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I want to know boundaries! (related to private question)

I heard in western culture private questions can be very rude when you arent close enought.


But in my country, personal questions asking age and whether you are single or married can be pretty acceptable. In case of age, we have appellations to use to older or younger people and try to be more polite to the olders. 


So I want to know bounderdies! If you give me some examples it would be helpful. For example, can I ask someone's hobby? And if the other party said just surfing, can I ask how long did you learn surfing or why do you learn surfing? I also want to know what steps can I do further in questions!


(Any corrections about my text or words are welcome!)

Dec 5, 2014 2:23 PM
Comments · 8

Here in the states, hobbies are perfectly fine to talk about. That is considered small talk. But if you ask a someone if they're single, they assume that you are flirting or are interested in them romantically. Also, in our culture, women don't like to tell their age (I don't understand why), and it can be considered rude to ask a woman how old she is (men are quite different, it's always fine to ask a man how old he is). Also, try to stay away from conversations about political beliefs or religious beliefs with people who you don't know very well. Those types of conversations can get very heated very quickly.

December 5, 2014

Personal questions like age, weight and income can be seen as invasive, but as Kris has pointed out, a question about age for men is less personal than for women.


Asking about hobbies and likes/dislikes is perfectly fine. It's normal to look for common ground when getting to know someone new, so yes you can continue asking more about that person's experience of surfing, for example.  However, if the other person is giving you short answers, then take that as a hint to change the topic or end the conversation.


Being too chummy(friendly) too quickly is a turn-off.  This is a huge mistake that English learners make, as some use slangy phrases like "hey wassup" as an introductory greeting, thinking that it makes them seem more friendly. The truth is, native speakers generally use standard, regular English (eg. Hello) when we first meet each other, and then we relax and become friendlier and casual if it's appropriate. Of course the context can influence this, such as a business meeting or a mutual friend's party.

December 5, 2014

Wow! It is very detailed explanation. Specially being chummy too quickly is a turn-off is a big lesson :)  Thanks a lot.

December 5, 2014

I agree with Peachey- being too "chummy" or over-friendly can be very off-putting. And some non-native speakers have put me in that situation, simply a cultural difference or misunderstanding. A certain male friend thought it was ok to address girls as "babe" and "honey" all the time, though he didn't know them- he couldn't understand why they didn't respond well. He just wanted to be friendly. Best to start out polite and then become more casual. If in doubt about an expression, think before using it :)

December 6, 2014

I would say like the others, that westerners don't generally like these questions, we consider them "invasive".  You talk about how Koreans like to use those questions to determine speech level/politeness level and I get that, but in English there isn't so much difference between politeness levels.  You may talk a little more professionally to your boss than to a close friend, but generally we use the same words to everyone, so we don't need to assess exactly where you lie on a scale with someone similar to yourself.


So, I would say use your noonchi to determine whether someone is much older than you or very much senior and speak a little nicer to them, for everyone else just use your regular English.

December 10, 2014
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Language Skills
English, Japanese, Korean
Learning Language
English, Japanese