Cultural Differences


Dietrich Fischer – TRANSCEND Media Service

During World War II, some British and Albanian troops had a joint campaign. When they met, the British asked the Albanians,

“Would you like to eat some lunch?” The Albanians, said,

“No, no, thank you, we are not hungry.”

So the British threw out the food left from their lunch into the garbage.

But in fact, the Albanians had been walking for three days without eating and were terribly hungry and near exhaustion. In Albanian culture, it is an absolute taboo to accept food the first time it is offered; it would be greedy and impolite.

Decent behavior requires to refuse an offer of food twice before it is accepted, with apparent reluctance. The British did not know that, and the Albanians did not know that British culture is different.

Being aware of cultural differences is important to avoid unfortunate misunderstandings.


Dietrich Fischer (1941-2015) from Münsingen, Switzerland, got a Licentiate in Mathematics from the University of Bern 1968 and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from New York University 1976. Fischer was a MacArthur Fellow in International Peace and Security at Princeton University 1986-88, has taught mathematics, computer science, economics and peace studies at various universities, and been a consultant to the United Nations. He was co-founder, with Johan Galtung, of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment in 1993.

Excerpted from Dietrich Fischer’s Stories to Inspire You – TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 4 Sep 2023.

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