People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings

We make a lot of assumptions in every day life. We use shorthands, idioms, operate on so many mutual expectations. It’s the lubricant that keeps the machinery of society moving. But when you travel, you learn very quickly that not every culture has the same dos and don’ts, the same little unwritten rules. And sometimes you have to learn that the hard way.

These folks recently went online to share their funnies stories of cultural misunderstanding. Let’s all unite with a little bit of awkward laughter.

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Caique Silva Fotografo from Pixabay

45. Food For Thought

The only time my (Japanese) grandfather yelled at anyone was when my mother wasn’t slurping her soup because it was making my grandmother upset by not doing so. When she tried to explain that it is rude in western culture, he roared back at her, “WHEN IN ROME, DO AS ROMANS DO!”

Granted, this was the same grandfather that learned English by memorizing one page of the dictionary at a time front and back and then eating it to ‘internalize’ it. I miss him.

synapticimpact

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

44. The Noodle Incident

My mom really liked the fried noodles that were served with soup at this asian restaurant. She asked what they were called, and decided to tell everyone about the “Kwan Chi noodles.” It was a good while before she realized the waitress was just saying “Crunchy Noodles” with an accent.

JayTS

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings

43. French Kissing

I met a French girl once. When she approached me to ‘salut’, she kissed me on the cheek. I didn’t know this was how the French said hello at the time.

I quickly retreated to an appropriate distance, but she leaned in to my other cheek, which she kissed as well. At that point I was a little bit uncomfortable, so I backed away a little more, but she kept moving forward to kiss me again on the other cheek.

I was kind of confused but smiling. Then, since I saw her smiling back and looking me straight in the eyes, I thought she wanted to make out right there. So this time it was me who went forward and tongue kissed her in front of everybody, her boyfriend included. The rest you can imagine.

iswear

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay
 

42. So Close

 

A friend (let’s call him Jean-Marc) met and got engaged to his Brazilian girlfriend in Canada. He had been working on his Portuguese, and finally went to Brazil to meet her family. He was at a big dinner with all the extended family, and was being asked about himself, in a friendly way. Naturally, he was trying to make a good impression, talk about why he would make a good husband, etc. He was talking to the girl’s grandmother when he decided to use an idiomatic phrase he had learned:

“Eu sou pão duro.” It literally means “I am hard bread,” but colloquially, it means “I don’t waste money on frivolous things.” Unfortunately, one of the most common difficulties francophones (and anglophones, as a matter of fact) have with Portuguese is the distinction between the ‘ao’ sound and the ‘ão’ sound. So instead of “Eu sou pão duro,” he said “Eu sou pao duro.”

It means “I am hard c—.”

 

tkfu

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Mats Wale from Pixabay

41. My New Pad

I was in Istanbul a couple months ago. I started my period but I had run out of the supplies I brought. Awkwardly, I had no clue where to buy more as I hadn’t seen a grocery store around our hotel. I had noticed a little corner store, so walked over there. They sold things like toilet paper, so I figured they would have what I needed.

I walked up to the guy at the register and asked if he spoke English. He shook his head and started talking in Turkish. I’ve looked all around the store by this point, but I can’t find any pads anywhere. I put a hand on my chest and said “for me.” I need something “just for me.” He gave me a nod, reached under the counter and wrapped something up.

I paid and left with a mysterious newspaper wrapped bundle still not sure if I got what I needed. When I got back to my hotel I unwrapped the package to find pads. It was a good day.

More of a cultural understanding than misunderstanding — I guess some things are universally awkward.

Zippytuna

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Jeremy Smith from Pixabay

40. I Always Dress Like This

American here. I was studying in Vienna, Austria during college. Halloween rolled around and a bunch of us decided to get dressed up for the night. I lived quite a bit away from downtown to had to take public transportation to get to where my friends were.

That night I learned 2 things: 1) Austrians don’t dress up for Halloween; 2) A 6’3 werewolf, complete with fangs and fake blood, scares the crap out of most everyone taking public transportation in Vienna.

wait_huh

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Manfred Antranias Zimmer from Pixabay

39. You Can’t Teach Timing

My vegan friend would wear this this t-shirt that said “Murder King” (a stab at Burger King’s meat) all the time. He lived by it, would always tell us the horror stories from the slaughterhouses he protested at.

So we walk into this dinner buffet, and everyone just stops and stares at us, giving us these mean looks with faces of shock, disgust and rage. That’s when we realized it was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and folks were probably taking his shirt out of context. I’m sure that’s the fastest he ever walked out of a restaurant.

hiicha

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Robert-Owen-Wahl from Pixabay

38. The F Word

My co-worker is from China. This sometimes leads to interesting mistakes.

One day he came in happy that he had joined a new club. When asked what kind he said “Fist-ing!”

Fist-ing?

“Yes! It’s great! You should join too!”

Are you sure that’s the word for it?

“Yeah! It’s really cool!”

So… uh… what do you do at this club?

“Work out and stuff.”

Oooh! You mean ‘fitness’ not ‘fist-ing.’

“No! I was right the first time. You know.”

I really don’t think that means what you think it means…

What does it mean?

I can’t explain it. Just look it up on Google images.

So he goes to his computer and types the word in.

“Oh my god! Why?!?!?! Why would someone do that? I don’t understand?!?!?”

Needless to say, he’s been extra careful to call it fitness club ever since.

gbimmer

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Markus Spiske from Pixabay

37. Nosey Parker

I spent time in Kenya, where people freely picked their nose. They’d look you right in the eye while having a conversation, digging for nose gold.

Initially I was offended, but I quickly learned to love the freedom of it, and did it without regard. When I got back to the States, I learned quickly that job interviews are not the location to pull bats out of the cave.

Carl262

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by cenczi from Pixabay

36. RIP Mr. Xing

I asked my American friend who ‘Ped Xing’ was. I was pretty new to the US, and kept seeing this name on streets everywhere. Naturally, I figured he was some famous Chinese guy widely revered in America, and decided to confirm the reason for his popularity.

mi3476

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

35. Big Time Screw Up

Not exactly cultural, but… When I was teaching in Tanzania I studied Swahili pretty hardcore. Studying so fast, I was bound to confuse some verbs. “Tembea” means “to walk” in Swahili, while “tombea” means “to screw”.

Making conversation with dozens of villagers in a day (in the villages you are expected to socialize with almost everyone), I repeatedly told several groups of people that I was tired from screwing all day in the intense heat. People laughed uncomfortably, but then I thought I was just making a grammar mistake.

I told my entire host family, including their four small children. I told my students, a roomful of 4th-graders. Told farmers I met on the road, young men fixing motorcycles, my friends at a barber shop. I told the old women’s sewing circle, one of the most respected institutions in the village. It wasn’t until I was saying it to a bilingual kindergarten teacher in front of his entire class that he stopped me mid-sentence and told me in English what I was saying.

crispycrunchy

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by David Mark from Pixabay

34. I Saw The Sign

I was in Spain traveling for a few weeks with my sis who was living there. One morning, I went in to a bar/bakery to order a couple pastries. There were a bunch of rolls on a shelf behind the bar but only one kind had a little sign hanging from the shelf under them that said ‘something something borrachos’. I didn’t necessarily want those, but they were the only labeled ones, so naturally I waved the guy behind the counter and ordered “dos borrachos por favor”. I had to lean up close behind a couple patrons at the bar because the little place was packed with old timers sipping coffees and chatting.

At that point, I was pretty timid with my Spanish, so I kinda whispered it. The men sitting near me at the packed counter all stopped talking simultaneously and looked at me.

The proprietor, very seriously, said, “que? Quieras?” (“What do you want?”)

I shyly said again, with less confidence, “dos borrachos por favor.”

Then all the old men at the counter around me started snickering.

The uber troll barkeep again asked me what I wanted, and he was getting louder. He was raising his voice over the din of the whole shop. He told me to speak up. Most of the tables that had patrons were also now quiet.

I was getting a bit frustrated and embarrassed. I thought he was making fun of my accent or I was pronouncing it wrong. So I looked hard at the sign, thought back to my AP Spanish class, made sure to roll my Rs and and dull the B to a V correctly, and I just kinda shouted “quiero dos borrachos!” (“I WANT TWO BORRACHOS!”) and pointed at the sticky buns on the shelf behind the bar counter.

He pretty much shouted, “aaaaah, quieras dos BORRACHOS!” This time he couldn’t keep a straight face and started guffawing, and the whole place erupted.

I had no idea what in the world was happening so I just slinked out, empty-handed and humiliated.

I went back to the room where my sister was just waking and said it was a no-go on getting us some breakfast pastries.

When I told her the story, she started laughing and asked why I was trying to order two borrachos. I told her about the pastries and the little sign.

She then explained borrachos means “hammered men” and the sign probably said something to the effect that “excessive drinking was not welcome here” and that sign just happened to hang under their pastry shelf….

I had just shouted to a full cafe that I wanted a couple of hammered men.

PoopNoodle

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

33. Improvised Bathroom

Back in 2006 I was in Borneo doing some backpacking around SE Asia. At the airport of Kota Kinabalu I went into what I thought was the bathroom.

As I enter the room I see what looks like a poo wall, with water flowing down it and such. At the base are at least a dozen pairs of shoes. There’s no one around, though.

I really have to pee so I’m already unzipping my pants a few paces from the wall. While I’m doing this, though, something in the back of my head knows this situation isn’t right.

Just as I get close to the wall, holding out my junk, I put up my free hand against the wall, about ready to release, I hear an approaching voice and look over my shoulder as one does. From the dark adjacent room I see two barefoot Muslim men (they’re in kurtas) coming towards me, stopping in their tracks, and suddenly… I have a Usual Suspects moment.

That nagging feeling in the back of my head became clear. The shoes, the water fountain, the men in kurtas… I suddenly realized I was in the airport mosque. The shoes were off because they cleaned their feet in the “pee wall” fountain before going to prayer.

In a split second I knew that I could be in big trouble. It’s flee, die, or improvise time. In the next split second, I realize that the angle they’re coming from the next room they wouldn’t see the front of my pants and me holding my junk out. So I leaned more on my outstretched arm that is against the wall, with the other hand I pinch myself to keep from peeing (oh god that hurts). Thus I manage to stop the whole process (ouch ouch ouch) and slip my junk back in my pants.

I look briefly over my shoulder to check if the two men saw anything. They’re still a couple meters away, stopped talking, and they’re looking at me suspiciously. I move my hand toward one of my feet (bending over on an exploding bladder is the worst) and make to untie my shoes… Just to see if they’d buy the idea that I wanted to wash my feet as well.

I manage to untie one shoe and as I’m sliding it off, I glance over at them again and smile. They still look like they’re not sure what I was doing, but they haven’t said or done anything yet. As I make to take off the other shoe, I hear an airplane announcement. I realized later that the announcement wasn’t even in a language I understood, I just let out a sigh and say in English, “Oh well, that’s my flight. I guess I won’t have time for prayer after all.”

Quickly I slip on my shoe and turn towards the door, away from them, discreetly zipping up my fly on my way out, hoping that they bought the whole act and weren’t about to jump on my back, pin me down, and gut me.

zorga

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by TheUjulala from Pixabay

32. Let Me Tell Me About Your Culture

 

I took a Japanese class with a guy I dubbed King Weeaboo. He assumed Japan was this magical land where all the adults read manga and played video games all day long. It was really awkward to watch him try to talk about his favorite games from the 90s or some obscure pop idol with our teacher (who was from Japan). Usually she’d have no idea what he was talking about, since she was a teacher who wasn’t too into nerd culture. He’d act surprised when she hadn’t heard of some topic, and he’d say something like, “What? But everyone in Japan knows about that!” Because, as an American, he clearly knew more about what Japan likes than the Japanese woman…

There’s no one monolithic culture anywhere, dude.

PoniesRBitchin

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

31. Classic

 

My friend moved here from France when he was fifteen. His cousin told him that a polite American greeting was to say, “Up yours!” For a while he went around enthusiastically shaking peoples’ hands and saying, “Up yours!”

ladeemadonna

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

30. Joking Not Joking

I laughed when a friend from India told me he was looking at a bunch of pictures of girls his parents had sent him to look at. To pick a wife.

Then later I realized he was serious.

In my defence, he did sound like he was kidding, but it turned out he was just slightly embarrassed that I had walked in while he was browsing and he couldn’t make up a plausible story.

 

kretik

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by rajesh koiri from Pixabay
 

29. Fingers Are Dangerous Things

I gave a thumbs-up sign to my friend’s Iranian dad — apparently it’s their equivalent to giving him the finger.

awesomerthanu

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by carlos pereyra from Pixabay

28. Baby Man

When I was in college I was at this party and started talking to this guy who set off my gaydar like no other. I never asked him about it, he never mentioned it, and frankly I didn’t care that much — I assumed he was, but until he confirmed it I saw no reason to make my suspicion known.

But then he started talking about how he possessed the “power of gays” and how that it can make babies cry or animals run away. And so I said, “Um, I’m pretty sure that’s BS. Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you have some kind of supernatural power or control over babies.”

He looked at me funny and said, “How did you know I was gay? And what does my being gay have anything to do with this?”

Turned out he was just talking about the “power of gaze” and I felt like a doofus for a good while after that.

Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Daniela Dimitrova from Pixabay

27. Food Is Food

 

I’m black and married to a white woman so this happens all the time in our apartment. One of the better ones was during a family visit. Her parents had come to stay with us and her dad wanted to cook. I told him to go ahead and do his thing. I went to work out while he cooked and when I came back he had made a bunch of fried chicken.

Part of me was insulted… and another part of me was hungry. So I happily ate it. Later that night my wife said that while I was gone her dad asked if he could make fried chicken without offending me. Whenever we went over their house they never made it because they weren’t sure of my reaction. My wife gave him to go ahead and you know the rest.

I don’t even know entirely why I felt insulted… the chicken was delicious.

chrismsx

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Sharon Ang from Pixabay

26. Your Break, Your Business

 

My buddy moved from the UK to the USA and got a job at a Catholic thrift store. His boss was a really nice, old, priest. One day my friend told the priest he was going to sneak out back for a quick f-g. The priest looked rather shocked but then said, “Okay, do whatever you need to do but I need you back here in a half hour.”

I guess not everyone knows that’s slang for smoke.

NoMoloste

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by kollynlund from Pixabay

25. Worst Foot Forward

 

I was in Chiang Mai, Thailand, late at night and at one of those little “restaurants” that opens under an overpass or something with some plastic chairs and stuff only when it’s really late. I ordered a phad kaprow (stir fried pork-with-basil on rice) from the old lady and ate it in silence. When it came time to pay, I didn’t have any money in my pockets.

Luckily, for some reason I thought I was in a dodgy area, so I had hidden some money in my shoe as a safety measure. So when the lady asked for my money and I took it out of my shoe she absolutely flipped out at me, screaming. I couldn’t understand the problem until she grabbed the bill from me and pointed to the picture of the King on it, and then pointed at my shoes. It was only then I understood that since the feet are considered filthy in Thai culture I had committed a terrible faux pas by putting an image of the sacred Thai King under my feet.

I tried to explain there was American money in there too, so I had insulted the USA as well, but she wasn’t having any of it.

loercase

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by pereslavl from Pixabay

24. I Don’t Like It THAT Way!

I went on an Italian exchange when I was about 15. My knowledge of Italian was okay.

Anyway. I meet my exchange family at the airport, they drive me to their home, and the first thing they do is show me their dog.

I’m tired as hell and they keep pointing at the dog saying, “Cane, cane! (carnay, carnay!) Ti piace?” Which means, “You like this dog?” And I said, “Si, si, mi piace.” (“Yeah, I like it.”)

They show me the house and then I ask if I can sleep before dinner. They agree. So I head upstairs, take a nap, and then they wake me for dinner. I go to the kitchen, take a seat at the table and there’s a massive plate of steaming meat, which pleases me. I ask, What is this? And they all respond: “Cane, cane! (Carnay, carnay!) Ti piace?”

Good. Freaking. God. They’ve cooked the dog. I said I liked the dog, and they cooked it. I started crying, absolutely broke down at the table.

That’s the day I found out “Carne” (meat) and “cane” (dog) are pronounced the same….

[Deleted]

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Fran__ from Pixabay

23. Unprotected Peanut Butter

 

I was trying to explain to my Italian cousins the significance of natural peanut butter as opposed to Skippy/Jif. Since I did not know the Italian word for “preservatives”, I merely did what I normally did in that circumstance… Took an english word and made it sound Italian by adding “o” to the end of it. So I said that it was peanut butter “sensa preservativos”, at which point they were totally confused and laughing right in my face.

Apparently “preservativos” is the Italian word for birth control, so I told them that the peanut butter I was eating didn’t contain any condoms. (Thank God for that!)

mastry0da

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

22. You Don’t Know What You’re Saying

 

I had just moved to Australia to study there for 6 months, and I got invited out to dinner with a bunch of Australians. Aussies are really into sports, so I thought I could earn some points by talking about my favorite teams back home. They started asking me about basketball. I said, “Oh, I root for the Lakers!”

Long pause, stunned silence, then uproarious laughter.

I just smiled along, pretending to get the joke. I went home and asked my roommate, and found out that in Australia, “root” is a more crude version of the f word. Great first impression.

itsmejessica

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by WolfWolfWolf from Pixabay

21. Running Your Mouth

My wife and I were friends with an older couple from Armenia. The husband was a heavy drinker and sometimes I’d let him drag me into it. Anyway they were very gregarious and had a lot of expat friends from many countries, including some Russians.

Once at a family reunion of theirs we were at I had had a bit too much Armenian brandy, and my friend was talking about the Soviet Union and how every Armenian hated it. I stupidly (and a bit loudly) remarked that it was funny that he had so many Russian friends. After a bit of embarrassing silence he said, “I don’t hate Russians, I hate Communists”. Aw crap.

kretik

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay

20. Missing The Point

 

I was hanging out with some work friends. One was from Scotland, the other Venezuela. Both had very thick accents. The Venezuelan was always trying to pick up girls. He asked the Scotsman if he had any sisters to which he replied, “Yes but she has Down Syndrome.” The Venezuelan didn’t understand and asked, “Yeah, but is she single?”

Zippytuna

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Vitabello from Pixabay

19. Love Is A Battlefield

 

Not me, but a friend of mine did a student exchange in Germany. He was palling around with his host student and teasing him, like guys do. And then he patted his back while laughing, saying “just kidding man, I love you.” Apparently, his host student flipped out, because that phrase isn’t used loosely, as it is in America. He thought he had just received a love confession.

Twiggeh-Leaf

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by pixel2013 from Pixabay

18. Comebacks Are Not Universal

 

“Your mother.”

BAM. punched in the face. Funny in America… not funny in Georgia.

i_hate_lamp

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

17. I’m Glad This Made News

 

I was in Japan and buying strange stuff. I got this track jacket that had writing on it and then left the store. NHK was doing a story on westerners and what they bought that day. I showed them my FFXII figures, my totoro plush and the jacket. They started to laugh so hard, both the reporters and the translator.

I asked what was wrong. They said, “Okay, repeat after me.” Then they phonetically got me to say what was on the jacket, laughing the whole time. Then they told me it was for a woman and it says “I have a lot going on up here and even more going on down there.”

Umbrius

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Masashi Wakui from Pixabay

16. Not Enough Info

 

I went to my friend’s temple and when they introduced me to the Rabbi, I offered my hand to shake, and he just stared at it… my friend elbowed me and said that women are not allowed to come in contact with the Rabbi. It would have been nice to be told that before the intro.

olivine1010

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by rabbijacobs from Pixabay

15. Words Have Many Meanings

 

I was visiting Japan for the summer with a group from my university. We were in Hiroshima for a few days and went to visit the Hiroshima Peace Museum. It was a very sobering and slightly disturbing experience that had me on the verge of tears a couple times.

When we returned to our hostel later that day, the old couple that owned the place asked us (in Japanese) what we thought of the museum. We had all been taking Japanese for a couple years and had spent two months speaking Japanese on a daily basis at this point, but we weren’t quite sure how to respond. One of the guys in our group summed it up by just saying that it was omoshiroi, which means interesting. The old Japanese lady just looked at us for a minute before saying, “Well, I suppose it would seem that way to Americans.”

What none of us realized until he said it is that omoshiroi also means amusing, so he basically told an old Japanese woman who probably lived through WW2 that the Hiroshima Peace Museum was funny. She didn’t talk to us much after that.

pishooo

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Alice Cheung from Pixabay

14. Second Time Is Easier

Freshly arrived in the US to study and my English was none too good. I go to the university’s cafeteria and, translating straight from my native language, I ask the guy at the pizza counter ,”How is it going?” By which I meant, “How does this work?” (What can I say, not very familiar with ordering at a counter.) The guy starts telling me about his personal life, and after 30 seconds I turned around and left the cafeteria, panicked that my English was so bad, I could not even order pizza.

 

icai

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings

13. Just One Guy

Walked into one of my favorite Japanese restaurants in New York City to meet my boyfriend.

“Ah, hello!”

“Hello. I’m meeting someone, but I’m not sure if he’s here already.”

“Team?”

“No, just one guy.”

“Ah, okay. Go upstairs.”

Five steps up the staircase, it hits me. Team. Teem. TIM, but in an ACCENT.

That, “No, just one guy” bit? That is a direct quote.

[Deleted]

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by rawpixel from Pixabay

12. Time And Date

When I was in Korea, I was waiting for a bus and I didn’t know what time it was. It was kinda late at night and there was only one guy next to me so I turned to him and I wanted to ask him what time it was.

I’m Korean, but my Korean isn’t that great. In Korean, I said literally “do you have the time?” (시간있으세요?). What I didn’t know was that in Korean, that’s how to ask someone on a date. He was taken aback and stammered “w-what?” and I repeated myself about 2 more times until I realized what I was doing.

Pandoraa

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Igor Ovsyannykov from Pixabay

11. Slight Differences Are Sometimes The Worst

Happened to my parents:

They (Norwegians) were in Denmark and going to a party, with a Danish friend riding with them in their car. When they were about to leave the party they go up to their friend to tell him they’re going, in a sort of “just in case you want to go now too” polite way. The guy asks “Må jeg være med?” Which in Norwegian means “Do I have to come with?”

Thinking he was being weird but polite, or that he thought they expected him to come with them right away, they shook their heads and exclaimed “Of course not! Stay! Stay!”

Unfortunately in Danish “Må jeg bli med” means “CAN I come with?” You can imagine what that guy must have thought of my parents.

Also annoying: in Danish “grine”, which means to cry in Norwegian, means to laugh which I find hysterically ironic.

elpinoine

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by ambroo from Pixabay

10. Jerky Is Right

I was in Nepal at the time with an organization. We had a young man, about 19 years old who was our guide. I offered him beef jerky. He was about to eat it when he asked me, ” Is this cow?” I said “yes.” He then told me how sacred the cow was to him. before this happened I was eating the bag of jerky like madman in front of him.

[Deleted]

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Daniel Albany from Pixabay

9. All Wives Are Equal

A few years ago, we had a German foreign exchange student. During spring break we went to visit her and her family. Her dad has a really bubbly personality and loves to talk. He said to my mom while he was in the deep conversation, that his second wife was his “main wife”.

Katharina, our previous exchange student was like, “Oh Papa they don’t know what you mean.” He’s like “oh yes they do!” Apparently in Germany main wife roughly translates into the love of my life. My mom thought he meant his more important wife. It was hilarious.

[Deleted]

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

8. Bone To Pick

I was in a tapas bar in Spain, and after eating I ask the bartenders for an “escobilla”, me wanting a tooth pick. The lady stands still for a second and asks me what do I need it for. And I answer in my poor Spanish: to clean my teeth. At this point, a girl behind me starts laughing, and the bartender gives me the stink eye. Afterwards I asked some Spanish guys what did I just say. Turns out I was asking for a toilet brush to clean my mouth.

dameean

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by snd63 from Pixabay

7. At Least He Realized

I was in Egypt on honeymoon, we went to a restaurant in the hotel, some Italian number which wasn’t especially authentic but the staff were really nice.

Come to the end of the meal I hand the guy a tip, I think it was a 20 Egyptian pound note which is a fair chunk of money over there. The waiter said to me “Are you sure, you realize how much this is?” and I waved him away saying something along the lines of “yeah no problem, keep it all”.

When we get back to out room I realize I’d actually used a 20-cent note as the tip as Egyptian notes went down to really low values (they also have coins of the same value). I rush back down to explain and give the guy a real tip and they are all their waiting and laughing when I arrive.

formerJSemployee

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Souza_DF from Pixabay

6. An Honest Man

This happened to my brother when he was on an exchange to the Netherlands. Dutch and Afrikaans are pretty similar in many regards, so he spoke Afrikaans to his host family, they spoke Dutch to him and everyone understood each other most of the time. One day at the dinner table with the whole family, he excused himself to go upstairs to his room for a little while (“‘n rukkie”). No one really responded so he just got up. He later found out that “rukkie” in Dutch means playing with yourself.

tigger6084

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

5. Pants = Underwear

Made the pants/trousers mistake in Scotland when, in a suddenly very quiet moment in a pub a talked about my denim pants. The gentleman I was talking to asked me if there would not be quite a lot of chafing…

ismash

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by mosquito1 from Pixabay

4. Take Me To Church

On visiting Australia once, my mother was talking with her cousin, as we had to go to a Christening the following day. She was enquiring about what people usually wear to church. Her cousin replied that people are very casual, and that some people “walk right off the beach wearing thongs”. My mother was outraged, unaware that in Australia, thongs are flip flops and not g-strings. However the converse may be a good incentive for some to attend church.

lovemilk

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by tookapic from Pixabay

3. Super Bowl

I was sleeping over at my friend’s house, and I wanted to get a bowl of cereal. I told my friend, and he said “okay, go for it.” I got my bowl, ate, and returned to the festivities after putting the bowl in the sink like a civilized person.

Everything was fine… until the morning when I heard a scream. It was his mother, and she was freaking out about the bowl. She saw the spoon in it, and putting two and two together found out that I had eaten cereal out of it. Apparently, these were special meat bowls, as they belonged to Orthodox Jews. No dairy can touch these bowls, lest their Kosherness be compromised.

She wanted me to bury the bowl. I felt pretty bad.

sipsyrup

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings

2. A Bad Omen

A few years ago when I was teaching English in China I was invited to dinner by some of the permanent English faculty. They took me to a really nice restaurant where everything was laid out in traditional manner, circular tables with Lazy Susans in the center for sharing the meal, family style. The waitresses brought us individual bowls of sticky rice to eat with our chopsticks and then brought the rest of the food for the group on large plates which were set in the middle of the table.

Halfway through the meal I needed to use the bathroom so I stuck my chopsticks upright into my sticky rice and excused myself from the table. When I came out of the bathroom, the restaurant, which was pretty crowded, was completely silent. Everyone was looking at me. Everyone. It was the weirdest feeling in the world.

I walked slowly back to my table, where the other teachers were packing up their stuff and paying the bill — a lot of untouched food was left on the table. They told me we needed to go, now. I was so confused, I didn’t ask any questions till we got outside.

Apparently, when someone dies in China, they burn incense for the departed and their ancestors. Typically, two sticks of incense set upright in a bowl of rice. Any recreation of that image, for example, with chopsticks, is a very powerful omen of death. When I was in the bathroom, the manager had asked the other teachers to leave, and had scolded them for not educating me. Apparently what I did is considered a death omen in many asian countries. The teachers never invited me to dinner again.

pagodahut

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Lindsey White from Pixabay

1. A Wet One

Last summer I had the amazing pleasure of partaking in my friend’s sister’s wedding in France as we were backpacking through Europe.

At one of the many dinner parties that lasted for hours on end into the night I referred to myself as a “tourista,” just some stupid word that I made up adding *a to the end of tourist right? Well, it turns out that refers to really bad diarrhea in French. Luckily one of the nice French girls let me know what it means so I did not have to turn myself into liquid poop anymore.

FancyMac

People From Around The World Share Their Funniest Cultural Misunderstandings
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay