Couples From Around The World Who Speak Different Languages Share Their Hilarious Misunderstandings

Couples From Around The World Who Speak Different Languages Share Their Hilarious Misunderstandings

One of the most important elements of building a successful relationship, particularly a marriage, is communication. It may not always be easy to see eye to eye, but being able to effectively communicate with your spouse and understand one another is critical in making sure both of your needs are being met.

That being said, every relationship has its problems and obstacles. And as far as communication goes, those issues tend to be particularly thorny in relationships when the spouses have a language barrier. Just take it from the following people, who recently shared stories about their most hilarious misunderstandings with partners speak a different native language.


51. Puppy Love

When I first met my now wife, she thought every baby animal should be prefixed with puppy, as in puppy dog.

So there were puppy cats, puppy birds, puppy sheep, puppy horses etc... It was gold. It was so funny that nobody told her it was wrong.

She got me back by teaching me how to say "I'm tired" as "I'm stupid" in her language. So when we moved to her country to live, revenge was taken.


50. 'Tis The Season

I met my wife while I was in Italy for some training (U.S. Army). Her second day in the states, we went to Walmart (gotta break her in quick), and she wanted to buy some basil. She pretty much dragged me to the "Seasonal" aisle because basil MUST be there.


49. Throw This

My wife's native language is Romanian.

My wife said she got 'emotionated' once (i.e. "emotional").

When she wants me to throw something in the garbage she just says, "throw this."

She refers to inanimate objects with "he" or "she" pronouns. Like, "We need a new clock. She stopped working."

She refers to toes as fingers and the whole arms as hands. For example, she will say, "I hurt my hand" and point to her elbow.

I told her younger brother to behave once and he responded with, "I am have!"


48. Down Under Confusion

I'm with an Aussie. 'Thongs' were a very exciting but confusing subject.



47. What The Ship

My cousin’s wife is from Spain. The first time she came to our American family reunion she was so excited about the wildlife (we do a camping/hiking trip every two years).

She came back to the group after a day of hiking and was excited to tell us about the “ship” she saw. Obviously, we were confused and after a few rounds of back and forth, she was getting pretty frustrated. Her response: “You know, a freaking ship! Baaaaa.”

She’d seen a big-horned sheep and we only caught on after her sound effects.


46. Carting Around

My wife is Swedish, I am American. We are fluent in each other's languages, so our screw-ups are way more noticeable and funny.

We arrive at a store in the U.S. (Target, I think) and she tells me to go get a "shart" and walks away into some aisle. I freeze, pondering what the heck she meant, while stifling my laughter. At this point, there is some distance between us (as I had no idea how to process her request) and she yells angrily across the store: "WE NEED A SHART!" and gestures to the front of the store.

I start dying of laughter as I realize she means for me to get a shopping "cart" and I quickly run over to her and explain that she was using the wrong word. Fine. It happens. "But why are people looking at me weird?" I had to explain what "shart" meant as well. The look on her face was priceless.

Didn't help that she was looking around in the pants section of the store afterwards.


45. Bite Your Tongue

Once, I jokingly called my Brazilian wife a little piranha because she was devouring her food.

Turns out it’s slang for something mean about women in Brazil.


44. Not A Nice Nickname

She didn't like it when I jokingly called our son Buster, because she thought I was calling him a b-word.

But generally, we have no problems with communication. Her written English is far better than mine, and she's generally fine with the spoken language unless it gets too slangy.


43. Wide-ly Different Adjectives

First time she saw my privates, my wife gasped and told me it was “wide” (pronounced why-duh), which got me excited (nobody ever said that before, all this time I thought it was below average), but nearly a year later I found out that it meant “crooked” in her native tongue (she didn’t know the word for crooked).

And yes, the shame does burn.


42. Domestic Dispute

My ex would use the term "aggressive" in place of "sexually excited." She comes home from work one day and was a little freaked out. Apparently, someone at work misunderstood and thought she was being abused. She got pulled into HR and told about the resources available to her. She was scared they called the cops and we would end up having trouble with ICE. All because she was a little blasé about our sex life. Why are you so tired? "Oh my boyfriend was so aggressive last night and kept us up," or "He was so aggressive that the couch got broke," etc.

Funny thing was I warned her about it dozens of times.



41. Beautiful Mess Up

When I was first flirting with my now-husband, he texted me, "Goodnight, Linda." My name ain't Linda. He's Dominican and it means "beautiful" in Spanish. That, or it was a clever cover for that two-timer texting someone named Linda...


40. Horsing Around

I had a short phase where I would say "crap" a lot. My wife isn't a big swearer, but one day we were texting about something that happened at work and she says to me "It's total horse crap!" Had we been speaking, I never would have noticed.

I was both appalled by how vulgar she was and also overjoyed with how much funnier horse crap is. Greatest day of my life.


39. Eye See The Problem Here

My wife is Chinese and oh man is this one ever bad.

In China, a lot of people get plastic surgery to give themselves a second eye fold. It’s called “shuang yan pi.” "Shuang" is double, "yan" is eye, "pi" is skin. Double eye skin. Got it? But flip “yan pi” to “pi yan” and now you’re saying “butthole.” Chinese is a tightrope walk where you’re an inch away from a terrifying misinterpretation at any moment.

At this point, we’re dating and it's early in the relationship. I’m meeting her best friend for the first time and I am determined to make a good impression. So, we’re down in the food court of some Chinese shopping mall and I know that her friend has recently done the surgery. Great. Free conversation topic, but I accidentally flip 'yan' and 'pi': “You have a nice double butthole!” I say, like an idiot. “What?” they both reply in unison. My wife’s jaw has dropped; I don’t notice. I'm guessing they haven’t heard me. So here I am, practically yelling over the noisy cafeteria crowd, “YOU HAVE TWO BUTTHOLES! THEY LOOK GOOD!”

At this point my wife is urgently telling me to shut up: whatever I am trying to say, I’m saying it really wrong. I'm still loudly repeating it, though, but now I'm motioning to my eye, "DOUBLE BUTTHO--" and my now-wife grabs my arm and says, "Just describe what you mean."

We eventually figure it out. I've never lived it down.


38. Cutting Where It Hurts

A friend of mine is from Spain and was working as a Teaching Assistant in a school. She'd lived in the UK for a few years and understood quite a few of idiosyncrasies of UK English but got this one hilariously wrong.

Whilst she was on the playground, a child tripped and hurt themselves. She went over to help and (I don't know whether this is particularly prevalent in other places) tried to do the jokey thing where you look at an child's injury (normally a grazed knee or something) and pretend that the limb or whatever will have to be cut off. She got it slightly wrong, however, and said to this screaming child in a sing-songy voice, "I'm going to cut you!" with a large grin on her face.

Cue child freaking out and an apologetic phone call to the parents.

37. Deep Love

Not my husband, but dated a Persian guy for almost two years.

He looked me in the eye with so much tenderness, and said, "I love you from the heart of my bottom."


36. Different Meanings

My husband learned English from school/studying so he isn't very good with swear words. We were sat in a bar with another couple who started having an argument. The woman stormed off, shouting "You just don't give a f___." My husband turned to me and said, "They don't have sex?"

18800-1548789655327.jpgDavid Goehring/Flickr


35. Little Off Tune

While working in a dairy farm, we were allowed to listen to music. The supervisor went up to my Dutch friend and asked her what kind of music she was listening to. She replied "autistic music." The supervisor looked at her weird, then walked off (I should mention we were also working with an autistic kiwi). It took Dana two hours thinking about the weird encounter to realise she said AUTISTIC instead of ACOUSTIC! We couldn't stop laughing for the rest of the shift.


34. In The Middle

I'm Canadian and he's French. We were trying to decide what show we should download and watch together and he excitedly blurts out "Malcom in between!" I usually try to restrain myself from laughing when he tries to say certain words or phrases in English so he doesn't get discouraged but dang I couldn't hold in my laughter for this!


33. Scarred For Life

When my daughter was a baby, her dad started calling her puta, his little puta, his little putapotamus etc. Neither he nor I speak Spanish, and I thought it was just some made up name. Years later we were at his grandmother's house and several of his sisters-in-law speak Spanish. One of them pulled me to the side and asked why he called her that. Then she told me that, in Spanish, puta means something bad about women. Apparently, they'd been wondering for the longest time if he questioned her paternity, etc. since he kept calling her that.

I told my husband what it meant. He said he'd heard the name but didn't realize it was a bad word. I asked him where he heard it and he said in the movie Scarface. Tony Montana called someone puta. I was stunned. Why in the world would you think anything Tony Montana was saying could be a term of endearment?


32. A Real Eyebrow-Raiser

I dated a Turkish girl. One day she told me I needed to brush my dishes before we left to go out. Turns out "dis," pronounced "dish" means tooth. Another one happened all of the time. For me, raising your eyebrows means "what?" but Turks use it to say "no." So I would ask a question, she would raise her eyebrows, I would ask it again, more eyebrows...


31. A Little Noodley

My girlfriend was telling me her dog had to get noodled soon. I was like "What do you mean he has to get noodled? Is that a weird Asian thing where you hit him with noodles or something?" And she goes, "You know noodled! So he can't have babies anymore!"


30. Anti-Baby Pills

My German ex-boyfriend asked me if I had taken my "anti-baby pill" yet. I completely lost it laughing. Turns out that's the direct translation of the birth control pill in German. More than a decade later I still sometimes refer to it as an anti-baby pill.




29. Eating Like A Bird

We both speak fluent English but he’s American, I’m Australian. He was telling me about how his baby sister tried to eat a “crane.” He was saying “crayon.”


28. That Would Be Some Weird Juice

My dad only spoke English, while my mom’s native language is Spanish. One breakfast morning, he asked her parents to pass the jugo de araña and was promptly met with confused/horrified looks.

Jugo de naranja = orange juice.

Jugo de araña = spider juice.

We were originally going to be raised bilingual, but my dad was so bad at Spanish that he became unable to understand us as toddlers, so they decided to stop. My first few words were in Spanish, but I can only speak English now.


27. Running Into A Mistake

My friend is married to a woman who speaks good English, but her reading isn’t great. He was just telling me yesterday that she saw him putting cream on his feet before running to avoid blisters. Next time she went to the store, she bought what looked like the right cream. It said “athletes foot” on it and he was an athlete who needed foot cream. Cue a very confused conversation where he explains that athletes foot and AN athlete’s foot are different things, and gives her the name of the cream he uses.


26. A Pretty Cheesy Holiday

My boyfriend’s brother tried to say “Blessed Christmas” in Afrikaans, “Geseende Kersfees,” but instead he said, “Geseende Kaasfees” which translates to “Blessed Cheese Fest.” Personally a holiday I’d prefer.


25. Go Fish

My boyfriend turned to me one day and asks, “how do I mine fish?” I had no idea what he was talking about and the more I asked questions the more frustrated he became. It took a good five minutes to realize he was asking me how to fish.


24. Arresting Mistake

When we first started dating, I used a few times the french word for lease (bail) while talking about my apartment which led to some weird looks.

"I have to go downtown to sign my bail before moving in next week," or "I am not responsible for fixing the porch light, it says so in my bail contract."

18829-1548792668877.jpgRental Realities/Flickr

23. An Eventual Happy Meal

Not to me, but the McDonald's drive thru. He was ordering a McFluffy. I was like "what the heck," but didn't say anything. The poor crew kept repeating "McFluffy? We don't have that, sir." My husband kept repeating and getting frustrated. I couldn't laugh 'cause he was starting to get mad. It turns out he wanted to order a McFlurry sundae.

18815-1548791153254.jpgDavid Berkowitz/Flickr

22. Oh, The Irony

I’m dating a girl that’s a non-native speaker and at one point I made a comment about how she could buy me a dinner or something like that as a joke.

She texted me back with, “Wow, you’re such an iron c*ck!” At this point we had not slept together.

And I saw that and I just started LAUGHING HYSTERICALLY.

I was like, “Hahahahaha. Um thanks, but what?”

She’s like, “You know, like a male chicken, except made of iron.”

I was like, “What are you trying to say?”

She takes a second to respond, I assume she’s looking it up in the dictionary.

“Um, a miser?”

So then we learned that the term “iron c*ck” had very different definitions in Chinese and English.

The phrase in Chinese is 铁公鸡 (tie gong ji), literally "iron male chicken," so I can understand her confusion.


21. A Very Agreeable Spouse

Probably hilarious to outsiders, but incredibly frustrating to me at times.

In Japanese, you respond to every few words with a grunt to indicate you’re listening. You also grunt as a casual way to say "yes."

So my significant other likes to say “yes” to confirm the conversation is happening if we are speaking in English. This leads to conversations like the following far more often than you would imagine:

Me: Should we eat pizza tonight?

Her: Yes.

Me: I’ll go get it.

Her: Get what?

Me: Pizza.

Her: Yes.

Me: Okay then.

Her: What?

Me: Huh?

Her: Where are you going?

Me: To get the pizza.

Her: What pizza?

Me: The pizza you just said you wanted.

Her: I didn’t say that.

Me: You didn’t say you wanted pizza?

Her: Yes.

Me: Yes you did, or yes you didn’t say that?

Her: Yes.

Me: Do you want pizza!?

Her: Yes.

Me: Then why did you say you didn’t!?

Her: What?

Me: You! Pizza? Yes or no!?

Her: Yes.

Me: Yes pizza?

Her: No. No pizza.

Me: Gaaaaahhhh.

Her: You’re so angry.

At least once a week.


20. A Lesson In Geography

This is kind of family lore at this point, so I'm not sure how true, but my great-grandmother was French and my great-grandfather was American. They met in France, and then moved back to Missouri, where he was from. Eventually, he got a new job that meant they would have to move to Oklahoma. He told my great-grandmother, only she didn't know what Oklahoma was and thought he was saying, "Yokohama." She agreed to it even then, thinking, "Well, I already moved across one ocean with him..."


19. For Heaven's Sake

My aunt’s husband is from Mexico, and when he first came to America, he had an understandably difficult time comprehending English perfectly, and being understood perfectly. My grandmother’s name is Laurie, and being a devout Christian, she would make sure that every meal was prayed over.

Eventually, my uncle begins refusing to participate in the prayers, not bowing his head or holding hands, nothing. Just sitting there looking irritated. It sparks some huge arguments between my aunt and my uncle. My aunt finally blows and says, “Dude, you don’t have to be Christian or lead the prayers, but can you quit being a jerk and at least hold hands with the family?”

My uncle said, “No! I don’t know why your family has to pray to your mother at every single meal!” Naturally, my aunt gives him a what-are-you-even-talking-about face. My uncle then says, “Every single meal, you guys always say ‘Thank you, Laurie, for this food and bless it to our bodies.’ Why are you praying to your mother?”

He thought they were saying Laurie, my grandmother’s name, instead of Lord, and had a moral obligation to not take part in the blasphemy. Pretty funny now, he gets super embarrassed when we bring it up.


18. A Tough Choice

I'm French, my husband is American. Since my English is pretty good, he tends to forget English isn't my first (or even second) language.

At a restaurant, a waitress asked me if I wanted "a soup or salad" with my meal, but I heard "Do you want a super salad?" I was confused and answered, "Yes," because, sure, a super-sized salad sounded good. The waitress came back later with a bowl of soup, and I asked, "Where's my salad?" My husband got legit super mad at me and told me to "never do that again."

Then I reminded him that people with thick accents are super hard for me to understand because english is not my freaking first language. He apologized.


17. Real Ready For Dinner

I'm constantly correcting the fact that she uses the word "rare" instead of "weird" when talking about how weird something is. She'll say "that's rare" or "that sounds so rare" or some other variation. In Spanish, "raro" is used to describe weirdness. I laugh because of the irony.

Recently she asked do you know the names of your hand fingers. They don't have names for toes.

Awhile ago, we were talking about future plans for food. At the end, she just randomly said, "Bring it on." I looked confused and whatnot. In Spanish, they have a common response ("dale") that kinda contextually translates to "okay." She was directly translating the word which is like "bring it" or "bring it on."


16. Cute Case Of Money Laundering

Not married, but we live together. There are tons of little things, but the most recent one: Chinese people can only buy $50,000 USD per year, which isn't quite enough when paying for international grad tuition, so her American money is somewhat limited. As a result, we often do this trick where she pays for things with her Chinese credit card, settles in Yuan with the credit card company and then I send her half of the bill in USD so that she doesn't have to use up her limited supply and gets a little extra for when she needs cash in the future.

Anyway, the first time we did this, I suggested it and she got excited and said "Yeahhh! Let's do some money laundry!" It was adorable.

Other than that it's mostly just American phrases that she doesn't know the meaning of, or her not knowing the exact phrase and saying something similar. I can't think of any off the top of my head, but think something like "It's a piece of pie."


15. A Sketchy Shadow

I am American and he is German.

Once, when talking about him shaving, I mentioned something about men with "5 o'clock shadow."

His English is normally very, very good, so I was shocked when the conversation completely derailed and said he didn't have any idea why I would bring that up.

Well, for whatever reason, it turned out he interpreted this as meaning that all men were spooky as of 5 p.m. and I never let him live it down.

18825-1548792234655.jpgTony Alter/Flickr

14. Bloody Funny

Not married, but my girlfriend thought all bleeding or blood was called "period."

I found out when she got a nosebleed and she said, “I have a period from the nose.”

18826-1548792322717.jpgErik E Castro/Flickr

13. A Literally True Taxi Story

My girlfriend often misused the word "literally." One day we were driving along and she was telling me a story about how one of her friends was in a taxi and the driver was speeding and racing through red lights. She was like, "Yeah, he was literally pooping himself."

I was trying to explain the meaning of the word "literally" between laughs. Saying things like: "It's fine to say 'I flew out the door, this morning,' but when you say 'I literally flew out the door,' then people think you're trying to say that you actually levitated." But she insisted: "Yeah, he was literally pooping himself!" I was in stitches, laughing. "You're not getting it," I said, then tried explaining again, using some more examples.

Then finally, after around two minutes she was like, "I think he had that irritable bowel syndrome or something, he was literally pooping himself." She'd been using the word correctly the whole time, and meant the guy was actually crapping himself in the taxi. We both started laughing for around five minutes straight. I apologized for being such a patronizing idiot. But yeah, it was early in the relationship, and is still one of the things we've laughed most about.


12. Cold Feet

My best one isn't really a misunderstanding, it was just a language flub on my part. I was practicing the wedding vows for our Shinto-style wedding, and my wife and I think a friend of hers was in the room listening, and the last word is supposed to be "chikaimasu" meaning "I vow," and I said "chigaimasu" meaning "I'm making a mistake." We almost hurt ourselves laughing so hard, but both my wife and I were a bit nervous during the actual ceremony! Thankfully I did not repeat my mistake!


11. That Escalated Quickly

I had to explain to a former coworker (whose native language is Arabic) that the expression is, “You made your bed and now you have to lie in it,” not, “You made your bed, now go to jail.”


10. Farm Talk

When I was dating my wife, she told me she was taking me to see a popodai farm. There will be popodais everywhere, you can touch small popodais, they have an awesome popodai show and you can even eat popodais! I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about, but more I asked, more she got frustrated, so I just went with it.

Two hours later I was like "AHHH, CROCODILE FARM!"

I spend the rest of the day making fun of her. Then we met her friend. And she asked her, how do you say "crocodile" in English? Her friend looked me dead in the eyes and said "POPODAI"! I lost it there...


9. Watch Your Mouth

When we first started dating, my Swedish husband would use a particular phrase -- "kn*lla I munnen" -- to describe delicious food. I picked up on it because he repeated it a lot.

A couple months later, we went out to dinner with his Swedish mom. It was my first time meeting her and I wanted to impress her with my knowledge of Swedish. So when we first tasted our food, I said it was "kn*lla I munnen." She went kind of silent and just looked down at her plate. My husband's eyes grew wider than his plate.

It was super awkward for rest of the dinner and I didn't get why. Translation of this phrase in Swedish (husband told me later): "like a f*** in the mouth."


8. Do You Understand The Words That Are Coming Out Of My Mouth?!

I have a German wife. This might be a little hard to understand in text, but I'll give it a shot.

There's a cadence to the "yes" and "no" sounds. When you say "mm-hmm," the tone starts low and rises. "Uh-uh" is the opposite. But apparently in Germany, to say "yes," they make a rising "hmm" sound, which sounds just like a question in English. So we had (and still have rounds) of me asking a question, her saying yes, and me thinking she didn't understand and asking again. Usually culminating in one of us getting annoyed.

finn-hackshaw-737903-unsplash-200x300.jpgPhoto by Finn Hackshaw on Unsplash

7. Puppy Chickens

My husband's native language is Spanish, mine is English. He doesn’t get sarcasm at all. He also uses “anything” for “nothing,” and “anyone,” for “no one.”

My favorite though has to be when we were on a road trip and he was trying to say “chick” but he didn’t know the word, so he described them as “puppy chickens.”

Our early relationship was filled with constant miscommunications over text, when his English was still a little rough. It can be both adorable and stressful.

6. Shata

I'm Indian, and switch between two or three Indian languages while speaking with my family and friends, and I speak great English. Husband is American and knows only English.

Typically our misunderstandings are because he's only heard a word said, not spelled, and when I've only seen a word spelled and not said. We were once confused about hors d'oeuvres. It took us an hour to realize what was being said.

So unbeknownst to me, I cuss a lot, and one common curse I use is 'shata' which in kannada means pubes. I didn't know I said it that frequently, but my husband picked up on it. He didn't ask me what it meant, he assumed it meant something like 'omg'. In practice, it can be used to mean 'bupkis', but usually it's seen as a very rude, uncultured, uncouth word.

We went to meet my friends. They were being oddly formal around him because my husband comes off as a very serious, focused, quiet person. They ask him if he's learning any Indian languages, and then in a serious voice he said 'i know shata'.

They double over laughing hard, falling off their chairs at a serious looking white man saying 'shata' so casually, and seriously at a fancy Italian restaurant, especially in a grammatically and contextually correct sentence.

I had no idea I used that word that often around him, or that he actually picked up on it and remembered it, and the whole time I was like 'how do you know that word?'.

5. DPD

This is the story of how my boyfriend involuntary "insulted" a very homophobic guy because of a language incomprehension.

My boyfriend and I went to visit a friend in Germany. I can only understand German and he speaks it perfectly. We are French. On the road, we noticed large trucks of a company named 'DPD', voiced 'deypeydey' in French, which means "gay men".

A few days later, we were eating with our friend, her roommate and some other guests. The roommate told us he had found a job at DPD but my boyfriend was in the restroom so he didn't hear it. When he came back, finding it funny (because the roommate is both mean and homophobic), I told him what I learned in French : "Marian works for DPD".

But in the meantime, my boyfriend had completely forgotten about the DPD company. Astonished, he asked me to repeat several times. I didn't understood he had misunderstood, so I confirmed "yes he works for DPD".

Then he slowly turned over the roommate and asked him in German "I heard you worked for gay men!?". The man was voiceless and angry. My German was not good so I understood the mixup but couldn't correct my bf immediately.

Then, we tried to explain but he didn't find it funny at all. He avoided us the rest of our stay, eating alone on a dead tree when we were eating at the garden table.

hannah-busing-592809-unsplash-300x200.jpgPhoto by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

4. Killer Music Festival

I'm English and I was at Sweden Rock Festival with a Swedish friend of mine. I was telling her about two men I'd met at the festival who were complaining non-stop about everything, including the fact that so many people at the festival had dyed their hair unnatural colours. I said to her, "They even complained about how many people have dyed hair!" My Swedish friend looked absolutely appalled and gasped, "People have died here?"


3. The Perfect Pear

Visiting my wife's family in Colombia, I was shopping on my own and saw some pears in the supermarket, so I bought one to eat on the way home. Turned out it was super juicy and dripped onto my shirt. When I walked into the house my wife asked, "Que pasó con tu camisa?" (What happened to your shirt?).

I should have replied, "Fue porque comí una pera," but what I actually said was "...comi una perra," which is only a slight difference in pronunciation. (To me. anyway, a native speaker would never make this mistake.) But there's a huge difference between eating a pear and eating a sex worker.

That was a few years ago and her family still love to tell the story.


2. "Nuh Uh"

My brother (American) married a Korean woman who is fluent in English but grew up speaking Korean at home. My brother has learned some Korean and speaks some with her. They have had many misunderstandings. I have all these stories second-hand, but here goes:

For one thing, in Korean "Nuh-uh" means something like "Okay." In American slang, the same sound means something like "No way!" So my brother would refuse or deny something and she would think he was agreeing. This started arguments.

While they were dating, my brother began learning Korean, often asking his girlfriend for help. He was meeting her parents at a very formal dinner in a fancy restaurant. He excused himself to the restroom in Korean, as he had been taught. Only, as a joke, she had taught him the preschool version of the phrase. He essentially stood up and told her parents "I have to go tinkle in the potty."

When they were ready to get married, there were even more misunderstandings. Being a Southern American man, my brother did what he thought was the correct thing and flew to Korea to ask her parents' permission to marry her. They were terribly confused and basically said "Why are you asking us? She can decide for herself!" They also thought that the families would split the bill for the wedding right down the middle, instead of the American tradition of the bride's family paying for almost everything. Really, almost everything about planning an American wedding was very confusing for my SIL.

I did this one, and it's cultural rather than linguistic: Before their wedding, our families exchanged gifts. I was handing a gift to her mother, and as she unwrapped it, I realized I had left the price sticker on. I was terribly embarrassed by the mistake. I apologized, grabbed the gift back, and scratched the sticker off. My embarrassment was made worse because his mother looked pretty offended. I apologized profusely, but she still looked pissed. Later, my brother explained to me that in Korea, reciprocity is very important and leaving the price sticker on a gift is perfectly acceptable. She had no idea why I would try to disguise the value of the gift I had gotten her and thought I had been deliberately rude.

filios-sazeides-540219-unsplash-200x300.jpgPhoto by Filios Sazeides on Unsplash

1. More Of A Jersey Mikes Person

My wife's from Brazil and her english was really good but not quite fluent when we met. She's able to get along pretty well in day to day life, but there are a few times that subtleties of language have caused problems.

There was a time at work someone asked her if she wanted to go to Subway for lunch. she said "thanks, but I don't like Subway." and her co-workers went off to Subway. They never invited her again.

She was a little irritated and hurt that they didn't invite her again. but when she asked why they never invited her, they had to sort it out and explain that in American English, "I don't like X" is interpreted as a universal and absolute statement: "I don't like X, never and under any circumstances." In contrast, "I don't want X," is more fluid: "I an not interested in X at this moment, but I am open to X in the future." Compare "I don't like pizza" with "I don't want pizza."

raphael-nogueira-435170-unsplash-300x200.jpgPhoto by Raphael Nogueira on Unsplash