Cultural differences

i came across this article today. i got me thinking about how we all have international guests on occasion. i suspect this leaves room for diminished reviews simply because of cultural misunderstandings. i found it interesting.

Many of these are a bit over the top. Just like we give foreigners understanding for their differences, I have often (not always) found that so do other cultures with us. I pictured myself laughing heartily (mouth open), tearing into a pile of gifts and eating my plate bare at our lovely Japanese friends home in Japan. They still seem to like us, so obviously the offense wasn’t too much to bear.

Being Australian, I can attest that we do usually choose to sit in the front with the cabbie, because we’re really friendly people, and of course there will be some chatting. We don’t treat the can driver like a chaufeur, they are an equal giving us a lift. I always get a shock going back home as this is the first thing I notice - how interested the cabbie is in talking to me, and how friendly he/she is.

I also have to say the always asking ‘what do you do’ that happens in the US was quite an affront to me to begin with for the reasons mentioned in the article. I like to get to know who a person is, not what they do for a job, whereas I found people in the US to be very focused on employment. It’s a very competitive, hardworking environment. The longest hours, shortest holidays, so I guess it makes sense that people’s identities are so tied into what they do for a job.

The left hand thing is definitely true in India, Pakistan and Middle East. But, people cut us a lot of slack (not about the left hands! Eek!). The main thing that people struggle with when Americans travel is how loud they are, as some have much louder voices than other people and are often not aware that everyone else does not want to have to hear about their holiday or Aunt Susan’s great meal last night. i think Americans value a loud environment somehow, it seems exciting and social. But most other cultures value the ability to hear themselves think and talk and don’t really want strangers conversations imposed on them. Also, most other people don’t speak as loudly - except the Italians, but I haven’t been there to see if this is publicly or more in their own homes.

I have to say that when I first came to the US, I was really shocked by how loudly people would talk into their cell phones, walking around stores, wherever, almost yelling into their phones, oblivious that everyone else was being forced to hear about how Judy and Barbara had their hair done at the new place in town and said they liked the hairdresser, he even set their hair with rollers, and they got a glass of champagne for the first week of opening, but they aren’t sure about the receptionist, she seemed a bit snooty, and her streaks are a bit too blonde they thought… It’s almost as if some people are not aware of those around them, and don’t have a volume control, they only speak LOUD. But, I’ve adjusted :smile:

As we all know, all cultures carry over different things that don’t fit in as well as they did back home - just check out some other discussions here!

What I have struggled with most in my airbnb in the US, is that Americans have been shown above almost all countries to be the most demanding, and to complain the most in surveys, and I agree that they do have really high expectations. I think we have learned that we can get what we want by making noise, and complaints often result in a company bending over backwards to avoid a bad review - so this spills over to airbnb from companies like eBay, Amazon, and department stores that have been happily accepting returns despite being used for goodness knows how long first. We’re spoiled. Even I am a bit like this now, apt to leave a negative review on a product that disappoints if it doesn’t live up to expectations! I have been very lucky to have avoided any negative reviews, I am just super aware of the high expectations, and that a potential complainer is around the corner. I have dealt with exceptionally demanding guests that behaved in ways I could never personally behave - constantly expecting extras, nothing seemed good enough etc. Thankfully many are just thrilled and it’s enough to keep me going.

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This is funny, I sometimes offer rides to my guests, and I am always shocked when they sit in the backseat of my car like I’m some sort of cab driver (so far this has only happened with young overseas Asian guests). Sometimes I let it pass but I usually bark at them to behave like Americans and sit in front. Americans generally hate taking off their shoes. Chinese sometimes tend to be messy, perhaps because it is a child-worshipping culture and their parents spoil their children growing up - boys especially – the mothers usually are responsible for being the cleaners and cooks and the children are ordered to focus on their studies.


Lol cs2015, I wonder if they are treating you like the chauffeur, they will also be considering you the maid, and perhaps waitress during their visit? Very awkward. But this one of the reasons I don’t ferry guests around.

I totally agree about Americans and their resistance to removing shoes. I now have in my house rules that I prefer guests to remove their shoes, yet every single guest that arrives asks me hesitantly, ‘do you want us to remove our shoes?’ Well duh! I wouldn’t have put it in my house rules if I didn’t, but here they are pressuring me to let them off the hook, and most times I can’t be bothered starting the visit this way so I say ‘oh, only if they’re dirty’, which of course they are, all shoes are - but no one removes their shoes. I have to toughen up, because I have to put up with people dragging mud and dirt and sand and everything into the home, and it really is wrecking our hardwood floors and Persian rugs.

I have only had one set of Chinese guests, but that was enough for me. I ascertained what you described, an incredible sense of entitlement and spoiled boy attitude from the guy, and he was like an bull in a china shop- broke anything he came into contact with, seemingly because he didn’t think they were worth being careful with, or because he didn’t think there would be consequences - or I think, both. He was also rude, treated everyone as servants, and saying thank you or showing any kind of appreciation wasn’t in his vocabulary. I guess it was just expected. A real pity, because these aren’t the kind of people you want to spend time around unfortunately. The woman acted sweet and weak, but she knew her husband was a jerk who was ready to turn abusive and lie and fight, so when it did come time for consequences for damaged items, instead of dealing with it (it was her account), she just put him onto me, like one might a pit bull.

that’s interesting about the shoes sandy. so far, pretty much every guest through my door starts to take their shoes off. i quickly point out the only thing that will accomplish is picking up dog hair on their socks :slight_smile: maybe it’s just because my living room is carpeted.


I just gotta say - some of my best guests have been Chinese. I had a booking for several nights, a student, her parents, and grandparents. I was very anxious about the booking - only the student spoke Chinese. Of course, they were wonderful, grandma always tried to talk to me in Chinese, they went and did like champs, etc etc. Insisted that I come stay with them next time in China.

Just can’t ever tell, in my limited experience.

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Americans are more demanding true but it relates to the fact that many. Americans never left their country. Americans are less traveled than Many nations. It’s not the they can’t afford it , they don’t want to travel. Many fears: language, crime :grinning:, food, all too unfamiliar to deal with.
Customer always right is a rule in most busineses. If you didn’t like your food you don’t have to pay, if you don’t like your clothes you can bring it back. If you don’t likesomeones attitude a manager is called and most times you will be rewarded with a free dinner, free drinks and so on.
It’s unheard of for example in Europe. When after years of not being back in Europe I went there again I was shocked by rudeness and total lack of customer service. Then after many travelings I accustomed to it again.
Americans are demanding because they are raised in an environment where customer is always right and it’s totally ok to demand .


I didn’t know you were Australian Sandy! I think in NY, Americans there tend to be louder, as you described, A regional thing. I don’t think you would find that elsewhere in the U.S. across the board.

Good observations! And embarrassing for us Americans!

I’ve been here for ten years, so feel like I am practically American myself now. I think there are embarrassing observations to be made about every culture to be honest. I’m focusing on Americans (and I assume others are too) because that is our bread and butter for the most part - I know some hosts get a lot more variety in their visitors. There’s a lot of great things about Americans too :smile:

Growing up in a multicultural part of London, you become attuned to cultural differences, they exist, even in the same schools. But this whole argument that you can ascribe the generic cultural identity of a group to an individual is rubbish. I employed a Muslim man who put down drinking as one of his hobbies, have had some of the worst customer service ever in the US, know loads of Brits without a stuff upper lip, met Germans that are hopelessly disorganised and with a great sense of humour, French people who are not arrogant, Italians with terrible style, New Zealanders who don’t like rugby, vegetarian Brasilians, gay Russians, Indians who don’t like spices, etc etc etc. Having preconceived ideas about how people will behave because of where they come from is, imho, a pretty dumbass approach. My folks gave me loads of sage advice. One particularly pertinent here is “good people and dickheads can be found everywhere”. My experience of AirBnB supports that view.


True… at first I only had great Canadians so I thought they were all going to be great. Then I got two in a row who stunk. Then more Canadians who were great… so yeah… we really should not stereotype… HOWEVER, the ugly American abroad is something I have seen myself and unfortunately it seems to be an accurate stereotype… :frowning:

Mate. We are all more sensitive to our own countrywomen & men abroad. I worked with an American, a New Yorker no less, who was so far from the stereotypical ugly American, that she used to baulk at them all the time, even when there was nothing to fret about. That’s not to say they don’t exist, I have seen too many pissed and obnoxious England fans at away games across the world to know that there is a basis to all stereotypes. Just need to be cool with individuals, and let each of them tell you themselves if they are good people or dickheads.


There is such thing as cultural trate.

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I completely agree Yana. Clearly different cultures and countries will have behaviors that they find acceptable and even admirable that will be considered totally rude elsewhere. This is nothing to do with people being good people or dickheads. People may be either one, yet have cultural behaviors we find unappealing. It’s when they are open to learn and considerate in general (ie good people), we find them more tolerable then those that are not interested in understanding the culture or acceptable behaviors of the environment they are in. Nonetheless, that good person may still be grating and difficult to put up with if their behaviors are not brought into check to be respectful of the hosts culture. That’s why we discuss things like the loudness of some Americans when traveling. Not everyone is like this, and can find the behavior inconsiderate. The same goes for expecting everything to be the same as back home - especially when traveling in third world countries.

As an Australian, one of our traits is making a lot of jokes, and teasing each other. We find it a friendly way to break the ice, and if someone is teasing you about something (just in a light funny way of course), then it is to show affection. My husband however, being Canadian, has a completely different sense of humor. He just couldn’t get that I was joking, and I couldn’t believe that he couldn’t get the humor. Canadians are very different. Even Americans don’t seem to enjoy it, so I have essentially lost that whole side to my personality (actually every Australians personality!). But no point going around confounding and offending everyone. It’s meant to lighten the mood and make people feel good and happy. I had to adapt.

So I agree there is an element of both things going on. Although of course we are all unique, and some people totally don’t fit the standard, if you grew up in a particular country, you were subject to strong influences. Having visited Germany I can confirm there is an emphasis on punctuality and organization, although it is possible that some people may not be, most assuredly the country is run with incredible precision, trains always on time, roads, amazing engineering. Having spent many months in France, I have to say they have earned their reputation. Even my very good friends whom I adore, spend a good amount of time explaining why they are the best and the rest of the world is ugly and stupid haha! So nice people with the famous behaviors, thankfully in check enough as to not be too offensive. I truly find the many of the cultural things you will hear about different countries to be pretty spot on from my personal experiences of travel. I think it’s important to be aware that while the possibilities for these behaviors exist (depending on how long the people have been out of their country, whether they are city or rural dwelling etc), communication is important to decide whether the people themselves seem like they will be good guests.

As I said of course there is a basis to most cultural stereotypes. I much more actively take the micky out of my Australian, Kiwi, British and Irish friends than I do my American friends (North, Central & South) as the latter generally don’t get it. But some do, very easily. I guess my point is that there is little in the way of cultural differences that should impact on a host - guest AirBnB relationship. Being over-demanding, unappreciative, slobbish, breaking stuff with disregard, lacking boundaries, not following clearly defined house rules etcetera is not, imho, a cultural trait, it is individual behaviour. Ascribing this to a culturally defined behaviour, or age-related or anything else that can be portrayed as “them/other”, smacks to me of the right wing British tabloid press view of the world, which is a view I don’t share.


While I do agree for the most part, my experience as a host (ten years hosting in our large Victorian/studio with musicians guests from all over the world and 3plus years as a superhost on airbnb), has shown me that commonalities do exist between certain age brackets behaviors and different cultures. It is not always consistent so an open mind is essential. However, just as equally important for my own emotional/mental health these days is an awareness of the behaviors of different groups, so that I can look out for different traits I find I can’t tolerate before I have accepted a booking. This makes for a better experience for everyone.

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Sandy, now I read your posts with an Aussie accent! :slight_smile:

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Lol. Hilarious. I’ve never had a strong accent, but it is not American sounding apparently - not as Aussie as most Aussies according to family and friends. I guess it’s one of those tamed Aussie accents. MI have picked up a lot of Americanisms though :wink:

This is a great thread, and I’m so happy I found this board! I’m new (as of tonight) and I had no idea it was worldwide! As an American host with worldwide sensibilities, I find it enlightening in the best way. :slight_smile:

So, I’ll offer my observations as a very successful airbnb host of two years.

  1. Never judge a book by its cover. Some of the best guests I’ve had, I’ve had the worst “pre-stay” interactions with. Too many weird questions, enough to make you almost cancel a reservation, etc. And then they are lovely.

  2. And back to that: if they sound too good to be true…well, sometimes they are.

  3. My best guests, by and large, have been Americans. But then, I am here in Chicago. A lot of people from other cities want to come visit, and that is ok by me. 60% of my guests are from the states.

  4. Some of my worst guests have been those guests with a serious language barrier. They generally leave great reviews (a plus) but are horrid to host.

  5. Any guest from in town is not a good guest. Renovating a house and needs a place to stay? In between closings? etc. Just don’t do it. It will only cause you grief. They are stressed out and either mourning their old house or longing for their new house. Yours will never live up