Evolving etiquette and revolving mores

a rare case of recycling

Reading Ben Curtis’ post on Notes from Spain entitled Accustomed vs Resigned got me thinking about all the cultural quirks that have been steadily seeping through my perceptive membrane, past conscious irritation, puzzlement or even outright shock, to become part of what I view as normal life. Certain customs and habits have gone from being oppressive or downright unethical to being unremarkable, worthy only of a private chuckle over supper.

For example, my hackles no longer rise if people wish to communicate in front of me in a loud stage whisper. I have accepted that I am not supposed to hear, even if I physically can, and this is not intended to be a base insult.

I am now accustomed to never knowing how many extra people may turn up to my dinner party or when they’ll arrive until they’ve all gone home. I welcome my guests’ guests – their many best friends, distant relatives, people in line to do them a favour and other randoms they bumped into on the way. They are my future new friends.

I am resigned to the fact that I won’t be able to recycle all the household trash. At least I don’t chuck it straight out the window like some do.

I smile politely when people ask me about my kidneys over dinner.

I have accepted that acquaintances will make many attempts to engineer my life and part of the fun is learning to convert the loaded suggestions, personal probings and unsolicited opinions into water off a duck’s back.

I publicly concur that the close Mediterranean family model is, on the whole, very sweet though I draw the line at men who never move out (among other things).

I have accepted that when I give a gift the recipient will open it immediately before my eyes and I will have to cover my cringes and witness their instant uncomposed reaction and I will probably be able to tell if they don’t like it.

I have become accustomed to people I have just met telling me, We miss you! We love you! though I still haven’t worked out the right answer.

I sometimes cooperate with cars behind me who want to squeeze past and run the red light.

I have accepted that if I blush I will suddenly become the centre of attention while all around me discuss the particular shade of red, the depth of the hue and the extent of its spread towards my hairline and ears.

I am accustomed to the fact that when I parallel park a number of men will appear from nowhere to gesture meaninglessly to me because it improves their quality of life to feel indispensable.

I’m relieved that if someone does not know what on earth my gift is meant to be, they will say outright instead of prevaricating. I blush less that way.

I accept – more or less – that from time to time, a devastating breach of privacy will occur and that life goes on.

And I am glad that living in another cultural sphere forces on you a most valuable flexibility of mores. I now know the joy of nipping down a one-way street the wrong way and sometimes I even get in first with the We miss you! onslaught. It’s the best form of defence.

2 Responses to “Evolving etiquette and revolving mores”

  1. mary ann says:

    It was a pleasure reading your insights. Gaining flexibility is inevitable here, I only wish it came easier.

  2. Zoe says:

    I did that! I greeted them I miss you so energetic, so artificial that they looked so uncomfortable they couldn’t answer back. Classic!

    But then again, you find these people anywhere in the world especially the club circuit where everyone’s peaking on whatever they took early that night. I’m guilty of that myself!

    Love reading your blogs! Sorry about the exclamation marks, I didn’t realise I use them a lot :D

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