We had the evening planned for a couple of weeks. I had cleared the evening in iCal and had told my English student that we would need to stop at 4:45 PM, because my wife had plans for me. Everything was going according to schedule; my student left on time, and we started to get ready to head out the door…
When there was a knock at the door. Looking out to see who it was, I realized that there was a small mob of people outside. Curious to find out who it was (and trying to yell back to Jess without waking up the baby that a crowd was here), I opened the door to discover what was going on. It was a friend. And eleven other people.
They swiftly came in with stacks of pizza, a box of cake, and buckets of ice cream. They came in and set up the party. They found places to sit. We got out glasses and a pitcher of water out to the living room. All unannounced.
In the States, this would be really annoying. And for the first five seconds, the American-within was subtly disturbed by what was happening. Why didn’t they call? What will my wife say? How can I eat this food and my birthday dinner too? When do we get to eat the cake?
But all of that melted in the sixth second when I came to my senses. They had been so thoughtful, within their cultural framework, by bringing all of these festive foods. Some had probably gone without so that they could bring something with them. Indeed, in an unexpected twist to our plans,this became birthday dinner. And this was my birthday party – sans invitations.
I was reminded tonight of how much our own cultural framework is engrained in our heads. It’s bolted there by time and parental rearing. When I’m confronted with a situation, a lot of times, I even hear between my ears the teachings my parents taught to me growing up – they have become my common sense. But sometimes, the best thing to do is to set down those cultural senses and to “get down” in someone else’s.