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Expat Humor - When it Translates

15 June, 2011 12:20  Erin Erin

Happy group © Yuri Arcurs - FotoliaSome countries pride themselves on their engineering prowess. Others offer a better quality of life with low working hours. And some nations are better than others at making the world laugh.

A recent international poll of more than 30,000 people in 15 countries has ranked which countries are funniest...and which are not. Conducted by social networking site Badoo.com, the poll reveals different perceptions nations have of each other, and how that relationship affects perceptions.


    Funniest Nationalities:
  1. Americans - The country that exports it's comedies all over the world comes out on top. TV sitcoms like Friends, The Simpsons, Frasier, Seinfeld and comic greats including the Three Stooges, Woody Allen, Jon Stewart, Bill Cosby, Will Farrell, David Chappelle, Tina Fey and many, many more .
  2. Spanish
  3. Italian
  4. Brazilian
  5. French
  6. Mexican
  7. British - The British rank surprisingly low considering their contributions of "The Office" (which has been copied in several different countries) and the legendary Monty Python series.
  8. Dutch
  9. Belgian
  10. Argentinian
    Least Funny
  1. German - The German's bottom ranking confirms Mark Twain's view that "a German joke is no laughing matter". Respondents said they saw Germans as "mercilessly efficient but humorless engineer". This may, in part, be due to the structure of the language. In German, the verb (thus the action) occurs at the end of the sentence and making some international jokes more difficult to translate.
  2. Russian
  3. Turkish

Importance of Understanding Humor Across Borders

The poll is important in illuminating the roll humor plays in our interactions. For expats, this is an issue that can come up frequently in situations abroad. In some cultures humor is the oil that allows for smooth everyday interactions. In other cultures an ill-timed or insincere jest is a rude offense. To understand a different cultures humor is to understand their language, history, politics, and social norms. The simple telling of a joke is a complex operation when unfamiliar with these factors.

The best lesson may be to keep an open mind when at home and abroad, and laugh a little. After all,
"A joke is a very serious thing."
Winston Churchill


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Germans [Reply]

Couldn't agree more on the unfunnyness of the Germans. The only time they are funny is by accident - the Pope for example.

  Ambrose Mugwump     19 Jun 2011, 05:16


On the other hand you might also consider this article with humour, as a big joke. I know some Germans, they can be fun!

  Cyril     19 Jun 2011, 15:25

The German Soul [Reply]

Although there is a saying that Germans take pride in their humor being misunderstood as it shows the depth of their soul. Other cultures just don't understand. Funny Germans

  texkourgan     21 Jun 2011, 09:34

Doubt about that survey [Reply]

I am skeptical about that survey. It is not because Americans can produce and export their shows better that they are the funniest. Language is also an issue. Who understand the Papua New Guinea jokes in their languages in the surveyed audience?

Stef     05 Jul 2011, 16:08