INTERMEDIATE - READING

As you read the story, think about the answers to these questions.
1. In Mexico, how late should you arrive for social invitations?
2. Why was the writer embarrassed when he drank lemon water?

Cultural Mistakes
"I kept my left hand away from the food"

In Mexico I was invited to a party. The invitation said to arrive at 8:30pm. I had heard that in Mexico you should always come a little later than the invitation. So I thought about it and I decided that 9pm would be good; not too late and not too early. Unfortunately the other guests didn't arrive until 11.30pm. How was I to know that 8:30 meant 11:30?

When I was in Saudi Arabia I was having dinner with a local family. I knew that in Saudi Arabia you are not supposed to use your left hand when you eat. So I kept my left hand away from the food. I was careful during the meal and I felt very pleased with myself. At the end of the meal the host brought everyone a large cup of lemon water. I was very thirsty and so I happily drank it. Everyone started laughing. I wondered what was wrong. Maybe the host is supposed to drink first. Or maybe the oldest person is supposed to drink first. I didn't know. I felt foolish when I found out that the cup of lemon water was not for drinking. It was to clean my fingers!

In Germany someone I met gave me a gift. It was some cookies. My German wasn't very good, but I was trying really hard. In German I said, 'Thank you for ...' but I couldn't remember the word for 'cookies', so I used an English word; 'gift.' I said, 'Danke fur die gift.' I forgot that 'gift' has a different meaning in German. I had thanked the lady for 'the poison!'

I've learnt that if you are learning about a language and a culture you have to be able to laugh at yourself. You will make many mistakes. It's all part of life's rich tapestry.