As an English teacher you may find yourself on a job placement in a different country and environment. Each country will have its own cultural and linguistic differences from the country you were born in. It is worth acquainting yourself with these differences prior to starting your job, as it will save you the possibility of causing offence to your students.
The author of this article, Virginia has worked all over Europe as an English teacher. She is now a freelance proofreader for this company.
Be very careful about the topics you discuss in the classroom. One of the biggest taboos is to talk about in France is money and personal wealth. Other topics that should be avoided include immigration and the European Union.
The standard American hand gesture for OK (touching the thumb with the index finger) is not recognized in France.
If one of your students covers their mouth with their hands it means they have made a mistake.
The Germans are very efficient and they are great timekeepers. It is considered extremely rude to be late, much more so than in other European countries.
Avoid chewing gum in both in class and in public.
Do not discuss personal wealth with anyone.
The American hand gesture for OK actually refers to a personal female body part in Germany, so avoid using it.
If you are dining out with other teachers or friends then you should wait until everyone has received their meal and everyone is ready to eat before you start eating.
It is thought to be bad luck to wish another person a happy birthday before the actual day.
Do not chew gum in the classroom or in public. Also avoid eating while you walk as this is considered rude.
If you are being introduced to a large group of teachers at your school you should take the time to shake each individual's hand. A communal wave or nod of the head is not really an acceptable greeting to Italians.
The standard American sign for hunger (placing your hand over your stomach) means a different thing in Italy. It actually means that you dislike a certain person or thing, so avoid using it.
The United Kingdom
There aren't that many cultural rules you need to remember while teaching in the United Kingdom. In fact you would have to do something quite bad to cause offence in a lot of establishments in comparison Asian countries.
The standard American hand gesture for OK is recognized by UK nationals.
As with most other European countries it is best to avoid discussing personal wealth with people who you don’t know really well.
These taboos are generally written in in the perspective of someone who is coming to teach from a Western country. However if you are coming from an Asian country there will be many more things you need to consider as the cultural differences are much more varied coming from an Asian country. One of the main things is the food differences, in most European countries it is considered unacceptable to eat dog or rat meat, although in France horse meat is consumed.