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A question for our non-American friends

This is a bit of a cultural question that has some relevance to getting along in a business environment and I was interested in how this goes in other countries.

Here in the US, there is a tradation or acceptance of a certain level of folksy joking insulting of people we like.  On introducing a friend to a new business associate, one my say something like "you have to watch out for this guy.  He's a very shady character" when of course you mean that he is a good trustworthy person.

On rare occasions I have run into people who seem to take the insults literally and wonder why you are saying horrible things so happily.  I'm not sure why but it got me thinking:

Is this typical elswhere?

name withheld out of cowardice
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

I just smile and say "mmmm hmmm", but I can't help but think that the person saying those things is either insecure and/or projecting their own character flaws onto the person they are introducing. I can't say I speak for all Canadians though, maybe it's just me.

(Heh, the self deprecating last sentence there is ohhh so Canadian...)

Kent
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Some people don't get irony. This more common among engineer types I believe.

It certainly would be most unusual to make this kind of jokes to somebody you don't have a very close relationship with.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Kent,

You silly Canuck, how have you been doing?

Raul
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

+++but I can't help but think that the person saying those things is either insecure and/or projecting their own character flaws onto the person they are introducing.+++

why do you think this?  Seriously?  Is it because you feel that way when they're introducing YOU?  Why are you so insecure?  Is it because you're Canadian?

Usually when someone introduces another in that manner, it's because they're socially inept and think a short introduction sounds awkward.  Lacking the ability or wit to come up with anything clever to say, they spout cliched nonsense like "Look out for this guy!  Ho Ho!".

These are the same mental midgets who stand around on gof courses in their silly-assed shoes saying "Hot enough for ya?"

muppet
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Stephen Jones gets it. An introduction in a business setting is not the place for irony or "put down" humor.

In a close or friendly relationship, it is common and expected.

muppet - you make me laugh, keep it up with the histrionic vitriol.

Kent
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

As a european I would only use the joke "you have to watch out for this guy.  He's a very shady character" with someone I knew well to someone I knew well.  Until you know and trust a person there is no way of knowing what the intent of the remark is.

Chris Peacock
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Right -- and even in the U.S. you shouldn't be so folksy when introducing someone new.

Bill
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

There are many Indian nationals where I work, and there seems to be little joking on the job among them.  I asked my friend about it and he said that things are very formal back in India.  If there are any Indians reading this, is that your experience too?  Are things very formal in India?  If you've also worked in the states, is it more fun to work here where it might be less formal?  Maybe it's uncomfortable in a less structured hierarchy?  What about people from other countries? 

Thanks for the insight!

anon
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

First, muppet, you have totally redeemed yourself in my eyes.  Make all the flamebait posts you want, just toss a few in like that one.

Second, I think this, like all things, depends on the situation.  If it's casual, then you make jokes, and if it's formal, you don't.  Easy enough.


Wednesday, August 04, 2004

> On introducing a friend to a new
> business associate, one my say
> something like "you have to watch
> out for this guy.  He's a very shady
> character" when of course you
> mean that he is a good trustworthy
> person.

Some people say this kind of things. I absolutely hate this!

X
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

X, why do you hate this?  I admit, per muppet, that many of these "jokes" are pretty lame, but do they really inspire hate?

I'm not so sure these are innapropriate in a formal business situation.  In my experience it is fairly common especially when you deal with sales and executive types.

name withheld out of cowardice
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

In my experience, its more common to make jokes that are sort of flattering. Like a former employer intruduced me to a new hire as the resident uber geek.
(And from his perspective I probably was since I could make clippy go away. = )

Eric Debois
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

>In introducing a friend to a new business associate, one my say something like "you have to watch out for this guy.  He's a very shady character" when of course you mean that he is a good trustworthy person

Its all in your body language and how you say it.  If you say it seriously and avoiding eye contact anyone would take offence. Say it laughingly with possible backslapping and everyone will understand you are kidding. But and that is a big but I would only do this when I am introducing a very good friend of mine to another very good friend of mine.  Never otherwise

Code Monkey
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

+++... fairly common especially when you deal with sales and executive types. +++


exactly.  This sort of lame joshing is typical when you deal with empty-headed twits.  At best its irritating and at worst, embarrassing.  I think the whole silly practice should just go away.  Either introduce me in some meaningful way, or simply let my name and title suffice.

"Ho, ho!  Hot enough for ya?  I'd rather be fishing!  Ha ha!"

muppet
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Hey, have you seen "The Office"? That kind of behaviour is multi-cultural!

InTheOffice
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Anon,  yes and no.

As with everything it depends. Mr. X, Mr. Y and Mr. Z. X know Y very well. X know Z very well too. X introduces Z with a joke.

If all three senior members of the profession, even in multi-million dollar Shaeffer Pen deals, jokes are welcome and more often than not necessary to break the tension.

But, if Mr. Y is the boss and X and Z are the underlings, better stay formal.

If Mr. X is the boss and the other two are junior then anything X does is SOP.

All three junior, anything they do is NOT SOP.

So far so good.

The problem is the *kind of joke*. More specifically language, sland, connotations.

>> "you have to watch out for this guy.  He's a very shady character"

"Shady", over here in Chennai (Madras), connotes sexual promiscousity, especially for remuneration, though not always, as in "that is a shady hotel." Perhaps you would use the term "seedy" over there, in your neck of the woods.

Just make sure you speak the same language.

KayJay
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

I've only visited England twice, but I felt very much at home.  I'm in Canada all the time for work and I fell even more at home.  To me there seem to be far more similarities than differences in British & American cultures.  And Canadian culture seems indistinguishable from American to me - except in New York everyone speaks Spanish rather than Quebec's French.

'The Office' *IS* my office with a different accent!

anon
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

name withheld out of cowardice:

Let me be frank, I am not working, but in general,

"folksy joking insulting of people we like"
It happens here in India too, but only with-in friends. I can never think of doing this with a person whom I am meeting the first time or say even thrice.

"On introducing a friend to a new business associate, one my say something like "you have to watch out for this guy.  He's a very shady character" when of course you mean that he is a good trustworthy person."

I don't know about other's, but I would NOT introduce my friend in this way. And that too to a new business associate. Yes, if the business associate had known me personally before, then probably I *can* introduce my friend jokingly otherwise NOT.





 

An Indian Perspective
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

"He's a very shady character"

And here at my college in Delhi, "the shady character" means " those students who are good for nothing", who never take part in any extra-curricular activities, seminars, and are just having no-life.
:-)

An Indian Perspective
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Yeah this sort of thing happens a fair bit here (UK), not to say it's particularly funny or suitable in a business setting

Matt
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

I can be a quiet person sometimes, and I know it leads a lot of people to believe I'm thinking whatever it is their imagination leads them to believe I'm thinking, so their reaction to me is largely a reflection of their own opinion of me (strong and quiet) or their own insecruity (he hates me).

As a result of this, some people tend to put words in my mouth, and try to judge what I'm thinking from my expressions. I hate this. "I know what you're thinking, blah blah blah." No, actually it's not what I'm thinking, but go ahead and believe that.

This kind of introduction rubs me the same way. "This is Mark, watch out for this loudmouth."

If an introduction sets up what you're going to think of me, and most people already read into me whatever they want, then I'm left cleaning up someone else's neurotic impression of me.

Of course, all this changes when I get drunk. Then I'd like to introduce you to my idiot friend....

BTW, I lived my whole life in America.

www.MarkTAW.com
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

"BTW, I lived my whole life in America. "

Lived?  so you're dead now?

Chris Peacock
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Oh, and I was going to say that sales people typically are both "thick skinned" and used to forcing people to think about them in a certain way, so this kind of behaviour doesn't bother them, and they do it because they'll do anything for a laugh, because if you laugh at their jokes, it means you like them.

www.MarkTAW.com
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

i was once introduced to a very attractive new employee at a company gathering.  being somewhat tongue-tied, i managed to only stammer out a "hello".  my manager then proceeded to continue my introduction with a "you know these programmer types, they're not much on social dialogue". 

i managed to sneak off back to my desk and quietly cry.

Kenny
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Hmm. I've lived? What's the proper grammar for:

"Everything up until now, but I can make no guarantees on the future."

www.MarkTAW.com
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Lol. I probably would've done the passive-aggressive thing and punched my manager.

That manager was probably just filling an awkward gap in the conversation (his perception, of course) and make a good impression himself. All this reflects a certain insecurity on his part. Some people fill insecurity with words, others with silence.

www.MarkTAW.com
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

"I have lived" is what you're looking for I believe.

Greg Hurlman
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Thanks.

www.MarkTAW.com
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

We do it in Australia.

Usually it is said in reference to a person who is well liked and is well teased within the office.

It is really just a way of letting the new guy know 'hey this guy is alot of fun' without using so many words.

Aussie chick
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

> On introducing a friend to a new business associate, one my say something like "you have to watch out for this guy.  He's a very shady character" when of course you mean that he is a good trustworthy person.

I'd be nonplussed. I wouldn't assume that you meant it literally ... I would assume you were intending something like "Here's this guy: notice him!" ... but it wouldn't occur to me to assume that you meant the exact opposite of what you were saying.

You can Google "right speech" for more data on this topic.

Christopher Wells
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Another note: American culture is already popular across most of the modern world, mainly through TV, movies, products, etc. So sooner or later, most business or technical people around the globe would more or less get the joke.

The 'shady character' comment is also practiced in my native Philippines, so it looks like lame jokes and comments are universal.

robtwister
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

I'm not sure that 'watch out for the shady character' counts as irony or some kind of twisted hyperbole for which Fowler has a name I can't remember.

However, I've found that there's no cultural norm for anything in any culture that's large enough to have roads wide enough for vehicles to pass by on the opposite side of the road.

In the Midlands it was not uncommon for the women on the shop floor to strip new comers (that are male) and paint their testicles as their initiation ceremony, either in fact or metaphorically.  Certainly they'll tease and torment them with heavy sexual innuendo.

In the North West, employers still seem to think its 1958 and that people should be grateful for the opportunity to slave for them.

In the almost lush Thames valley and Berkshire downs where the Microsofties and Oracular hermits play they all seem addicted to squash (not the Robinson's variety), and how much their house price has increased in the last few seconds.

In London, they seem addicted to smoothies (almost a kind of Robinsons but Macdonalds thick), examining each other's nasal hair on the Tube whilst pretending they're staring into the pitch darkness outside.

And in all of these places they use humour to bully, hide, cajole and basically get by.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Oh, I can't help adding, though probably many might wish me not to try, that the ubiquity of American culture is not in itself evidence of its popularity.

Its just we have increasingly less choice in the matter.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Not so sure it would go over with literalist Germans, unless you knew them really well.

"no, not much fun in Stalingrad ..."

Off to look at the stars tonight
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

They probably exchange the same "insults" when they're among their compatriots.

They're only taking it too seriously because of the "unknown" factor -- "hell, what if this guy IS serious?"

Alex
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

"And in all of these places they use humour to bully, hide, cajole and basically get by."

I think that about sums it up. One person's cajoling is another person's bullying.

www.MarkTAW.com
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

I'm trying to think over the last 31 years of my life, and I am unable to recall any instance where someone used the word 'nonplussed' in a verbal conversation.

It seemed important when I started this note.

Tim
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Actually it is kind of amusing to hear this question asked,

Of all the cultures in the world, the American culture is probably the most well known.

I have some close American friends, and we often talk about our cultural differences. The conversation is generally one sided because we have usually experienced, in one form or another, so much of the American cultural identity.

We met our friends down in Sydney last month. They wanted to see Aussie stuff, and eat Aussie food.  This sounded great to us, because my husband and I love goingto Sydney and exploring the heritage stuff. ie 'The rocks' where the first settleres lived, the harbor, the beauty of it all.
I know these guys where only two Americans, but I seemed more interest in the sites then they did. They enjoyed going to the zoo and seeing kangaroos (fair enough). But seemed nonchalant on the ferry ride across the harbor to get their.
Are much discussion about where we should eat (we though a trip to Harry's Cafe de wheels would be cool) we ended up at.....The Hard Rock cafe. What was worse was that a bunch of kids from their team (they came over in a group), all ended up their that night.
I was somewhat shocked. The food at that place is putrid. These guys seemed like they had never eaten in a cafe (cafe's are very popular aussie eating places, they are a huge step above fastfood, and far less formal then a restaurant). Is this obsessions with fast food normal?

Our idea of fastfood is the occasional chinese takeaway, or a good pizza from a proper pizza joint (not the chain stores).

Is this the norm in America?

(I should add that these are very nice people, I was just shocked at the differences in cultural appreciation)

Aussie Chick
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Oops I should add.

It may be called 'The hard rock cafe' but it is not the kind of cafe I am tlaking about!!!

Aussie Chick
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

I'm sorry, Aussie Chick, but I got distracted halfway through your monologue when you started talking about food.... I need to figure out what I'm going to eat later.

www.MarkTAW.com
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

> Say it laughingly with possible backslapping and everyone will understand you are kidding.

Actually that's not true. Usually when someone makes a "joke" about someone they're introducing, it's part of establishing a hierarchy. What it actually says is: "I'm more important than this guy."

.
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

> Say it laughingly with possible backslapping and everyone will understand you are kidding.

Being an Indian who has been to America a couple of times, I still find it difficult to digest the ironies and the hyperboles!!!.
To mention an incident ...

Being a softwre engineer, my knowledge of hardware was supposed to be rudimentay. My manager had a  problem with his hard disk and I was somehow able to fix it. On a client visit he introduced me as "The guy who knows everything about disks (you know what that sounded like not disks but d***s) Oh god ! mayhem resulted and I still cant think about that day.

Indian with an american perspecticve
Thursday, August 05, 2004

> I'm not so sure these are innapropriate in a formal business situation.  In my experience it is fairly common especially when you deal with sales and executive types.

Subtitle: "Don't worry if I seem to be lying to you. This isn't a good time for you to get all rational on me."

> "you have to watch out for this guy.  He's a very shady character"

Instead, how about something like "This is my good friend Paul. He works in sales."

Christopher Wells
Thursday, August 05, 2004

>I'm sorry, Aussie Chick, but I got distracted halfway through your monologue when you started talking about food.... I need to figure out what I'm going to eat later.

I do talk alot when you get to know me!!

Aussie Chick
Thursday, August 05, 2004

Americans are the nation of pussies. So shallow, so fucked up in the head so fucking clueless. Give them an SUV, a tivo and a case of beer they don't care if you bang their wives too much less courtesy, politics and common sense.

French perspective
Thursday, August 05, 2004

I mean, God I was talking to one of these jack ass (read graduated from NYU) Americans in New York the other day and he didn't know where the heck is Oregon.

I mean God. Litereally you could appoint a monkey to run this nation. So fucking fucked up.

French perspective
Thursday, August 05, 2004

http://www.guardian.co.uk/cartoons/stevebell/0,7371,1267847,00.html

caltrop
Thursday, August 05, 2004

"I do talk alot when you get to know me!! "

So you're saying a lively place, possibly Italian food?

www.MarkTAW.com
Thursday, August 05, 2004

Its fairly incredible that people can go the Rocks and end up at the Hard Rock café and not somewhere decent like the restaurant on the quay or even the pub halfway down the road to the Hyatt.

Simon Lucy
Thursday, August 05, 2004

The problem is not just cultural, the IT industry attracts a lot of autistic spectrum / Aspergers people and they will take things very literally because they are incapable of picking up the body language cues.

Ross
Thursday, August 05, 2004

It absolutely happens here in the UK as well, and it's not limited to the IT industry. When people have a close relationship as friends, colleagues, or whatever it is common to see someone introduced like that. I don't recall anyone ever taking it the wrong way.

James U-S
Thursday, August 05, 2004

While at the Rocks, drop in at the Globe Bar in the Observatory Hotel. Neat place.

KayJay
Thursday, August 05, 2004

thoughts on a few of the responses:
How is punching one's manager "passive-aggressive"?  It sounds more "agressive-agressive" or "violent-agressive".

Why doesn't the world have much of a choice with respect to american culture?  In america, those of us who enjoy anything other than standard american pop culture have very few choices because the majority of the people only want bland pop culture.  If this isn't the case in other countries than why so much american culture?  Do big american conglomerates control your governments?

As for americans, or anyone, going to the Hard Rock Cafe when on travel (or not) I am mystified.  When I was in college in the late 1980s it was, in my mind the peak of the Hard Rock Cafe thing.  I didn't know what it was but everywhere I saw people wearing Hard Rock Cafe tee-shirts. The gag was that they told the city in which the Cafe was situated so there was some cache to having one from an exotic place.  A guy in Chicago who had a "Hard Rock Cafe Sydney" looked really cool.  So one week we took a trip to New York City and our group decided to go to the Hard Rock Cafe.  I didn't know what to expect but was excited.  There was a line outside (like we were going to see Star Wars) and when we finally got inside...it was an f-ing burger joint with rock and roll memorabilia on the walls.

How does one metaphorically paint testicles (or more likely scrota)?

name withheld out of cowardice
Thursday, August 05, 2004

Oh and- "...not much fun in Stalingrad", one of the best.

name withheld out of cowardice
Thursday, August 05, 2004

name withheld out of cowardice:

<<<How does one metaphorically paint testicles (or more likely scrota)? >>>>

OH! GOD! Chi Chi Chi Chi !!!!!

How can you ever say/ask this in PUBLIC on FORUM !?

hahahaha! ;-)

An Indian Perspective:it's cultural thing
Thursday, August 05, 2004

One can metaphorically do pretty much anything, its one of the fun parts of language. 

Simon Lucy
Thursday, August 05, 2004

The Hard Rock Cafe in Bangkok was an interesting cultural experience - watching Thai youth mess with US culture. However, nothing on Earth would get me to eat in our local branch....

Air Condo Victim
Thursday, August 05, 2004

>Its fairly incredible that people can go the Rocks and end up at the Hard Rock café and not somewhere decent like the restaurant on the quay or even the pub halfway down the road to the Hyatt

Oh please, you don't need to tell this to me. There are stacks of wonderfully places that we eat at when we go there. Gorgeous places with character and nice food. I couldn't believe it that we had to go there.

Aussie chick
Thursday, August 05, 2004

----" Actually that's not true. Usually when someone makes a "joke" about someone they're introducing, it's part of establishing a hierarchy. What it actually says is: "I'm more important than this guy." "------

Often, though for salesmen they could well be equals.

As for Americans chosing the Hard Rock Cafe, I think we need to remember that Americans travel abroad a lot less than we do. Partly because holidays are shorter.

Stephen Jones
Friday, August 06, 2004

"In the Midlands it was not uncommon for the women on the shop floor to strip new comers (that are male) and paint their testicles as their initiation ceremony, either in fact or metaphorically . . ."

This is true. They tried to do it to my Dad when he was an apprentice in Birmingham but he got away. Someone tried to do it to me too (not female !) when I doing summer work in a salt factory and I only got away with it by putting my hand in the dye bucket and threatening to put a semi-permanent blue palmprint on the guys fat sweaty baldy head.

ps. That's the original Birmingham, not Alabama.

bluebutt
Friday, August 06, 2004

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