You heard a new joke that made you laugh out loud, so you decide to tell it to your foreign friend. But as a  result, instead of explosive laughter you only see a poker face. Why? Because a sense of humour is different across countries. We can definitely say that it is defined by cultural differences. A lot of what we can find funny is just socially ingrained. Sense of humour is attached to nationhood, our view of the world, and our culture. It comes from our childhood, our everyday life and our habits. Things that make us laugh, may not be funny to people from other countries.


We all know that there are a lot of stereotypes about humour. The British and sarcasm, the Americans and a physical comedy, the Japanese and puns, is it true?


1. British sarcastic sense of humour

British sense of humour

The British sense of humour is often associated with sarcasm, irony and self-deprecation, which is likely true. The British people love to laugh at themselves and they also love sarcasm. When the opportunity presents itself, the British won’t hesitate long to make a sarcastic joke. A good example of it is to say that the British weather is magnificent, which is not likely to be true because it is rainy. So irony and sarcasm are British people’s best friends.


2. American stand-up comedy

American comedy

When we think about the American sense of humour, stand-up shows come to mind. Basically, stand-up is an American thing. It has become popular in the 80s and people still love it! 

American comedies have succeeded to impress people all over the world as well as series such as Friend, the Office and many others. Of course, it was translated considering the mentality of the country, but the fact is the fact – American comedy is loved all over the world.


3. The Russians laugh online 

Russian online humour

In the past few years, Russian comedy has been developing. There are a lot of different formats of comedy shows on Youtube and Rutube. It is unique and such formats don’t exist in other countries. The thing is that Russian humour is very hard for a foreigner to understand. The Russian language is difficult. There are many expressions in it that are impossible to translate because there are no equivalents in other languages.


4. French degrees

French degrees

As the French people say, their humour is split into 2 degrees – premier degré and second degré. For example, when someone seems to take a joke too seriously, it means that he takes it at the premier degré, so he probably doesn’t have a sense of humour. People, who understand sarcasm, by the way French people adore sarcasm, and don’t take things too seriously – have a second degré humour. Regional satire is also extremely popular in France. Competitive relationships between the regions contribute to it. 


5. Chinese language complexity

Chinese language complexity

Chinese writing system uses characters that change their meaning depending on the grammatical context. That is why Chinese humour is a complex combination of linguistics that usually revolves around the meaning of the words.

By making jokes in China, stay away from jokes about personal life, the Chinese government and self-deprecation. It won’t be appreciated. 


6. The Germans actually make jokes

The Germans make jokes

Is the stereotype that the Germans are serious is true? Actually no. They love to make jokes about political satire and social taboos as well as they love clever wordplay. So the Germans do have a sense of humour, but it is not easy to understand it because of the language complexity and cultural background.


Summing up, humour is different. But when somebody’s sense of humour may seem incomprehensible and unclear at first sight, it only will take a little patience and persistence to be able to discover and understand it. If you want to understand foreign jokes, begin from discovering its culture.  It will be helpful for you to understand the cultural differences and it will help enrich your cultural background. 

Have you experienced telling a joke to a foreigner and you did not get the reaction you were hoping for?


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