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BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit

Keith A of Hertford 26 May 11 - 07:15 AM
GUEST,leeneia 26 May 11 - 04:02 PM
Richard Bridge 26 May 11 - 05:06 PM
gnu 26 May 11 - 05:13 PM
Rapparee 26 May 11 - 06:12 PM
michaelr 26 May 11 - 10:54 PM
GUEST,Grishka 27 May 11 - 07:09 AM
GUEST,Patsy 27 May 11 - 07:21 AM
Monique 27 May 11 - 07:54 AM
Richard Bridge 27 May 11 - 11:44 AM
McGrath of Harlow 27 May 11 - 02:06 PM
Bill D 27 May 11 - 02:18 PM
GUEST,Grishka 27 May 11 - 05:38 PM
Richard Bridge 27 May 11 - 07:49 PM
YorkshireYankee 28 May 11 - 02:44 PM
Richard Bridge 28 May 11 - 05:37 PM
YorkshireYankee 28 May 11 - 05:56 PM
McGrath of Harlow 28 May 11 - 06:14 PM
GUEST,Grishka 29 May 11 - 09:54 AM
McGrath of Harlow 29 May 11 - 10:03 AM
GUEST,Grishka 29 May 11 - 03:34 PM
gnu 29 May 11 - 04:01 PM
GUEST,Eliza 29 May 11 - 06:34 PM
michaelr 29 May 11 - 09:53 PM
GUEST 30 May 11 - 06:53 AM
McGrath of Harlow 30 May 11 - 07:05 AM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 30 May 11 - 07:53 AM
Richard Bridge 30 May 11 - 10:09 AM
GUEST,Grishka 30 May 11 - 01:03 PM
GUEST,Eliza 30 May 11 - 01:48 PM
McGrath of Harlow 30 May 11 - 02:35 PM
Wilfried Schaum 31 May 11 - 09:14 AM
Joe_F 31 May 11 - 05:05 PM
Keith A of Hertford 01 Jun 11 - 06:43 AM
Donuel 01 Jun 11 - 09:11 AM
Musket 01 Jun 11 - 09:19 AM
YorkshireYankee 01 Jun 11 - 09:55 PM
Wilfried Schaum 02 Jun 11 - 06:40 AM
GUEST,Grishka 08 Jun 11 - 07:34 AM
GUEST,number 6 16 Jun 11 - 02:01 PM
grumpy al 16 Jun 11 - 05:14 PM
Wilfried Schaum 17 Jun 11 - 04:53 AM
GUEST,Grishka 17 Jun 11 - 05:08 AM
Keith A of Hertford 17 Jun 11 - 05:27 AM
McGrath of Harlow 17 Jun 11 - 07:15 AM
Black belt caterpillar wrestler 17 Jun 11 - 07:36 AM

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Subject: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 26 May 11 - 07:15 AM

Germans do not do small talk.
They think it dishonest because not truly meant.
It is not impolite among Germans not to say pleases and thankyous.
It says here.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13545386


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 26 May 11 - 04:02 PM

Why then, did my every German class start with "Guten Tag. Wie gehts?"


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 26 May 11 - 05:06 PM

Oh really? What about the bloke who went to the German hotel and asked for a room where he would not hear the trains?


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: gnu
Date: 26 May 11 - 05:13 PM

My fav... "You wouldn't... whatever?"

I ask, "Why wouldn't I?"


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: Rapparee
Date: 26 May 11 - 06:12 PM

Why create the word "Danke"?


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: michaelr
Date: 26 May 11 - 10:54 PM

Germans do not do small talk. They think it dishonest because not truly meant.

This is true. As a German immigrant to the US, it took me years to learn the art of small talk ("bullshitting" as we say here). It also took me years to get used to the hugging.

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 27 May 11 - 07:09 AM

From my detailed knowledge of both countries, I declare that article 90% bulls**t.

Every regional, cultural, and sociological group has its own subtle rules of politeness and social coherence. In British English, "please" is generally used more frequently than in many other languages, where the analogon has more syllables.

Smalltalk exists in all cultures I know, and certainly in Germany. The example from the childrens' book makes perfect sense in German and French. The verbal and nonverbal signals for how detailed a medical record you wish are of course different for every group, and sometimes misunderstood even by insiders. As Michael writes, it takes years to adopt to another culture (US and UK differ from each other enough, as we all know). Business people everywhere frown at extensive smalltalk as a waste of expensive time.

Similar observations apply to compliments and implicit criticism - the percieved borders to flattery, hypocricy, or sarcasm strongly depend on the context, but they exist universally. A compliment need not be literally honest in Germany, but it must be adequate - as in Britain and elsewhere. Translations are often quite misleading in the realm of social behaviour.

Apart from that, many people are less inclined to be fair and polite outside their usual social context. Foreign tourists have a bad reputation worldwide.


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: GUEST,Patsy
Date: 27 May 11 - 07:21 AM

Germans should feel very much at home in Bristol UK, we are still not quite used to demonstrative hugs and kisses to greet people here but we are getting there - gradually.


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: Monique
Date: 27 May 11 - 07:54 AM

Communication tools and I'd recommend all Edward T. Hall's books


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 27 May 11 - 11:44 AM

Well, he was told that he could have a room away from the trains, on the far side of the hotel, and all night long he tossed and turned to the chuffing sound of the steam trains.

More later.


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 27 May 11 - 02:06 PM

Personally I think it much more important to be friendly than to be too honest.

But I feel pretty sceptical about whether generalisations like this can be valid across a country as large as Germany. I don't know Germany, but I'm thinking how things vary across the various parts of the British Isles, and that's a lot smaller.


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: Bill D
Date: 27 May 11 - 02:18 PM

There are generalizations and stereotypes 'shared' about ALL cultures..... and usually based on some sort of fact-- but these are ONLY generalizations and stereotypes, and should never be applied universally.


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 27 May 11 - 05:38 PM

McGrath,
Personally I think it much more important to be friendly than to be too honest.
That is the point: some ways of talking are general expressions of friendliness in one culture, whereas another culture may assume formalistic indifference or even irony, i.e. lack of friendliness, in the very same phrases or their literal translations.

For example, "Dear Mr McGrath, thank you for your interesting opinion." may be a literal translation of quite a friendly address.


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 27 May 11 - 07:49 PM

So the next night he asked to be moved, and was given a room over the courtyard.

More later


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: YorkshireYankee
Date: 28 May 11 - 02:44 PM

Richard, this is torture... just bloody TELL the bloody joke and be bloody done with it!
WHAT is the point of this maddeningly s-s-s-s-s-l-l-l-l-l-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-w-w-w-w-w-w drip-feed rendition of a story, except to wind us up?
(Yes, I know it's working! There, you win, OK?)

PLEASE????


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 28 May 11 - 05:37 PM

And in the middle of the night he heard the steam trains again.

He looked out of the window down into the courtyard, and there were the builders, a human chain passing bricks to the bricklayer.

Bitteshon, dankeschon, bitteschon, dankeshon, bitteschon, dankeschon.


Who says the Germans are not polite?


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: YorkshireYankee
Date: 28 May 11 - 05:56 PM

Richard... THANK YOU!

At least I will finally be able to sleep tonight...


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 28 May 11 - 06:14 PM

It seems polite enough to me, Grishka.


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 29 May 11 - 09:54 AM

McGrath (I know your first name btw, but I have the feeling that calling people by their nicks is considered the polite way here),
my own experience is that "Dear" and "interesting" are strong signals of irony in Britain, the phrase being understood as "cut the bullsh*t!" - again, it depends on the context, of course.

German "bitte" or "bitte schön" doubles as "here you are"/"here's what I brought for you"/"help yourself", "you're welcome", and "ok, if you insist", also "beg your pardon?" etc., the first meaning being relevant to Richard's joke.

That was when they still had steam engines ...


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 May 11 - 10:03 AM

"Dear" and "interesting" are strong signals of irony in Britain

All depends on how you say them.

It's amazing how much hostility or admiration can be expressed by a single word. For example "well" or "hmm".


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 29 May 11 - 03:34 PM

Exactly, and it also depends on the particular audience. So it's not surprising how easily such expressions can be misunderstood by non-insiders. I am not really perfect in any language, I'm afraid, let alone confident in all contexts. Sometimes I learn by mistakes (preferably other persons').

We must also distinguish between notions of politeness and the percentage of persons complying with them. The article seems to diagnose a lack of the former in German, so that Germans could not be polite even if they wanted to. As I wrote, that idea is quite absurd, and it shows how deeply some alleged scientists are caught in their own cultural mindscape.


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: gnu
Date: 29 May 11 - 04:01 PM

Vee haf vays to make you talk you know?


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: GUEST,Eliza
Date: 29 May 11 - 06:34 PM

My friend Ronda when aged about sixty began a relationship with a German quite a bit younger than herself. She found him almost brutally honest, he gave her the truth right between the eyes. So when she asked him one day if he thought she looked her age (hoping for a compliment) he merely said "Yes, you look OLD. You have many lines on your face." She was gutted, but managed to laugh about it much later, after he dumped her!


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: michaelr
Date: 29 May 11 - 09:53 PM

Exactly. I had no end of problems with honesty in dealing with Americans. You have to pussyfoot around them because, as Jack Nicholson said, "You can't handle the truth!"


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: GUEST
Date: 30 May 11 - 06:53 AM

Interesting Article Keith is drawing our attention to, but sometimes a little or more wrong.

It took a lot of time for my wife to train me to use bitte and danke again, because in the service and later in the firemen's brigade we were taught to suppress it to spare valuable time, e.g. compare the call ammo! with would you be so kind to hand me over a fresh box of rifle ammunition, please?

In general we Germans prefer politeness, too. These bloody metropolitans in Berlin and otherwhere may have forgotten how to be polite, but in rural areas it is still usual not "to fall with the door into the house", but to start talking with some phrases of interest about family, cattle, seed and harvest before coming to the cause of the visit. Or so was it in my youth.
Sure we have to use the English word small talk, but what about your kindergarten?

And now to Richard's joke. It is from those dirty years of Nazi terror and prosecution. The scene is a concentration camp, and the chain handing bricks consists of a class much more erudite than their brutal and stupid SS watchmen. The captives are steadily murmuring when handing over the bricks, an a watchman coming nearer hears "Bitte, Herr Doktor - Danke, Herr Doktor". A clash of cultures, isn't it?

And now let us do what we should have started with. Let us talk about the weather.


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 30 May 11 - 07:05 AM

Another obstacle to international communication is a tendency of some cultures to use understatement.

For example "things are a bit tricky",meaning they are desperately bad, or "I'm a bit unhappy about that" meaning I am furious.

There have been times when this kind of misunderstanding has had serious consequences, as in a case where a request for assistance by a beleagered British unit in the Korean War went unanswered because the Americans at the other end misinterpreted the message that "things are getting a bit hairy round here".


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 30 May 11 - 07:53 AM

perhaps there isn't a culture clash. perhaps it just us English. We've had wars with everybody. we just clash ....culture is irrelevant.


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 30 May 11 - 10:09 AM

I had never heard of that joke as set in a concentration camp. It was not my intention to be frivolous about those things, merely to point out that I had been accustomed to think of German communication as courteous.

I wonder whether the age shock mentioned above arises from the fact (if it be a fact) that German society (and, IMHO, Jewish) values age and wisdom whereas the UK and US simply see age as decrepitude.


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 30 May 11 - 01:03 PM

A new joke (five minutes old) for a change, apropos Eliza's post 29 May 11 - 06:34 PM:

Woman asks: "Do I look old?"

Cliché German lover: "Certainly, and at your age you are entitled to!"

Cliché British lover: "Who am I to disagree."

Cliché French lover: "When I take my glasses off, you look exactly like a teenager!"


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: GUEST,Eliza
Date: 30 May 11 - 01:48 PM

Regarding British understatement and making the best of things, one has only to watch The Life of Brian, the crucifixion scene. But I wonder if it's an age thing. My poor late friend was terminally ill with cancer. I remember with great sadness but admiration how, when I asked her one day how she was feeling, she replied "Oh, a bit under the weather..." That afternoon she was dead. Yet last winter when my niece ,aged just twenty, had a cold, I phoned her up to see how SHE was feeling, and she replied "Like fucking SHIT, Auntie!"


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 30 May 11 - 02:35 PM

Overstatement can go along with understatement. The same person who would describe a heart attack as "a bit bother with my heart" will likely enough say they will murder the paper boy for failing to deliver the newspaper.

In both cases it's really a matter of rhetoric.


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 31 May 11 - 09:14 AM

Guest#s post of May 30 was mine. I don't know what is happening to Mudcat; every time I wanted to open my personal page I have to log in anew, and so I did yesterday. Nevertheless my post was sent by "guest".

And no, Richard, nothing was taken frivolous. There are truths historical and philological, and truth can only be handed out sincerely, even if it tastes bitter.


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: Joe_F
Date: 31 May 11 - 05:05 PM

I heard that joke set in Israel, about German PhDs turned bricklayers on a construction site. There, the contrast was between German immigrants & other Israelis.


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 01 Jun 11 - 06:43 AM

British understatement.
Fifty years ago 600 soldiers of the British Army took on a force of 30,000 Chinese troops crossing the Imjin River in Korea.

Reporting to his American superior, Brigadier Tom Brodie of the Gloucestershire Regiment admitted the situation was "a bit sticky".

Such classic British understatement failed to secure the "Glorious Glosters" reinforcements or permission to fall back.

At the end of the battle 10,000 Chinese troops had fallen. British losses stood at just 59, but only 39 of the survivors evaded capture.

Two Victoria Crosses, Britain's highest military honour, were awarded for the action. But despite such heroism, Britain's role in the conflict has largely been forgotten by the public.
(bbc site)


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: Donuel
Date: 01 Jun 11 - 09:11 AM

Gesundobamacare old boy.

Germans did not invent concentration camps. The honor goes to Georgia at Andersonville.


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: Musket
Date: 01 Jun 11 - 09:19 AM

I worked in Munich back in the '80s. A few years later when my firm joined forces with a Frankfurt based firm, they were interested of course that I had been with a competitor down South, and they reckoned it is just the Bavarians who fit the stereotype of no smalltalk.

A bit like people saying "The British" to mean home counties English.

Trains? Theirs run East, ours run occasionally.


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: YorkshireYankee
Date: 01 Jun 11 - 09:55 PM

Keith A: Two Victoria Crosses, Britain's highest military honour, were awarded for the action. But despite such heroism, Britain's role in the conflict has largely been forgotten by the public.

The British and US public(s), yes. But -- FWIW -- when I read that post out loud to my (English) husband, he immediately said "The Koreans haven't forgotten." When he visited the National War Memorial Museum in Seoul, (South) Korea ~5 years ago, he saw galleries devoted to the Korean War (the Gloucester Regiment was mentioned), and in front of the Museum, a memorial tower and a parade ground circled with flags, half of which represent all the Korean units who fought; the other half representing each UN country who contributed -- in order of contribution. The first four flags (in order) are: UN, South Korea, US and UK (followed Australia and the Netherlands).


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 02 Jun 11 - 06:40 AM

Objection, Donuel.

Andersonville Prison was established as a "stockade for Union enlisted men" (DigginsCensus.com), a POW camp.

During the later stages of the Second Boer War, the British Empire pursued the policy of rounding up and isolating the Boer civilian population into concentration camps, one of the earliest uses of this method by modern powers (Wikipedia, Boer Wars).


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 08 Jun 11 - 07:34 AM

Back to politeness vs. honesty.

I once overheard the following conversation:

English lady says: "You're from Nigeria, you say? Your English is very good! I wish I could speak Nigerian that well!"
Nigerian student answers: "Thank you."

My interpretation, exaggerated:

English lady thinks: "Now I am being very polite, because I attribute equal value to English and Nigerian."
Nigerian student thinks: "What a hypocrite! And, what is worse, she thinks I'm too stupid to realize! She doesn't even know that there is no single language called Nigerian. Her ancestors forced ours to learn English; though we are lucky to have a lingua franca now, we'd be better off if they had taught us self-government instead. And the lady should rather try to brush up her school French, learn Welsh, Irish, German, Spanish, or Hindi etc., which of course she would never dream of doing, let alone remember the mere name of an African language."
English lady thinks: "Of course I'm not serious, but here we are in England, where English customs apply. We prefer being friendly to honestly saying that we don't care for foreigners at all."
Nigerian student thinks: "That's exactly why I said 'Thank you.'"

Credibly conveying true friendliness through false assertions is a fine art, in any language, all the more so cross-culture.


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: GUEST,number 6
Date: 16 Jun 11 - 02:01 PM

Hmmmmm, intersting   ...   Britain Is More Germanic than It Thinks

That link is to Speigel Online .... yes, it is German

biLL


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: grumpy al
Date: 16 Jun 11 - 05:14 PM

aint no culture clash, all the world knows its only us Brits wots truly cultured.


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 17 Jun 11 - 04:53 AM

No, number 6, it's in English. And the papers name is Spiegel (Mirror). Nevertheless thanks for the hint.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 17 Jun 11 - 05:08 AM

Wilfried, the article was translated from German, thus represents the views of a German journalist. Genetics and languages in history - a very interesting topic for scientists (and, alas, for ideologists and journalistic smalltalkers as well), but completely off-topic in this thread. Cultural conventions change much more quickly than languages, let alone genetic dispositions.


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 17 Jun 11 - 05:27 AM

Now I have a bus pass and use it a lot.
Many passengers say "thank you" to the driver as they get off, and he/she often thanks them in turn.
I find myself doing it too.

Is this common elsewhere, e.g. Germany?


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 17 Jun 11 - 07:15 AM

"truth can only be handed out sincerely" - I sincerely can't see why that is true. It's perfectly possible to hand out truth malicuiously or hypocritically.
................

Most people in my experience seem to say "thank you" to bus drivers, or indicate it by some gesture. That may partly be to do with the fact that most people on buses seem to be older, using bus passes, and were brought up that way. (Though of course we used to have bus conductors, and the drivers were locked away, so the precise etiquette was a bit different.)


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Subject: RE: BS: Culture clash, German-US/Brit
From: Black belt caterpillar wrestler
Date: 17 Jun 11 - 07:36 AM

After Good Friday's John O' Gaunt Morris side's day out I say "Thank you" to any bus driver who manages to finish the trip without hitting anything! (Score for the day: 3 cars, a bollard, several curbstones and a bridge.)

Who needs Alton Towers?


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