An inter cultural experience (otherwise known as a birthday party)

Random fact: The easiest way to run faster is to move your arms faster. It may not last very long, but it works in the short term. Moving on..

Last week, my children were invited to a birthday party. This has happened from time to time. Maybe I always had an excuse for them not to go, like we were out of town, had family plans or it could be one of those ambiguous invites that the kids exchanged. So we never had all the details. Thus we didn’t attend the party. My children do attend birthday parties, it’s just been with friends we have had for awhile. Where I know the parents and they know the kids. The birthday party we attended on Saturday was for a school mate. A very sweet kid who has played at our house from time to time. He and my older son are in the same grade. There is a lot of common ground for the children. I have met the mom and grandma a few times. Nothing to in depth, but I have enough of a sense that our boys have played in their garage a few times. We got all the information, made sure we had no other plans, and raided the present stash for a gift. we said yes to the party.

Then, finally, it was time to go to the party. We walked across the street and rand the doorbell. A teenage boy I had never seen before answered the door. I had a moment of disorientation and then the birthday boy pops his head out the door. The kids go tearing thru the house to find the toys and I am left by the couch. The family asks me to sit down, but it is very evident that we are the first ones at the party. In fact, we would be the only ones there for at least an hour. And I am the only person there over the drinking age who speaks English as my primary language. Even the television programs are in Spanish. When the birthday boy’s mom showed up an hour after us with party supplies, I realized that we had made a cultural oops. I had forgotten that Latin time is often slower than Indiana time. By about 2 hours.

Even if I had kept up my Spanish speaking skills that I had acquired in high school and college, I doubt I could have kept up with the conversations happening around me. Thankfully, the birthday’s boy older brother was there to interpret for me when I was being asked a question directly. After being offered and refused some authentic mole’, I sat down on the couch and watched Rio in Spanish, while typing up some notes.

My hosts were very polite and sweet, but there was only so much communication that could happen when neither of us knew each others language very well. I was really great full for a go-between. But eventually he to wanted to go off and play. Which was fine. At one point I came back home for awhile. Then I went back over and kept my silent vigil on the couch. After we had been at the party for awhile, (2 hours) I told the boys it was time to go home. We had some errands to do and the loud techno music was giving me a headache. So we left the party just as it was getting started. Another cultural difference.

And it was easy to focus on the differences. Like the start time, the language barrier. The fact that my kids and I had our Saturday comfy (but presentable) clothes on and everyone else was dolled up. (There was so much gel in one little boys hair he wasn’t allowed to play with the balloons because they kept popping on his head.) There were some similarities as well. The gift of hospitality that I was offered. They drank coke, like we drink coke. The kids were only allowed to have juice, we do that too. The excitement of the birthday boy was just as much fun to see in our friend as it is to see on our kids faces during their birthdays. The sweet way our hosts just let the kids run around and be kids. So even though we didn’t speak the same language, we could find some common ground. And it was worth taking the kids to their friends birthday party as that gives something else to share and build a neighborly friendship on.

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt uncomfortable? Or maybe the minority?



2 thoughts on “An inter cultural experience (otherwise known as a birthday party)

  1. Kim says:

    I don’t understand the 2 hour difference…? What do you mean? Someone indicated a party start time to you, is their clock set to a different time? I am confused haha

    • Kim,

      When Tom and I traveled to Mexico and when my parents lived in Florida, we were informed that Spanish time is often two hours behind American time. So when you are invited to an event hosted by Spanish speaking people, the start time isn’t always correct. That was my reference for the 2-hour difference. 🙂

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