Tag Archives: life communication

Fair Play - Rules of Behavior with New Arrivals and Expats. Part of the Defining Moves - The Art of Successful Relocation Series

Fair Play – Rules of Behavior with New Arrivals and Expats.


Fair Play - Rules of Behavior with New Arrivals and Expats. Part of the Defining Moves - The Art of Successful Relocation Series

My sister was recently invited to attend a local badminton club, and to cut a long story short, she wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms. Thankfully, she is made of pretty stern stuff and like a phoenix from the ashes, rose above adversity to bring us the 8 Noble Truths of playing nice with local newcomers and expats alike..

1. Behave like an adult.

What is it about someone new in the group that makes everyone regress to high school? Seriously, we have all seen new people before, and we promise not to steal your boyfriend, copy your homework or start rumors about you. We may have different clothes, hair, skin or accents, but we are here because we believe that individuality should be celebrated, not castigated. So if you could just treat us like an intelligent, normal human being rather than an alien with three heads, that would be marvelous.

2. Don’t make us look foolish, just because you can.

We are your guests, and are on our best behavior. This makes us easy targets for ridicule, but aggressively smashing feathered objects back across the net to try and intimidate us says far more about you than us.

3. Tell us the rules before you start.

We are new to this, so if you have particular codes of conduct that you would like us to adhere to, we are happy to be told. If your way of deciding who is going to serve first is to tap the shuttlecock in the air and see who it points to when it lands, we can accept that. But if you don’t tell us, and we leap athletically into action to return your ‘serve’, don’t tut, roll your eyes and stomp off. We’re not mind readers, and we’re just trying to play the game, for pity’s sake.

4. Forgive us our trespasses.

The trouble with unspoken rules is that they are, well, unspoken.We are going to make mistakes and step on your toes. So if you have strong feelings about which part of the court is yours, let us know. And use words, please, rather than swiping at us with your racquet.

5. If you invite us to join, include us.

When you put up posters advertising for new club members, implicit in that notice is a certain inclusivity. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with that word, it means that the odd kind word is not only appreciated, it’s pretty much expected. If that’s too much effort for you, don’t put up the damn posters and waste both of our time..

6. Play fair.

We’ve been around the block, and so we know when you are just inventing new rules to make us look bad. We are trying to please, we are turning ourselves inside out to conform, but the fact that we are new doesn’t give you the right to take advantage. So please don’t leave us to pack up the equipment alone while you all head off to the pub.

7. We’re here because we want to meet you.

We may seem standoffish or awkward or unimpressed, but it’s because we feel uncomfortable. However it may seem, we really do want you to talk to us, and any overtures of friendship are greatly appreciated. So please don’t all huddle together in the corner like you’re being invaded – if you think you feel uncomfortable with someone new, imagine how we feel when everyone is new.

8. A smile is all it takes.

We don’t need intellectual dialogue, detailed resumes or witty repartee to make us feel included – simply acknowledging our existence with a smile or a hello is enough. So next time you see someone new walk in the room, make eye contact and smile. It costs you nothing, but to us, it’s priceless.


Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Cultural sensitivity and the hand gesture..

As one who is frequently misunderstood, even by those who speak the English language, I was alarmed to find that there were a host of non-verbal ways to cause offense without ever intending to. I discovered this post on the www.expatinfodesk.com, and am reposting it for your cultural sensitivity training and enlightenment. I will now be keeping my hands in my pockets for the foreseeable future – who knew the ScottEVest was a diplomatic relations tool..

It’s not just what you say that you need to mindful of, here’s 6 innocent gestures that could actually land you in big trouble.

1. The Okay Sign

Picture of the okay signMany westerners use their thumb and forefinger to form a circle, and use this gesture to signal that they are feeling fine or are happy with a situation. However, if you’re tempted to do this when living in countries like Greece, Turkey, Brazil or the Middle East, don’t! In many areas of the world this gesture is viewed as highly vulgar and is often used to indicate that you are calling someone homosexual.

2. Pointing

Beware of protruding fingers. In many areas of the world pointing something out with your finger is considered incredibly vulgar and it is best to avoid doing this altogether wherever you are. If you wish to highlight something, indicate it with an open palm. Never be tempted to summon someone to you by using an outstretched finger it is so offensive in the Philippines that it is punishable by arrest.

3. Thumbs up

Picture of thumbs upIn many areas of the world a thumbs up signal is interpreted as meaning “Okay” or “I agree.” However, in Iran, Afghanistan, Nigeria, South America, the Middle East and parts of Italy and Greece it is an obscene insult meaning “sit on it” which is their equivalent to holding a middle finger up.

4. The V Sign

In the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand an inverted peace sign, i.e. with your palm facing towards you is an offensive gesture that has a similar meaning to a raised middle finger.

It is believed to have its origins in the battle of Agincourt (1415) when the English fought the French with longbows. The French apparently threatened to cut off the arrowing-shooting fingers of any English solders they caught and the English retaliated by waving their two fingers in the air at the French in a taunting gesture.

5. Raising your hands with your palms facing out

Picture of the moutza

In Greece, showing five spread fingers with the palm facing out is offensive. This is called moutza and it dates back to Byzantine times when prisoners were paraded through the town with their faces covered in charcoal or excrement. The dark material was applied to their faces with their own palms. Today, it is one of the most common gestures of insult among Greeks.

It’s not just Greece where this gesture should be avoided. In Pakistan, showing someone the palm of your hand represents a curse, in the Persian Gulf it is an insult mainly used by women and in Mexico showing someone your palm while repeatedly moving it towards the receiver means that you are warning them that you may take action they won’t like.

6. Using Your Left Hand to eat or shake hands

Avoid using your left hand to eat or shake hands in Hindu and Muslim countries. This hand is often used by people to wipe themselves clean after using the bathroom, so it is considered to be soiled. To hand someone something using that hand is highly offensive.