Etiquette Europe

Despite the many things the countries in Europe have in common there are plenty of ways in which the customs and cultures differ and each country has its own unique way of doing certain things. As an English teacher and visitor, an understanding of some of the manners and behaviour of people in your chosen country can go a long way to improving your experience of teaching English abroad.

On the topic of manners and behaviour each country has different attitudes that govern what is rude and what is not. In Switzerland, posture is important and slouching should be avoided and in Germany it is considered rude to have your hands in your pockets while talking to someone. Punctuality is important in Germany and you should always be one time for appointments. In France and Spain, being on time is not such an issue and you should be prepared to be patient while waiting for others to arrive. Hand gestures are a common way to unintentionally cause offence as an innocent gesture from your home country may be seen as offensive in your new home. In Russia for instance the “OK” sign is considered particularly rude as is slapping a hand over a closed fist in France. At social gatherings such as dinner at someone’s home there are usually some forms of etiquette it is polite to observe and this is true for any country around the world. In Switzerland it is polite to finish everything on your plate and in Russia it is normal to stay a while after dinner to drink and socialise.

As with most Western countries, the handshake is the common method of greeting someone in the countries mentioned here, although in Russia it is less so, in fact Russians can seem stand offish when meeting for the first time. In France it is common to use Monsieur, Madame or Mademoiselle when meeting someone for the first time and in Germany a person’s full title should be used. In both Switzerland and Germany Given names should not be used unless invited to do so. Eye contact is important in France and Switzerland to show that you are interested in the other person’s conversation.


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