Faux Pas


shut your mouth

On a recent day off, I met up with a friend for a quick conversation. At my request, we went to a local cupcake shop. I immediately noticed an accent from the woman who took our order.  I ordered tea and she asked me if I wanted to save room for milk.  As a child I put milk in my tea, but the thought of it now grosses me out.  Having lived in London for a year, I had to return plenty cups of tea because they put milk in it without asking me.  Instead of responding “no” or “yes” to the lady, I immediately responded “how very English”.  I rarely, if ever, have anyone ask me if I want milk in my tea – aside from when I’m traveling outside of the United States. She hesitated and in fact told me she was not English, but from South Africa. I was embarrassed as I committed a faux pas that I rarely make when it comes to culture and language.  One can never assume, but in that moment, humility and my generally inquisitive nature escaped me.  In retrospect, I could say that my travels have made me develop a superiority complex. 

I read somewhere (I don’t know where exactly and since this is a blog I don’t have to cite my sources) that traveling is a status for people. Traveling takes time and money – which many people don’t have.  Traveling also educates you in a way school cannot. Having educated myself substantially over the past few years through travel I believe I grew an air of supremacy subconsciously.

Some people, like Michael Scott of Dunder Mifflin (from the show the Office), are guilty of making faux pas such as this on a daily basis.  So what’s the big deal? I mistakenly thought someone’s accent was British?  The problem is that once we think we ‘know’ something about a person or culture, it leaves little room to grow or get to know about them further. Stereotypes or generalizations are never good.  It also shuts down conversation.  Had I said to the woman “I notice you have an accent, could you tell me where you are originally from?” I believe I would have set the stage for having a more open conversation rather than creating a barrier or awkward tete-a-tete as I paid for my cupcakes and tea.

So have you made any faux pas recently? Was it small or Michael Scott epic? 

<a href="” title=”Diversity Day gone wrong at Dunder Mifflin”>



About danismelange

I enjoy writing for fun, reading, traveling, and meeting new people. I'm a mother, sister, auntie, and friend. I write what comes to my mind - its unpretentious, honest, and straight from my heart!

2 responses »

  1. This is sooooooooooooooo funny. I actually laughed out loud as it is a faux pas that many of us have made but have been too ignorant until a later time to even realise. So at least you recognised the problem immediately. Self development through travel is an amazing opportunity well done for embracing the experience;and continuing to learn from it long after your bags have been unpacked.

  2. Classic! Gosh I miss the office 😦 . But great blog and extremely relevant. I just read an article where Miguel was asked if he was gay due to his dressing and style. He said something to the effect that its unfortunate that because his sense of style is ‘different’ that he has to be classed as gay. He went on to state that those who make those comments are usually not well travelled. Travelling does open your mind to different cultures, people and is an education in itself! I think black Americans especially need to make more of an effort to travel and not to just the Carribean but to Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America, etc as it really does make you a more enlightened human and opens you up to experiences that are out of your comfort box.

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