Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Expat Living - Lessons in Humility

by Expat Focus columnist, Toni Hargis

Whether you move around the world or just to one country, I guarantee you’ll make a fool of yourself at some point. It can be a language blooper or a culture clanger, but it’s there, lurking on your horizon. For the most part too, it’ll happen when you have an audience of at least five, who will then repeat the story until it becomes an urban legend.

We’ve all done it, so you’ll be in good company. In fact, take comfort from these examples of red faces and cringing embarrassment.

The first wedding I ever attended in the States was just a minefield of social gaffes for me. I wore a hat (it was 1991 after all, and I was hot off the plane from London). I was THE only person wearing head gear, and I think some people looked at it as an English eccentricity. I couldn’t even take it off because I had the dreaded “hat hair”. Then, when my husband and I went to take our seats, I completely ignored the young man standing at the top of the aisle pointing his elbow at me. Apparently I was supposed to take his arm and let him walk me to my pew, but I marched straight past and seated myself while my husband shot him a “she’s not from here” look of explanation. Fortunately I didn’t learn about my mistake until my husband deigned to tell me – about a week later.

Another personal gaffe was my first US Christmas work lunch. The waiter was taking drinks orders and I didn’t register that the two women before me had ordered iced tea. I ordered a glass of red wine, to be met with an uncomfortable look from the waiter and deathly silence all around me as my colleagues waited for my boss’ reaction. (He just laughed at the situation.) Not one single person other than me ordered alcohol, even though this was our Christmas celebration. I couldn’t believe it. Not wanting to change my order and look like a suck-up I said, “Well obviously I’m only having the one” and drank diet soda after that. Goodness knows what got written up in my Personnel file...

Read more at http://www.expatfocus.com/toni-hargis-200910

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