Cultural idiosyncrasies I notice as a TEFL teacher


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I wrote a post here about how to get into TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language).  What I neglected to mention was how TEFL can teach you so much about a culture and how they think.  Case in point:

Undertaking a Listening exercise with a group of adults (aged between 19 to 30).  The speaker says 25th December.  The question asks for the date, so the correct answer is 25th December, or Christmas Day (if you happen to know that 25th December is Christmas Day).

We come to check the answers.

One student says “24th December.”

“No” I reply, “the answer is 25th December.

“So would I be wrong for writing 24th December? It’s only one day out after all.”

Er yes, you would be wrong for writing 24th December.


Because the person said 25th December.

And yet still this person insisted why should they be wrong, when just one day makes no difference?

A thought struck me:

How long is a fortnight?

I enquired

“About 15 days” they said.

Well technically they’re right…it is ABOUT 15 days.  And then it hit me.
Remembering my experiences in supermarkets and taxis, Greeks tend to round up or down to the nearest 5 and be very approximate in things.

Example: You go food shopping.  You pay, you need 3c change.  You don’t receive it.  Or something is 5.48 Euros.  You only have 5.45 Euros.  They won’t bother you for the 3c if you don’t have it, often you’re waved away with a “Den Pirazi”

This must permeate every aspect of Greek life.  Hence the “why does one day make a difference?”
Well, it does if you’re undertaking a Listening exam and need to write EXACTLY WHAT YOU HEAR.

I wrote another post about idiosyncrasies here, way back when I first started this blog.  Feel free to add any of your own to my Comments section.


  1. LOL. This is so funny. I only taught kids during my teaching days so I never experienced stuff like this. But one instance I do remember with a 7 year old student was:
    Me: Write sock on the board.
    Student: “Cock”

    Hard not to laugh, no? :o)

  2. Hi Jessica,
    That’s so funny, your experience.

    A dear friend of mine also had a great experience:

    11 year olds – two boys mini fighting in class. My friend tells them off,

    “But Miss Miss, he gave me the f*ck finger!” yells one of the boys!

    She had to try SOOOOO hard not to laugh.

    I should write a book about things that’ve come out in the classroom and oral examining room – hmmmm, there’s a thought…

  3. This really made me chuckle – I had no idea that this rounding up & down culture existed in Greece. That seems so strange that they’d take that into an exam though – I wonder what happens on maths papers! thanks for sharing – I really enjoyed it.