It was a fact. I knew it like I knew the sky was blue and that ice was cold.
When all people ate, they sat down at a table, and used a spoon and fork.
Until one evening in early primary when I was at a friend’s house for a Barbie and Polly Pocket play-date. Her family was from England and that evening I offered to help set the table for dinner.
I don’t remember much of that scene beyond her parents’ puzzled faces and her hysterical laughter. If it wasn’t for the shock I would have melted to the floor from extreme embarrassment.
That’s how I learnt that many people in the world actually eat with a knife and fork.
I have many stories just like that. As a child growing up in Bahrain’s expatriate community, as a new migrant to Australia in the mid 90s, and as a Filipino-Chinese Australian going ‘home’ to be with family in Asia: Experiences where someone crashes into your life and without permission redefines the boundaries of the world as you know it.
You may not have had to learn the hard way about eating with a knife and fork, but I’m sure you’ve had similar encounters. Moments of total disconnection, where you’re not quite sure you’re hearing what you’re hearing, or seeing what you’re seeing. Uncomfortable or humiliating moments, as well as hilarious ones.
This blog isn’t about our dining instrument of choice. It’s about the way we connect (or don’t) and what we think we know about ourselves and those around us. It’s about the dangers of misinformation, and the saving grace of a good story.
…And multiculturalism: believing in it, and believing we can do it better – and the adventure towards understanding a different worldview, and the values that drive it.
It can be profound, like the way we work, love and worship. Or ordinary… like cutlery.
And you know what? To this day I find it somewhat awkward.
Now I’m perfectly capable of eating with a knife and fork(!) But I suppose the best way I can describe it is it’s like speaking a second language – although you’re fluent, there’s just a tiny bit more effort involved.
So where to from here?
Through this blog I’d like to tell you more stories, introducing you to some fascinating people who’ve been kind enough to share theirs.
And as much as I tell these stories I’d be delighted to hear yours (share your awkward cross-cultural moments in the comments below!).
Welcome & thank you for reading diversitydiaries.com, please keep stopping by =)
Coming up in diversitydiaries.com: The real meaning of the word “culture” and coffee with a woman who travels the world teaching people to unravel it.