Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“Is Your House Always This Clean?”

We had guests this week, visitors from overseas, and it was so much fun. One woman was full of questions. This was her first time out of her own country, and you know how it is when you are in a foreign culture, people think differently. Some of her questions bordered on impolite, according to our culture, but we could tell she was asking because she really was interested, and we didn’t let her questions bother us.

“No!” I laughed, “We cleaned because we had guests coming! My husband vacuumed and I washed all the floors!”

My daughter-in-law jumped in.

“Yes!” she laughed. “Yes, their house is always this clean!”

We all laughed.

“It’s just my husband and me,” I added, “it’s not that hard to keep it picked up and neat. We make extra effort when guests are coming.”

“Why do you do this?” she asked. “Why do you invite strangers into your home and give us dinner?”

“People have been so kind to us, in so many countries, in so many ways,” I began, “No matter how hard we try, we will never be able to repay all the kindness we have received. But we do our best.”

We were in my kitchen, which is not large, and I am trying to get dinner on the table. It is a simple, family dinner, a little chaotic, but with lots of dishes so the guests can find something they might like to eat.

“Do you clean yourself? You have no cook?” she asked.

“We clean. Both of us. We could hire help, but it is very expensive here,” I said, pulling the chicken out of the oven. “And we do our own cooking. My husband makes bread! He is very good at it.”

During the evening she continued asking questions, and now, several days later, we find ourselves thinking about the questions, and thinking . . . THIS is why we do it! We love these guests who come in with a different way of looking at things and their questions, which stimulate us to think in new ways, too, as we try to explain why we do things the way we do them.

I remember in Doha, the Philipina maids would ask me “how old are you?” because they couldn’t guess by looking at me. We never ask a woman how old they are once they are past maybe eighteen or twenty years old. We never ask how much money a husband – or wife – makes. It is culturally taboo, it just isn’t done. We never ask what kind of birth control someone is using. I am aware of these things because I have been asked, and it made me think about it.

But now I wonder what questions I have asked in foreign lands which shocked people, or made them uncomfortable?

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August 30, 2011 - Posted by | Adventure, Communication, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Pensacola, Random Musings

2 Comments »

  1. It really helps to keep the house clean if you dont have tons and tons of sand dumped on you by sand storms as we keep getting here in kuwait .Well done to both of you for keeping the house squeeky clean .

    Comment by daggero | September 2, 2011 | Reply

  2. I agree, Daggero. I had intended to keep my own house clean when I was in Kuwait, but my very first visit, when our apartment was covered with that fine dust that somehow comes in through the sealed windows – I changed my mind. I could not have managed on my own.

    My house is not squeaky clean, but I try to keep it neat and clean enough that I won’t be too embarrassed if someone comes by unexpectedly. You know, cat furballs rolling around, and dust caking on the lamps, LOL!

    Comment by intlxpatr | September 3, 2011 | Reply


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