Episode 29: Everything About Social Conventions

Episode 29: Everything About Social Conventions

Social Conventions that Change

  • Swearing means you’re unintelligent
    • People who swear a lot score high on verbal fluency
  • Waiting for the guy to ask out the girl
  • Dads Babysitting

  • No doing something because of your gender
  • Tattoos and piercings are unprofessional

Let’s Talk About Elevators:

The fabulous hotel mirrored elevator

Talking in Elevators: NPR

  • In the US, we tend to give each other a lot of space in tiny rooms, personal distance is important.
    • In elevators. People tend to take the corners.
    • Facing the doors.
      • Interesting, often children with autism have to be taught to turn around and face the doors. When sis we all agree to what is the “front” of an elevator?
      • First passenger elevators 1860s they had benches on the back wall. So you sat facing the door.
      • Conversations usually stop too.


Cross-Cultural Misunderstandings:

  • Not slurping soup in places like Japan is the height of rudeness, it shows a lack of enjoyment.
  • French double cheek kissing as a greeting
  • Using the wrong dishes in a Kosher household. Meat dishes and dairy dishes.
  • Wasting time on a business call with small talk is a no-no in Germany
  • Spitting on the street. Let’s talk about changing cultural conventions in China.
  • Kenyan nose picking, although it’s falling out of favor.


American Conventions That Freak Out The Rest of The World.

  • Open carry guns
  • Ice cubes in drinks
  • wearing shoes in the house
  • personal space needs
  • Turn right on red
  • Tipping in restaurants
  • Gaps in bathroom door stalls in public restrooms

The Convention of Boundaries: DO YOU?!?!

  • Checking a medicine cabinets
  • Look in glove boxes in cars
  • Check someone’s desk drawer
  • Look in a sock drawer that doesn’t belong to you?



  • Men at urinals Leave a space unless there’s a wall. If no, or if there are only two, use the toilet.
  • Women and the sound of going
  • Weird conventions:

    • Wearing bathing suits but not underwear in public
    • birthday candles
    • not talking about sex or bathroom stuff
    • men can’t have handbags
    • having to wear different clothes everyday
    • Saying okay before bye when on the phone.

What is a social convention?

Study.com What is a social convention?

Social conventions are also agreements among people.
  • They are often implicit, or unspoken.
  • Social conventions are unwritten expectations about how people should behave in society.
  • For example, we take turns when speaking, use acceptable table manners, and wait patiently in line.
  • All of these are examples of behaviors that are learned in a particular society.
  • Members of that society are expected to behave in particular ways or they may be ostracized from the group.

Social Conventions in Transit:



Keep The Sound Down Keep The
Sound Down

Keep the music, games
and phone conversation
to yourself please. Let’s keep
personal devices personal.

Clipping? Primping? Clipping?

Everybody wants
to look their best,
but it’s a subway car,
not a restroom.

Poles Are For Safety, Not Your Latest Routine Poles Are For
Safety, Not
Your Latest Routine

Hold the pole, not our attention.
A subway car is no place
for showtime.

Images Courtesy web.mta.info

Social Norms and Conventions in Entertainment: Seinfeld & Mr. Bean

Seinfeld Huffington Post

The Ubiquity of Social Norms. Seinfeld was a show about norms, not nothing. At its minutiae-focused best, the series was a 22-minute weekly discourse on the unwritten rules that guide social interaction: After how many dates are you obligated to break off a relationship in person? Which calls are too important to be made via cell phone? What’s the appropriate way to dip a chip? And so on.

The influence of social norms on human behavior is pervasive, from governing when we’re comfortable speaking up versus remaining silent to shaping our divergent expectations regarding the tendencies of men versus women. As Jerry sarcastically but astutely explains to George-who has just objected to the need to bring wine to a dinner party — “the fabric of society is very complex” (clip below). And Seinfeld attracted an audience by exploring those very complexities.

*But while lip-syncing could be solved given enough time and patience, aligning cultural references often proved too difficult.

*They were translating too literally.

Sitcoms weren’t their thing, and they tended to enjoy more simple, straightforward shows like police drama Alarm für Cobra 11, crime drama Der letzte Zeuge, and Medicopter 117ALF was famously more popular in Germany than in America — the David Hasselhoff of sitcoms. Who’s the Boss? was also a sensation. Sarcasm and sophisticated, plot-based humor did not tend to appeal to large audiences there. Sebastian also oversaw dubbing for the caustic British comedy Absolutely Fabulous — it too flopped in Germany.


Dubbing Seinfeld into German

MR. BEAN – Identity