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Comparative culture

Don't be offended

• In Ireland, somebody in a shop or pub will probably ask you "are y'alright?" It might sound like an implication, but it's not. It's just a form of greeting,* and a way of asking "may I help you?"

• In Holland, someone may ask you "are you tired?" It's only a polite question. It shows concern for your well-being.

• If you don't bring proper change into a Romanian shop, you may have to pay extra....

• The Germans might be concerned about what you eat....

• In Spain when you want a second beer and ask for una cerveza, the barkeep will consistently refer to it as "otra cerveza" ("another beer.") That's not an implication about your drinking. It is normal** to ask for "another beer" after the first one. Otherwise, it apparently doesn't sound right.

Don't be offended.

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* "Are y'alright" can also be a way of confronting you, if you're acting the bollocks or doing something that the speaker thinks you shouldn't. Again, it means roughly "may I help you" — the tone of voice expressing one's implication.

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  • Return to "a way of greeting you" ...


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* This habit of refering to the second and proceeding beers as "another beer" may have to do with the way drinks are totted up. Typically, at least in the cafés that I went to in Seville, this involves paying not as you drink but as you leave. From this comes "Si bebes para olvidar, paga antes que empezar," which doesn't make sense in English because there's no such tradition in anglophonia.

Some barkeeps will calculate the "tab" in chalkmarks atop the counter in front of you. Some will keep the record on paper, and some will remember. Some will just ask you how many beers you had.


  ↑ Return to "normal to ask" ...

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