Learning English is not just about sentence structure, grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and intonation. There is also the problem of culture. People talk about different things in different countries, and when they discuss these things, they might use blunt language, euphemistic language, or something in-between. The choice might be personal, but often it is cultural.
One cultural peculiarity of Americans is small talk. For instance, I have no trouble chatting with total strangers while waiting in a grocery store line or for a bus. When I try that in southern Germany, however, people look at me like I am very strange indeed, or so the reactions have seemed to me.
Culture also affects how we talk about ourselves at job interviews, which is the real point of this short post. You see, NPR recently did a story on the challenges non-native speakers encounter in the United States when hunting for a job. Check out Sally Herships, “Overcoming Cultural Barriers To Jobs.”
What do you think? Have you got any cross-cultural stories to share?
I originally posted this piece on this day on my old teaching blog, Language for You.