In my world, I’m usually the master (mistress?) of the intercultural miscommunication, but someone somewhere has seen fit to bless me with the most wondrous of gifts. Someone who is just as impressively misguided as I, and who is not only willing to laugh (and be laughed at) about it, but also generous enough to let me share some of the more hilarious moments.
The potential for a kindred spirit became clear when, early on in our budding friendship, Daisy* substituted the Other Half’s phone number for mine. While I was sitting alone wondering just how I had offended her enough to not to return any of my messages, the Other Half was having senior management meetings routinely interrupted with offers of manicures, pedicures, coffee and even introductions to other women by a seemingly desperate female he had never heard of..
Fast forward 18 months and an endless stream of hilarious attempts to bridge the transatlantic language gap later, and it’s clear that the problem is far from solved. In a curious reflection of US history, it seems to be the presence of the British that causes consternation.
It took a single well meaning comment from Emily* (another British expat trailing spouse) to start the downhill slide to chaos. Predictably, it was at that most damning of public forums, where every comment is carefully monitored and revisited for hidden clues into the parenting psyche; the PTA committee meeting.
Emily: “Your sons have excellent social skills.”
Daisy: “Do you think so? I’m working on them. I’m teaching them to kiss the French way.”
At this point, Emily’s’s face went a deathly white, and a funny buzzing noise started in her ears. She is known for her forthright honesty, and was struggling valiantly with the urge to blurt out “FRENCH KISSING??? WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU THINKING???” at the top of her lungs. Only the strength of her friendship with Daisy and the presence of two steely faced PTA committee members limited her response to a choked:
“Really? Don’t you think that’s something they should learn for themselves?”
The purple tinge that had spread as far as Emily’s ears should have given Daisy a clue that something was amiss, but she was blissfully oblivious, and proceeded to stumble further into the minefield.
“No, I think it’s important that they learn to do it properly. Their Dad is hopeless at it, so I can’t leave it to him. Actually, I think you should give him some lessons.”
“Yes – you’d be great at it, and he’d listen to you”
Emily has been attending cardio boot camp classes recently, so her blood pressure is in pretty good shape. It’s didn’t stop her eyes bulging ominously as she stared at Daisy in disbelief.
Thankfully, the quiet voice of a forgotten PTA member spoke up from the depths of the couch.
“I don’t think she means “French kissing”, I think she means European kissing – on the cheeks..”
I will leave it to your imagination to picture Daisy’s face as she mentally revisited the conversation and it’s previously unseen connotations, but should you need help, Googling the word ‘horrific’ will pretty much take care of it.
You’ve got to hand it to her; when she does it, she does it in style. And publicly. With minutes.
*Names have been changed to protect the
So, now that we’ve got the ball rolling, let’s hear yours!
I’m off to the Familes in Global Transition conference on March 29th, so I would love some giggles to take my mind off my stage fright.. There’s a Harriet Stanes print for the best one received by the end of March, and you are allowed to change any and all names!
Photo courtesy of the US National Archives