Globe, Migrants, Multiculture, United Kingdom

Immigrants in the UK: Embracing multicultural differences

Finding a balance between the ways of one and the other is a complicated task. If customs vary, so to speak, in every home, imagine what happens between towns, between countries or, as we will try to analyse below, between communities as disparate at first sight as the Latin and British.


Noel Hernández


The reason why the social behaviour of the two sides may differ so dramatically may be due to historical or idiosyncratic reasons, as we come from different cultures.

This situation is undeniably enriching, but it also has a dark side that can lead to uncomfortable situations: the misunderstanding, the act or word whose intention is interpreted differently because it differs from what is known, of course. Something that when compared to our canon of behaviour means only one thing, and this is not pleasant in the canon of the other.

That is why we must acquire and get to know more foreign patterns, know where the other person comes from and what is “normal” for them. This will help us to interpret their gestures and phrases without being annoyed by them or vice versa. On the other hand, knowing what others find offensive or rude about us will make us think before we do it.


Broadly speaking and using clichés, the Latin American, Spanish, Portuguese or Italian is outrageous, passionate, aggressive and friendly, while the Anglo-Saxon is cold, reserved and more polite. To leave it at that would be to incur in ignorance and oversimplification, but it can serve as a starting point for a list of situations we encounter on a daily basis. Starting with physical contact, Latinos do not hesitate to catch the attention of someone who is not looking at us with a tap on the shoulder (usually a finger tapping two to three times), a kiss on the cheek to a simple acquaintance or even to someone we are being introduced to for the first time. A classic move is also to squeeze the other person’s arm in conversation to emphasise our words.

Faced with this invasion of personal space, the Anglo-Saxon’s spectrum of reactions will range from surprise to horror. They will never see it as normal. On the other hand, we interpret this lack of contact as a lack of feeling, indifference or arrogance.

In keeping with this coldness of gesture, the Latino looks on disheartened as the item he orders in a shop, the return of the money he has paid or the cash he withdraws from the bank is offered to him scattered on the counter, without a direct handshake as long as he makes eye contact and smiles.

…and signals

If we turn to oral communication, language can sometimes be an insurmountable barrier. We tend to assume that the British seem to have no time for those who do not express themselves correctly in English. This apparent lack of patience is sometimes due to a strange way of showing politeness, avoiding the other person going to the trouble of trying to make themselves understood. (Other times it is simply a lack of patience).

Likewise, when Latinos do not master the language, they tend to simplify and get to the point, forgetting even the greetings and thanks.

Not to mention the use of small talk: between commenting on the rain of the last few days and then moving on to what is important or pointing the finger directly at what is wanted, the latter option is usually chosen. Apart from language skills, the Latin speaker’s own way of expressing himself can exasperate the listener. The vagueness of what is expressed, not being concise and digressing too much sometimes clashes with the expected verbal precision. Putting up with someone who speaks too loudly is something that annoys us all, regardless of nationality, but it is a common denominator in the phobias one may have towards Latinos. And among them, the circle of accusations about Europeans narrows (they’re so loud! an Englishman will tell you if you ask him to define you to a Spaniard), and it is particularly painful to be surrounded by a large number of them on public transport.

And for this there is no credible excuse, it is just exporting a habit wherever you go, as ingrained and natural as it is easy to avoid or moderate.

(Translated by Cristina Popa – Email: – Photos: Pixabay






















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