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4 Social Etiquette Differences Indian Students Abroad MUST Know

Posted on Aug 29, 2019
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Why is region-specific social etiquette important for Indians – or anyone for that matter – abroad?
Ever heard the story of Goldilocks? If you have, it is only natural to feel that her manner of rummaging through a (perfectly normal) bear family’s house as an unsavoury act. Yet, as hard as we may try, the best of us may inevitably end up acting like a social Goldilocks when visiting a foreign country, or in the initial stages when you’re just settling in.

This could come off as rude to the locals on the receiving end, and that definitely is not the first impression you’d want to make of yourself in a new country. Here are some useful differences in etiquette among the top study abroad destinations to help you settle and fit in much easier:

  1. 1. Time/Punctuality:
  2. Australia: While you are expected to arrive for formal meetings on time, it is generally a good idea to arrive a little later when invited to a social event in Australia.
    Canada and the UK: It is expected of you to stick to the time decided upon, as Canadians and the British people can tend to be quite literal about times and schedules.
    USA: Americans (quite literally) follow the “time is money” rule and expect punctuality with respect to meetings/gatherings in both the social and formal context.

  3. 2. Addressing Others
  4. While it is acceptable in all four of these countries to address acquaintances or friends by their first names, while addressing those elder/in a higher position than you such as your professors, it is acceptable to attach their title with their last name in addressing them. This is unlike the more formal approach to addressing people in a higher position with Sir/Ma’am in an Indian setting.

  5. 3. Pleasantries/Greeting:
  6. Pleasantries and Greetings in ‘western’ countries may tend to be quite a big change for students from Asian cultures, as they allow a little bit more intimacy even among acquaintances. Among Australia, Canada, the UK and USA, all cultures allow a brief hug in informal settings, but a handshake does just the same.

  7. 4. Tipping
  8. USA and Canada: It is customary and sometimes mandatory to tip at dine-in restaurants in the US and Canada. This value may range from anywhere between 10-20%.
    Australia and the United Kingdom: Unlike the US and Canada, Australian and British customs do not require one to tip necessarily, but it is still much appreciated.

What If I Fumble?

Fumbling is as natural to a foreigner in a new setting as is swimming to a fish. The best way to arm yourself out of this is to apologize – and avoid making the same mistake again.
Keep these in mind, and make sure that you do not have troubles during your teething period in your new country. Also, remember that these tips as only as useful as your socializing is, so go out and meet new people and gather experiences.