3 cultural insights from ambassadors around the world
At The Peak's inaugural Diplomatic Ball, we asked ambassadors for insights into their country’s culture.
#01: WHAT IS ONE WORD IN YOUR NATIVE LANGUAGE THAT DOESN’T HAVE AN ENGLISH EQUIVALENT?
KUZKINA MAT. “It’s literally translated as ‘mother of Kuzmat’, but nobody knows what it means. When you want to threaten someone, you say: ‘I will show you the Kuzkina mat!’” - HE Andrey Tatarinov, Ambassador for the Russian Federation
GOTONG ROYONG. “It’s a spirit of togetherness, a spirit of working together and a spirit of solidarity to the benefit of collective interests.” - HE I Gede Ngurah Swajaya, Ambassador for the Republic of Indonesia
IHOTU. “Ihotu in Idoma usually means love. It means beauty of the mind and beauty of the heart.” - Ogbole Amedu Ode, Acting High Commissioner for the Federal Republic of Nigeria
“SAUDADE is a Brazilian Portuguese word I normally use when I miss something, a person or a situation. The significance of saudade is the fact that you’re missing something to the point of feeling hurt by it.” - HE Flavio S. Damico, Ambassador for the Federative Republic of Brazil
“FRUHLINGSBOTE is a German word that means ‘herald of spring’ or ‘harbinger of spring’. A few examples of fruhlingsboten would be birds chirping at sunrise, flower buds emerging on the trees or the blooming of cherry blossom trees. In a more proverbial sense, it is a sign of something turning for the better, warmer, lighter, such as restaurants opening their outdoor patios, and clothing stores displaying shorts and sandals in the store windows.” - HE Dr Ulrich Andreas Ferdinand Sante, Ambassador for the Federal Republic of Germany
#02: DESCRIBE A NATIONAL QUIRK NOT MANY PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT.
“HEAD NODDING. When you ask a question, I would nod my head without answering. So you won’t know whether I’m saying yes or no, and you put the questioner in a dilemma.” - HE Nimal Weeraratne, High Commissioner for the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
“In Mexico, we always say MI CASA ES SU CASA. It means my home is your home. If I’m talking to you, I won’t say ‘I’m going to my house’. I will say ‘I’m going to your house’. Strangers never understand that.” - HE Nathan Wolf Lustbader, Ambassador for Mexico
#03: WHAT IS CONSIDERED RUDE OR CHARMING IN YOUR COUNTRY ?
“Brazilians are never late. They arrive ‘after’. Over here, it’s okay for you to arrive a few minutes before a designated time. But in our case, this is considered very discourteous. Normally, people would arrive 10 minutes to one hour late to allow the host time to arrange everything properly.” - HE Flavio S. Damico, Ambassador for the Federative Republic of Brazil
“If you bring a wallet as a gift, it cannot be empty. You should put a small note or a coin in the wallet. Otherwise, it will be sort of an insult.” - HE Andrey Tatarinov, Ambassador for the Russian Federation
“You know that you’ve become a true friend if you’re invited to their cottage or summer cabin.” - HE Nancy Lynn McDonald, High Commissioner for Canada
“It is discourteous to put your hands in your pocket while talking to an older person.” - HE Modise Casalis Mokitlane, High Commissioner for the Republic of South Africa
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