Oct 152009
 
I’ve got friends here who feel free to wander up to my fridge/refrigerator, open the door and help themselves to a cold drink. I’m really glad they feel so at home, and also glad I haven’t got to worry about getting it for them. But after a decade, my British sense of ‘what is an imposition’ prevents me from doing the same thing in their home without asking first.
There are a lot of freebies lying around on counters here and I’m still not too sure what the etiquette is that surrounds them. For example, when there are sweeties on the counter, can I help myself, or are they there for people to give their kids?
There are a lot of freebies lying around here and I’m still not too sure what the etiquette is that surrounds them. For example, when there are sweeties on the counter, can I help myself, or are they just for kids?

That said, I think some American habits might be rubbing off. I was having a meal in a pub in England a while back and I got pulled up by my brother and sister-in-law. The waitress was serving another customer with water and I said “Oh, I’d love a glass of water too”. For my brother and sister, my request reflected an ‘American attitude’. What’s wrong with “Could I have a glass of water too, please?”, they asked.

Related to this is what right we feel we have to make a request. So asking a waiter to bring us a glass of water should be pretty easy if we are a customer in a restaurant. But asking our boss for the same favour in a meeting is going to be a bit different. And obviously it’s easier to ask for small things than large, but what’s deemed small and large varies across cultures.

In a US post office, I’ve discovered the postal workers will whip out their own glue or sellotape/scotch tape to stick down my imperfectly wrapped packages. In the UK I’d expect to be sent away and instructed to correct the imperfections myself.

My American husband reckons I can ask for more than him because my British accent makes folks feel more inclined to help. But with the accent comes new stuff to learn about rights and impositions.

 Posted by at 7:15 pm

  2 Responses to “Impositions”

  1. Those sweets on the counter are a tricky one, not just the kids/me question but also – how many?
    And here in France , maybe again because i am British, i am really confused by the basket of cheese that they leave on the table in some restaurants, soup bowl too come to that, is it ok to finish it?

  2. Quite true. One of those red and white minty sweets they have here would be very nice, but two or three would be nicer.
    Cheese and soup on the table must be even more tempting. But might these things be placed there so we can demonstrate our restraint?

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