Clearing up cultural confusion: Cider

The Setting

Instant spiced apple ciderRecently I was conducting a job interview over Skype, using video.  I was speaking with a prospective employee, who was perched in front of a computer at lbdesign’s London office. My colleague was with this prospective employee.  As may be evident to regular visitors to this blog, I am currently based in Philadelphia.

The Incident

During the initial “Hello” and “How are you?” exchanges, I mentioned that I had just settled into my office chair with a lovely mug of cider. My comment was greeted with an unexpected silence … and the concern on the face of the prospective employee, and the look of embarrassment in my colleague’s expression made it very clear that I had said something wrong. Oops! But what?

Within a few moments we got to the issue: ‘cider’ in the UK is only used in reference to beer cider, like Scrumpy Jack, Magners and the like. So, in the eyes of my UK colleagues, I had just started to conduct an interview while drinking a can of beer (at 10.30 am my local time no less!)

The Resolution

I then spent the next several minutes explaining that ‘cider’ in America can also mean apple juice – with no alcohol.  Furthermore, spiced hot cider is a traditional American cold weather drink, like hot chocolate.

In Review

On a serious note, this funny little incident speaks to the larger issues that come with doing business across cultures. Although I spent seven years living and working in England, this particular issue around cider never previously surfaced because the British don’t drink warmed apple juice.

Now that I am back in the US, I have reverted to this beverage to fight the chill on cold autumn days. And then, by failing to fully appreciate the cultural (or epicurean) differences between me and my audience, I landed myself in an uncomfortable situation.

What other cultural pitfalls might I land myself in?