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How to be polite in social situations in the workplace

What should I take? Water, lemonade, beer or wine for lunch with colleagues from my border region? Have you asked yourself such a question before and you did not know how to behave appropriately?

Intercultural competence is also relevant in social situations at work and outside workplace, such as having a meal together. In cross-border vocational education settings, internships play an important role. The students spend weeks or months working/learning in a company in the neighbour country or visiting school there. Often, they live with a host family. Abilities such as “readiness to adapt one’s behaviour to the customs of another region/country”, e.g., are very important here (cf. FREPA). 

This chapter refers to typical situations that may occur during these contexts. We present some examples from our border regions (insert link), which may help you to orientate in these border regions and to think about how it is in your border region.

Raise awareness for the intercultural component in social situations at work and outside workplace based on examples.

Example 1: Offering food to guests

Image by garetsvisual on Freepik

Let’s have a look at some typical situations in Poland and France that differ from each other. But always keep in mind: we are talking about some typical tendencies in the two country's cultures – that doesn't mean that each and everyone follows those behaviours! Especially younger generations often come up with different behaviours, not following the traditional lifestyle of older generations in all regards.

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Example 2: Food and drinks at work

Image by pressfoto on Freepik

Do we have lunch together? At the cafeteria? When and how long is lunch break? Is it ok to have a glass of wine at business lunch? The answers to these questions may vary – besides the company – according to the country and border region you are living and working in. Talking about food and drinks can also be an ‘icebreaker’ conversation topic because everyone can contribute and it can be a starting point for a nice conversation.

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Take away

  • Intercultural competences are also relevant in everyday social situations at work and outside, such as having a lunch break together. 
  • Dealing with social situations such as having a meal together requires language skills as well, e.g. "showing appreciation for hospitality", "refusing politely if there is something - for whatever reason - you don't want to accept".