Friday, July 18, 2014

Being Yourself

My July column for the Expat Focus web site discusses how far expats should go to assimilate to another country's culture and how far they should just be themselves. It's a tricky one.

Take Brits in the USA for example. A lot of us come over here and silently (or not so silently) criticize Americans for not using a knife and fork properly, not knowing how to spell and generally being unsophisticated. But this is not the UK; they don't speak British English and they don't follow British spelling rules. Who are we to come over here and tell them to do it our way? Can you imagine going to live in say, Japan, and refusing to take your shoes off when going to someone's house? Or going to a country where the left hand isn't used, and deliberately shoving your left hand out all the time? We just wouldn't, would we.

Having said that, when we had a huge empire, we sort of did that all over the world didn't we?

Anyway, here's the post.


  1. We are paying the penalty now for interfering in peoples' culture etc in the past.
    Live and let live is a very good motto. Also do as you would be done by.
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May

  2. Having lived in several countries - US included - I speak a total mishmash of English, not because I have any intention one way or the other, I just say the words that I think of. The thing in the kitchen on top of the cabinets is a bench. In England they would say the thing in the kitchen on top of the cupboards is a worktop. I have no intentions, I just pick up whatever is around me wherever I am living, some things carry on, others don't!

  3. Amy - interesting. In England I said bench, and in the US I say Counter-top.

  4. I'm a terribly whiney expat the knife and fork thing - the pronunciation, it's endless with me - but I try and limit my whining to other people who are not American.
    I think best to assimilate kids though - I always think people who go to Europe and then have their kids at the American school really miss out

  5. I gave up using British words for things after about 2 weeks in the States. Why bother if no-one understands? I also started pronouncing them in the American way - I remember a particular conversation with my neighbour who didn't understand my pronunciation of "garage" at all....


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