. I was brave enough to go abroad and embrace an entirely different culture, so I am definitely brave enough to keep on embarassing myself...right?

By kennatim

I have committed cultural faux pas after faux pas in a little less than two weeks here. There are probably plenty more that no one ever brought to my attention as well. Between assuming pedestrian right-of-way at intersections, misunderstanding of tipping etiquette, and too many misunderstandings of the Irish accent to count, I have basically accepted the role of the ultimate foreigner. My most glaring faux pas, and one that I continue to misunderstand, involves walking in malls, sidewalks, and just about anywhere with foot traffic.

I have slowly come to a conclusion that Irish people have no protocol when it comes to which side to walk on almost anywhere. I am speaking about things like stairs, mall hallways, school hallways, and sidewalks. In the U.S., there is a pretty clear understanding that we drive on the right side of the road and walk on the right side of the sidewalk. As an avid runner for years, this protocol is something I have always held near and dear. Seeing someone walking on the left or opening the left door in a set of double doors in the U.S. left me thinking they were either foreign or just plain rude.

When I arrived in Ireland, I was quick to realize that the right side was not the side to walk on. Obviously cars drive on the left here, so it makes sense. It has been a tough habit to break. More than once I have found myself walking in the city centre on the wrong side and veering through a crowd to make myself at least seem a little like a local. I have accidentally held doors for many when realizing I was going out the wrong one. I could not seem more like a foreigner even when wearing my trademark backwards hat, which I was told by my Irish roommates is not something Irish students do at all.

After getting the hang of walking on the left, I realized something. The locals seem to not have come to a full agreement on this matter. I feel the need to hold a large town meeting or referendum (the latter which the country seems to be very fond of) so we can all agree on what side to walk on. In my experiences so far, cars have agreed to stay to the left almost 100% of the time (at least I hope they will). But I have had a decent-sized minority in the city centre, on campus, and in the mall walk to the right. I have developed a pretty good eye for foreigners versus locals, and most appear to be locals. When I considered this notion, I realized even the doors and revolving doors were not set up in a uniform way to address which to exit from. This leads to awkward run-ins and general difficulty.

The most egregious of the run-ins occurred yesterday. I was walking and chatting with my friends on campus on the left side of a walk in the center of campus. A woman came forward going the way that my American friends and I were all used to. She headed directly towards me. Although she was on the right side, I did not think much of it and slid a little to my right to help her pass. At that instance, she moved to her left, leaving us facing one another. I slid left as she instantaneously matched my move. And again. Finally, we figured this pedestrian conundrum out somehow and went about our days. My friends said the painfully awkward exchange looked like we were about to give each other a hug.

Aside from this sidewalk confusion, my only other major complaint is still the lack of pretzels in the grocery stores. So based on these small problems, I am doing just fine. For my friends in America, cherish your continuity in sidewalk etiquette. And send pretzels.

By zamorse

I committed a cultural faux pas, it's true.

The University of Haifa is situated on top of a hill overlooking the city, and to get most places in the city like the shouk (market), malls, restaurants, beach, it is necessary to take a bus. When I first got to the University, I didn't know how much I would be taking the bus, and thus I elected not to get what's called a "Rav Kav" when I had the opportunity to the first week of school. A rav kav is essentially like a smart trip in D.C and is for frequent travelers on the city's bus system.

I elected not to get one because I didn't know how much I would be taking the bus, and whether or not it would be worth it financially. I didn't think I would be taking the bus enough to make it financially feasible. That was about as far from the truth as possible.

I take the bus all the time, almost every day. Obtaining a rav kav requires a trip down to the central bus station, showing them your passport, and getting a special paper from the International School to show that you are an international student.

And after I realized my mistake of not getting a rav kav the first week of classes, it took me almost two months to obtain the necessary paperwork and go all the way to the central bus station to get one.

Now that I have one, I don't have to try and find 6.90 sheckles in my wallet every time I ride the bus, I can just swipe my card....more like a local.

By Dominique Bonessi

I have a confession to make…or maybe a few confessions.

  1. So apparently getting out of a cab from the driver’s side is not allowed.  After trying for a solid 2 minutes to open the door on the driver’s side, my roommate and the driver both looked at me and corrected my error.
  2. Going out with wet hair here, is a big no-no.   People in Amman, especially young adults attending the University of Jordan take pride in their appearance and going out with wet hair no matter how tired you are to dry it is not allowed.  So I will not start changing my habits of drying my hair in the morning, but I will be reminded not to leave it down.
  3. The culture here tends to keep women and men--even if they are the same family—in separate rooms.   I was sitting in the kitchen talking to my roommate and my host mother as my host dad was on the enclosed porch with a friend.  I said goodnight to my host mom and my roommate and they looked at me with slanted faces and told me I have to wait till my host dad was finished with his friend before I could walk past them to go to bed.

I am sure that there will be plenty of other incidents. I’ll keep you posted!