Today is Father's Day in the U.S.

In New Zealand, Father's Day isn't until September. So, Father's Day cards haven't arrived in the shops. However, it still occurred to me last week that it must be Father's Day in the U.S.

I rang my father. This year, I'm really on top of things, I said to myself.

When my father answered, he said that it wasn't Father's Day yet. Apparently, I had jumped the gun. I was a week early.

The week passed. I mixed up the date of my parents' anniversary. And I showed up for a potluck dinner on the wrong night.

But yesterday, I felt more confident. I just knew that I had the right day. I got up a bit earlier than usual, so I could ring my father on Father's Day.

As I was dialing my father's number, I remembered. Father's Day isn't on Saturday. Oh, well. Next year I'll really be on top of things.

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

My father and me, 2007


I’m tired of people raising their eyebrows at me.

Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour

In a recent post on Belgian Waffle, Mme Jaywalker mentioned reading Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour. In the first 30 pages, this book has explained the difficult, mumbling, awkward moments that I have suffered in a country full of English people. Basically, I'm doing everything wrong.

Now, most of what I have gathered will seem obvious to you. It seems like I used to know these things, too. (Maybe I am getting dumber.)

Discuss the weather.
Even with the changeable weather in NZ, talking about the weather has to be the most boring topic on earth. And I have this conversation every day, at length, whenever I see anyone:

Her: It’s really cold, isn’t it?

Me: Yes. But at least it’s calm.

Her: The southerly is supposed to pick up again tonight.

Me: Oh, not again?

I assumed you would only talk about the weather with someone you don’t know very well. So I was puzzled when friends that I have known for years were talking about the weather.

Well, it seems that this weather-talk is about MORE than the weather. This conversation is actually an ice-breaker, through layers and layers of English reserve.

(I know this doesn't seem that earth-shattering. But there is a lot of weather-talk. A lot.)

And I have been making embarrassing mistakes with this basic social greeting, as in this example:

Her: We haven’t seen the sun for ages, have we?

Me: You know, I like this weather. As long as it’s calm, it’s actually quite nice.

Her: (raised eyebrow)

Agree with people.
You see, it doesn’t matter what people say about the weather. I am supposed to agree with them. It's about agreeing. I can say that I like the rain (as a matter of eccentric personal preference), as long as I make it sound like I’m agreeing. So I should have said, "Yes, it's been a long time since it's been fine, hasn't it?" And then gone on with the rest of my thought.

Here’s another example of me inserting my foot in my mouth:

Her: It’s really raining, isn’t it?

Me: Yes, it’s pouring down.

Her: I can give you a ride home?

Me: No, that’s OK. I’m dressed for the weather. I don’t mind the rain. I used to live in Chicago (where it was really cold and miserable).

Her: (raised eyebrow)

Apparently, it’s gauche to say that I used to live someplace bigger and colder with more miserable weather. It’s perceived as an attempt at one-upmanship.

Private matters are private.
The last thing I've learned is even more cringe-worthy. It seems it’s also a bit coarse to tell everyone about my divorce and my personal business. Private matters are for close friends and family only. A stiff upper lip and reserve are what the culture calls for. It may be OK to mention these personal details in a blog column, but I should never talk about them in person.

Oh, dear. There are another 300 pages of this book. What other faux pas have I been making?