Different Rules of Etiquette in European Countries
As a TEFL teacher it is important to make sure you have a good understanding of the language point you are teaching. It is equally important to have a good understanding of the country and culture you intend to teach in. While many aspects of behavior and etiquette may seem quite similar, each country has its own particular quirks that should be understood by a TEFL teacher. In this post I look at some important aspects of etiquette in different countries in Europe that any TEFL certification graduate should keep in mind.
Manners and behaviour
Each country has different attitudes which govern what is rude and what is not. Good posture is important in Switzerland so you should avoid slouching. Habits such as chewing gum and cleaning fingernails are not acceptable in public. It is rude to have your hands in your pockets when talking with someone in Germany. In France, picking your teeth and clipping your nails should be done in private rather than out in the open.
Better late than never?
Attitudes to lateness vary across Europe. Punctuality is taken seriously in Germany and you should always be on time for appointments. If you are going to be late, you should call and explain. The French are not too concerned about being late or not, but you should make the effort to be on time even if you end up waiting for others to arrive. Punctuality is not a priority in Spain and it is common to be 15 to 30 minutes for social engagements. Patience is a virtue and a necessity in Spain as nothing is ever done quickly.
The pitfalls of hand gestures
Hand gestures are a common way to unintentionally cause offence in a new country. An innocent gesture from back home may be seen as offensive in your new home. In France, slapping your hand over a closed fist is a rude gesture and should be avoided. Making the ‘OK’ hand sign is a very rude gesture in Russia as is placing your thumb through your index and middle fingers.
If you are having dinner at a Swiss person’s home, you should finish everything on your plate as it is considered rude to leave anything. In France, eye contact is important to show you are interested in the other person’s conversation. When talking to people in Spain you can expect to be interrupted when speaking and should not take offence.
The common handshake
As with most Western countries, the handshake is the common method of greeting someone in the countries mentioned here; however there are slight differences between nations. When greeting someone in Switzerland you should look them in the eye and give a firm handshake. Shaking hands is the common way of saying hello and goodbye in Germany but you shouldn’t shake hands with one hand in your pocket. When greeting people in Spain shake hands with everyone, it is common to shake hands when leaving too. In Russia, a handshake is an appropriate greeting but is not mandatory and first meetings with Russians can seem rather cool and unfriendly.
Also read: Top Tips for Teaching English in Europe
The sample countries also differ slightly in how strangers are greeted. In Switzerland, you should only use a person’s given name if they have invited you to do so. Personal questions to people you do not know well should be avoided. Using a person’s full title is important in Germany, no matter how long the title may be and first names should only be used when invited to do so. When in France, you should use Monsieur, Madame or Mademoiselle, if you are meeting people for the first time. Avoid physical contact with people you do not know well in Spain.
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