Top 10 Things Only An Expat Would Say… Humor, Is It In The Eyes Of The Beholder?

Cultural Awareness: Is Our Humor Location-Based?

Say What?

If you think language is a mess at home, try holding a conversation between cultures abroad! Meanings get mangled and messages get missed.

I really enjoyed a clever column (from Carolyn Hax) in the Washington Post this week. The column asked people to tell the most outrageous things said at family holidays.  Here’s a favorite of mine, one that had extra meaning, having tried my hand at inter-cultural dating too:

“This came from a Christmas dinner a few years ago, when my then-boyfriend, who I was absolutely in love with, came over. He is from Latvia, which came out over the course of dinner. During a lull in conversation, my grandpa looked over and said, “So, when are you going to be deported?” Absolute silence.

My mom tried to cover it by saying, I think he is asking when you are going to visit your family. My grandpa interrupted, “No, really, when are you going to be deported.” Cue uncomfortable laughter.

Now it’s an annual event, asking the new guy (my mom has 3 single daughters so there is usually a new boyfriend involved) when they are going to be deported. I think my mom thinks of it as a test – if they don’t run, they are a keeper? Us girls think it’s really a ploy to keep us single forever.” [2011]”

I had a good chuckle over this and shared it with some friends over lunch one afternoon. Each of us could relate, as we told one story after another of our own, stories that left us wondering who in the world would say such things.  Well, actually we already knew! The conversation, naturally, turned to the oddest things we as expats hear and say in our other-cultural exchanges- things we totally get, but which no doubt sound odd to others.

Like this one:

Passport, Inter-cultural Awareness

Cultural Awareness: Is Our Humor Location-Based?

“A couple of years ago, a visiting minister from Haiti gave the Christmas sermon. French is his native language but he did an amazing job of giving the sermon in English, albeit with a heavy accent. The subject of the sermon was the purpose of Christmas, but the word came out as “porpoise“.

My husband and I could barely hold ourselves together and now we always keep an eye out for Christmas dolphins.”  (That would go just fine with our Christmas lobster from Wolverhampton, England!)

As we laughed our afternoon away, I made a mental note to collect my favorite “unexpected thoughts” and share them with you. (As the sign above says, “collect all two”!)

I jotted down our own Top 10 List, and here they are:

Number 10:

“I got my new visa yesterday, so now I need to go register with the police.”

Number 9:

“Come over after 7:00, we should have water by then.” (Or the variant, “You can shower at my place, I’ll have water after 7:00.”)

Number 8:

“My housekeeper threaded my eyebrows after work.”

Number 7:

“Sorry we can’t join you for dinner, we’re in Turkey this weekend.”

Number 6:

(When asked, did you have a nice weekend?) “Fabulous, we went snow skiing at that mall in Dubai.”

Number 5:

“We can have the party at our flat on Saturday if we have electricity that day.”

Number 4:

“Are you going to the Disneyland Kebab house for dinner tonight?”

Number 3:

“The judge said he didn’t need a lawyer because the judge had already been told what the guy’s sentence was going to be.”

Number 2:

“We found a great Argentine Steakhouse, run by a Lebanese guy, in the Frankfurt Airport next to the USO chapel.”

And my personal favorite…

Number 1:

From a young, single guy who returned early from his holiday in the US, “I think someone was living in my apartment while I was away… I came home and found two jars of baby food in my refrigerator. And I don’t even have kids, that I know of!”

So there you have it, sports fans!

If you enjoyed these fun little head-scratchers, share a favorite of your own in the comments below.

We all need a good chuckle during the holidays, so share away…

Happy Holidays!

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