Manners and etiquette are an important part of any social situation. But when cultural differences get in the way, a casual chat can quickly turn uncomfortable – all because of one seemingly innocent comment that is actually considered offensive or inappropriate in a different part of the world.
Asking someone’s age, for example, may be seen as a normal part of a conversation in Indonesia, but to a native speaker of English, it’s an insensitive question that makes the person who asked it seem rude.
Here are four similarly delicate topics to avoid when conversing in English:
In Indonesia, of the most common comments we hear from people we haven’t seen for a long time relates to how we currently look, usually through an exclamation pointing out that, “Wow, you’ve gained weight!” However, to a native English speaker, whether they are from the United Kingdom, Australia or the United States, negative remarks about one’s physical appearance are taken as an insult than can trigger hurt feelings or anger. So, to be on the safe side, stay clear of talking about someone’s physical appearance.
Marriage & Children
Family is a very important part of the Indonesian community and many questions revolve around this topic. However, asking someone why he or she isn’t married yet or why a couple doesn’t have children would be crossing the line between showing polite curiosity and openly prying. While the former is a natural part of a conversation in Western culture, the latter is considered ill-mannered and intrusive.