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Expats, tell me what aspect or social norm of your new country was strange to you?

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AjasLipstick Sun 18-Mar-18 06:53:19

I am a Brit in Oz and for me, the hardest thing to get used to was Sunday trading hours being like the UK in the 70s.

The weirdest thing was how much less formal people are dressed very informally and parties for children never have kids dressed up in party dresses but in shorts and t shirts. I like it now I'm used to it though.

Gennz18 Sun 18-Mar-18 07:04:18

When I moved to the UK (I'm a kiwi) I was totally confused by being greeted with "Alright?/You alright?"

I assumed that the person asking must have thought I looked upset because in NZ "you alright" would translate as "is everything ok?"

I would always get flustered and say "yes I'm fine! Why?"

It took me ages to figure out it just meant hello 😳

Solasshole Sun 18-Mar-18 07:13:41

Australian in the UK.

Mayonnaise on chips, just why?? Bleh!! grin

NotSureThisIsWhatIWant Sun 18-Mar-18 07:15:10

Being greeted as “love” and not being acknowledged in the street by people who I work with. I also was shocked at sharing a spoon to do several rounds of teas without properly washing the cups between servings... and the washing up, totally surprised people do not rinse the soap after cleaning dishes with clean running water.

Oh, and the rituals of the tea towel in a shared kitchen. How do you know one is for drying hands and the other for drying cups if they look exactly the same?

AjasLipstick Sun 18-Mar-18 07:20:10

NotSure that's not normal...the spoon thing I mean! Yak.

ZuluWarrior Sun 18-Mar-18 07:28:38

In Africa "hello" is not a thing. "How are you?" is the common greeting. "Allo" is used to get someone's attention. So if i answered the phone i got locked in a crazy spiral i couldn't get out of until I realised:

Phone rings:

Me : hello?
Caller: good morning ZuluWarrior, this is the bank calling.
Me: hello (greeting)
Caller: (assuming i hadn't understood) allo?
Me: hello!
Caller: allo?

Now i say " how are you?" And the conversation continues in the conventional way grin.

AjasLipstick Sun 18-Mar-18 07:38:03

Warrior that made me laugh grin

Here, in a small South Australian town, people are so friendly that when I first used to go into shops and people would be very friendly, earnest and open I used to wonder if they really cared how I's like speaking to your Auntie they're SO bloody nice, it's hard for a Northern English girl to cope with!

cleofatra Sun 18-Mar-18 07:38:41

Australian in UK

YY to the "alright?" thing.

Cards....really unprepared for the card giving thing (at every occasion)
Rounds - I had no idea
Kids in uniforms playing out (I get it now, how cheap are the uniforms here??!! Fab)
School girls with makeup and handbags as school bags (how do they fit their books in there?
Closed windows (I still get in trouble for opening the windows when the heating is on)
Chips (just why?)
Amazon home delivery EVERYTHING...LOVE THIS
People letting you in while in!

Harvestmoonsobig Sun 18-Mar-18 07:39:41

Zulu - excellent 😂😂

TheDailyMailIsADisgustingRag Sun 18-Mar-18 07:43:43

I lived in Paris for a bit in my twenties.

Things which I noticed there were;

- people often looked really unfriendly, until you spoke to them and then they were the most warm and helpful people
- asking for tokens for the toilets in restaurants
- a lot more dog poo on pavements
- men chatted me up a lot, to the point where it was a nuisance and I’m not even good looking! My very pretty friend struggled to walk down the street without someone latching on to her and declaring their love / asking her for sex, depending on what type of pest they were

DullAndOld Sun 18-Mar-18 07:44:03

NotSure I can assure you that speaking as a Brit I do rinse my dishes under running water, it is something I am really fussy about.

OK, this might be a reaction from the horror of realising that how my mother did the dishes was just...wrong. (bowl of soapy water, all the dishes in it, wash and drain. Gross)

cleofatra Sun 18-Mar-18 07:44:18

Oh yes, and people eating, having snacks and meals etc on short train journeys (like a 2-3 hr journey). I remember my first one many years ago and a trolley went through the train selling food and drinks. I was really surprised. Mind you, a very nice old lady beside me gave me some chocolate biscuits as she had a thermos and bsicuits with her. So kind.
Another one is - when hiking or walking, having so much equipment. I was used to a hat, sunscreen and a bottle of water.
Love the differences smile

RainbowCookie Sun 18-Mar-18 07:46:38

Heating up chocolate muffins and serving them with ham and cheese - blerghh. A muffin is a cake, why would you want it hot!

Also estate agents when they sell houses, always put a picture of themselves up - why would my house buying be influenced by an estate agents face - I want to see the house, not whose selling it.

Cousinit Sun 18-Mar-18 07:47:45

Brit in NZ. Same as the OP really...the lack of formality when it comes to clothes. And how shoes are seen as optional. We moved here in the winter and I never forget seeing school kids doing their cross country runs on the frosty roads with bare feet.

chickenowner Sun 18-Mar-18 07:50:36


You sound like you really don't like living in the UK!

not being acknowledged in the street by people who I work with

This is not standard British behaviour. It has never happened to me, nor have I done this when I have seen anyone I work with. Maybe your colleagues don't like you? Maybe they sense how much you dislike them and the UK?

totally surprised people do not rinse the soap after cleaning dishes with clean running water

Also never heard of this. I think you are judging the behaviour of a whole nation based on a couple of very strange people you have met.

cleofatra Sun 18-Mar-18 07:51:27

Also estate agents when they sell houses, always put a picture of themselves up - why would my house buying be influenced by an estate agents face - I want to see the house, not whose selling it.
Yes, totally. They have started to do this around here (Uk) now too.
Also found it odd that owners who you around their houses when selling..rather than the agents. It's quite anonymous back home. You generally don't even ever meet the previous owners.

pingoose Sun 18-Mar-18 07:56:09

Lol Gennz18, I said to my DH as we got on the plane at Heathrow that I was sad to be moving back to NZ after 4 years, as I’d only just figured out how to answer when people said “alright?” grin

eurochick Sun 18-Mar-18 07:58:10

Rainbow where does the muffin thing happen? That sounds bizarre.

I lived in Brussels a few years ago. It baffles me that leisure facilities were closed during most people's leisure hours - most shut at 7 in the week and all day on Sunday.

Trethew Sun 18-Mar-18 07:58:37

cleofatra that’s probably because they’re paying reduced commission to the estate agent if they conduct the viewings

cleofatra Sun 18-Mar-18 07:59:48

Trethew I have sold 2 houses here in UK and never got a reduced commission !

cleofatra Sun 18-Mar-18 08:00:37

Not an agent, that was as seller. Wish I had known!

Gennz18 Sun 18-Mar-18 08:00:44

😂 pingoose I'm glad I'm not the only one!

Oh and how "pants" means underpants not trousers.

"What are you wearing out tonight?"
"Oh just a nice top and some black pants"
quizzical looks from colleagues who think I'm planning on wearing black knickers to a work dinner

Certcert Sun 18-Mar-18 08:01:33

notsure, your colleagues sound incredibly rude.

AnElderlyLadyOfMediumHeight Sun 18-Mar-18 08:02:02

Brit in Germany.

Brusqueness/impatience/rudeness from people providing services and public officials. Was very upsetting as a newly arrived 20yo.
The obsession with airing.
It being completely normal not to say please and thank you in shop/to waiting staff. I'm still not over this after two decades and make sure my dc are polite even if nobody else is.
Phone calls for birthdays instead of cards (reverse of the 'card shock' experienced above).
Shaking hands with everyone. I still have to calibrate whether I'm in a 'handshake situation' or not (as things are changing a bit and handshaking is falling a tiny bit out of favour, this can vary with seemingly little rhyme or reason). Relatedly, knocking on the table in lieu of handshakes all round when someone joins or leaves a group. I can't help but find it a bit aggressive, but it's a perfectly normal way of saying hello/goodbye.
One thing that got me every time when I first arrived was being expected to weigh fruit and veg in the supermarket and attach a sticky label to the bags. Got into trouble many a time at the checkouts. Most places now no longer require this, but I still hate the ones that do.
Proper gear! Snow suits, rain trousers, sensible shoes. The Germans (rightly IMO) shake their heads at the coatless Brits and their flimsy school uniforms, particularly the shoes.
The driving. Tbf most Germans are safe and skilled drivers, if often a little, ahem, assertive with it, but I cannot and will not get used to the speeds on motorways. Fucking bonkers.

Stuff like the 'late' school starting age and the relative freedom of children to walk to/from school alone etc no longer seems weird; by contrast, the UK way of doing these things strikes me as strange these days. But the education system in general here - selective secondary transfer at 10 (!) in most places, the way teachers still (expect to) get away with stuff that would be at least a complaint to the Head in the UK, the way some teachers feel entitled to talk to parents, the relative lack of a sense of being in loco parentis - it boggles me every time a new thing comes up. And it's very clearly a great deal better than it once was. Oh, and the endless Diktate (teacher reads a text and the children have to take it down). Didn't that go out with the ark everywhere else?
The casual xenophobia, including in people who would genuinely recoil at any accusation of racism. Germany's odd like that. Comments about areas with high proportions of 'migrant background' people being obvious social hotspots. Stuff like that. There's also a degree of cloying xenophilia which IMO amounts to pretty much the same thing - just an overall sense that 'foreigners' are 'different' and their foreignness is the main thing about them. I can pass for German on most days and detest people picking up on my accent, because they always, always have to mention it - usually in a positive way, but I hate that being made into the main thing about me.

FifiVoldemortsChavvyCousin Sun 18-Mar-18 08:03:07

Zulu warrior

I must just say, Africa is not a country. It’s actually insulting to describe it as a monolith of ‘Africa’, all the same. If you were talking about Asia you would not lump all the countries together like that. Nigeria, is nothing like Botswana, which is nothing like Kenya, which is nothing like Sudan, which is nothing like Lesotho... you get the picture.

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