The dollar is at an all time low, which means almost every European I know is heading to the United States for summer holidays. For some, it will be their first visit and like many Americans who venture abroad, it will be the dream of a lifetime. My dentist is flying to Seattle, a French colleague is heading to Grand Canyon, and our Swiss educational psychologist is off to the Arrondikes.[cincopa AUBA_rqiwimE]
Be kind to the visitors. Smile. If you can, try to speak a few words of their language, even if only to say hello: Grüsse (German), Bonjour (French), Hola (Spanish), Buongiorno (Italian) or Kalimera (Greek). Ask simple questions about their homeland.
Even with the best intentions, misunderstandings are bound to occur. A German friend, studying in the US, once brushed her teeth with denture cream. Years ago a 6’7” French basketball player, walked out the men’s store changing room in downtown Chicago in his skivvies to find another size of jeans, and his teammate peed behind a bush in a public park. I was equally mortified when a well-endowed French teammate whipped off her top and perched on the bow of a speedboat.
If Europeans don’t ask a lot of personal questions, it does not mean they aren’t interested, only that they are respectful and fear invasion of privacy. Food and weather are safe topics; work and income are not. Sharing food is a special time of interaction. Mealtime is sacred.
Talk slowly. Use hand gestures. When people do not speak the language, they will pretend to understand even if they really don’t. I know this from my own experience of feigning knowledge to avoid appearing dimwitted.
I have dined on local specialties in European homes, sipped wine in private cellars and shared coffee in living rooms across the continent. Each time I learned far more about the culture and customs than guidebooks could ever divulge.
Greet my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances with a big grin as they travel from sea to shining sea. It takes so little, really, to make someone feel welcome…a smile, a handshake, a kind word. Not only is it good for business, it is also good for the soul.
Certainly the Europeans will be awed by our spacious landscapes, daunted by our city skyscrapers, and enamored with our natural beauty found in our Badlands, Grand Canyon and other National Parks. But what I hope they will remember mos,t is the warm, embracing spirit of the American people.
It’s a compliment that people from other countries are so interested in America. I hope they all have a great vacation, and will do my part should I run into any of them.
A great reminder to treat ALL others ( visitors or homelanders) as you would be expected to be treated as well. A friendly smile goes a longggggg way! Yes, we do have much to be thankful for in USA and happy to share that! See you soon!
Hahaha, that’s funny, I’m always explaining to fellow Dutchmen how Americans who ask you all kind of personal questions don’t necessary want to be your friends for life, it’s just their way of being polite.
And, of course, I AM one of those Europeans visiting the US right now.
Thanks for these reminders about the basic common courtesies that we all would want when visiting other countries. My daughter is hosting two delightful young ladies(15 & 16) from Barcelona for the month of July and they are enthralled with our country. We are hoping they will leave with a great impression about America and our culture. And it is has been wonderful to learn of their culture as well. We even skyped their families when we are all at the lake together so we got to meet them,too. I hope you are having a wonderful visit with your family. America is beautiful and we have much to be grateful for.
We went to the zoo in Omaha last week, and there were few English speakers. I guess even Nebraska is worth visiting to foreign travelers!
Pat, of course your friends will have a great time absorbing America’s Culture…I can even say a fond “bonjour”…
P.S. You started that book on all that you know on this timely subject?
Peace & blessings,
Pat, I’m going to put you to work as a cross-cultural trainer! These tips are so very useful and IMPORTANT. And it is sometimes difficult to think about these things if you have not made a cross-cultural adjustment yourself. So well done!
Hey, Pat – excellent job!
For all Europeans: the place to visit in the US is Sterling, Illinois. That’s where one can experience the warm embracing spirit!
Greetings from the person who bought the denture cream in her mid- twenties, because it smelled better than all the other toothpastes!
Aw your comment is so sweet! Wish I could flash it across town to brighten spirits in Sterling which has been hit hard with loss of the steel mill. I am up at Summit Lake, another warm spirited spot in the Northwoods. When are you coming back over? Whether we meet up in Switzerland, Germany, France, Illinois, or Wisconsin I look forward to seeing you.
And my daughter Torianna, her friend Hannah, and I are coming to Europe! Tarrega, Spain to be exact–to meet the family of our AFS son Jaume who spent the past year in our home and became a vital part of our family. He will forever be in our hearts, and we are so excited to make our first trip to Europe to see him again! Hola Espana!
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