>Karis and I are now moving into closure and reflection mode. Whenever you live abroad, certain aspects of the host culture become integrated into your own personal lives–they have so influenced you that you can’t leave them behind. Sometimes it is a phrase that is so perfect in its meaning that you keep using it. Other times it is a holiday or national emblem that now has meaning to you. While these don’t often appear to be profound, I believe they do represent a deeper integration cross-culturally.
Years ago I lived in southern Louisiana where they spoke Cajun French. I still find myself saying “come see (ici)” rather than “come here.” Certainly we hang out our New Zealand flag, support the All Blacks rugby team (a problem in the recent movie where its was the South Africans who were the underdogs), and having a deeper understanding of the Haka war dance that the All Blacks do prior to each game. We sometimes do our own version at home behind closed doors. And I continue to say, “no worries” and occasionally but less often, “good on you” (as in gudonyah), or fizzy drink for soda or pop.
What are we thinking about as we move toward closure in Hong Kong? I find myself ending emails that acknowledge the receipt of something with “noted with thanks.” During Chinese New Year I could not help myself from imaging others by ending emails with “Wishing you well in the Year of the Tiger.” These phrases represent a beautiful sense of graciousness that I have grown to appreciate in Hong Kong. This week Karis came to school in the rain and a school guard insisted in holding the umbrella over her and then gave her the umbrella. One of my colleagues brought me a cup of tea when she knew I had a headache. When I arrive at a meeting each place is set with a bottle of water, paper and pencil. When I have given a lecture, I am often given a small token of appreciation such a pen with the university insignia on it. And you are never handed anything with one hand–for example you give your business card to people using both hands. I am to the point where I find myself feeling like I am quite rude when I hand money to a clerk with only one hand. I’m not sure I will ever be able to fully revert to the Western way of handing out or over items, and I think I am going to have to have a stash of gifts to give visitors or speakers.
All these cultural gifts are what I would call “lagniappe,” using a Louisiana term–the little extra gift, a 13 piece dozen.
They are here noted with thanks.