One day in the office, I can’t remember why exactly, a scene from Inglorious Bastards (SPOILER ALERT) came to my mind. In the scene Michael Fassbender´s character gives himself away when he orders three drinks in a bar full of Nazi officers by showing three fingers (index, middle and ring fingers), but not in the allegedly German fashion (thumb, index and middle fingers). In that moment, I knew that scene would be the beginning of my new article for Lexiophiles.
That very same day at lunchtime, out of my natural curiosity about these cultural aspects, I went around asking –if not bothering– my colleagues to show me three fingers so I could confirm there are indeed two different ways to show three fingers. In the film, this gesture gets Fassbender’s character and many others killed. In real life, it helps us illustrate the importance of nonverbal language –and also other cultural aspects– in multicultural environments, such as the one at bab.la.
Working in an office where ten nationalities from three continents are represented, it is not difficult to find examples of cultural differences and peculiarities. After my first two months at bab.la, I think we have learned a lot from one another. I guess that, in a way, we all make multiculturalism our way of life. Now, for example, we know that Brazilians love farofa; Belgians spread a delicious biscuit paste called Speculoos on bread, and the most typical salad in Spain is neither green nor Spanish!
When it comes to languages, it’s just impossible not to learn something every day. Everyone in the office speaks at least two languages, including English, which gives many of us the opportunity to practice each and every one of the languages we speak and even learn new ones. Besides, although English is the official language in the office, we don’t forget that we live in Hamburg and we all contribute to our common struggle to improve our German, including the aforementioned nonverbal language. If you ever come to Germany, you should remember these two things:
-Germans shake their open hand up and down in front of their faces to express that they find something silly or just crazy.
Now, to conclude, you might be wondering why the heck I chose that picture. Well, the explanation is very simple and just as random as the story of the Inglorious Bastards scene: the “knuckle-counting system” to remember how many days there are in each month of the year.
It all began when our Italian content manager, Benedetta, started reciting the nursery rhyme she was taught when she was a child to learn the days of the months. In that moment, Laurine, Lucia and I showed her our clenched fists in unison and told her that we didn’t use a song in France, Brazil and Spain but our knuckles; just as shown in the video in the previous link. As silly as it may seem, it was quite a funny yet revealing moment. It does not matter how far our birthplaces are from each other, we always end up finding (not so) little things that bring us together.
Ps: What system did you use to learn this?!?!?!