Sunday, March 11, 2007

Great American Melting Pot, Part II

Yesterday my daughter was invited to the birthday party of a classmate. We arrived at the birthday girl's home at the hour noted in the invitation and discovered that this party was only partly for the friends of the birthday girl: the house was already full of her extended Filipino family. The invitation had not mentioned an end time for the festivities, so I asked the girl's mother. Her face wrinkled in concern, "You're not staying?"

"Well----my son has a baseball game that starts in twenty mintues . . ." (and the invitation did not mention anything about parents staying)

"Oh. Okay. Well, you can come back in a few hours."

Pressing for specificity I said, "So, around 5?"

"Sure." said the Mom.

So I went off to the baseball game, (they won!), and reappeared back at the birthday house at, I thought, the agreed upon departure time. I was actually about five minutes "late". By the time I got there I joined a group of about five other Anglo parents who were all bemused and/or downright irritated to discover that the party was still in full swing. The mother of the birthday girl, on the other hand, looked genuinely surprised to see us all there and confused that some of the parents were actually instructing their children to gather their belongings in preparation for departure.

"But we haven't had the cake! We haven't done the pinata!"

At this point, a couple of us got it that we were witnessing a multi-cultural learning moment. Anglo-American birthday parties begin and end at a set time. Parents hang around only if specifically invited to do so. A good host begins gently preparing the kids for the party's end so that they are ready to go when the parents arrive at the pre-appointed departure time. Polite guests arrive and leave on schedule.

Filipino parties, apparently, are all day affairs that don't have set start and end times. Everyone comes and hangs out. They end when everyone is ready for them to be over. Only rude people would appear at some arbitrary time and insist that their kids leave right away.

Someone needs to write an inter-cultural guide to party manners.

6 comments:

Presbyterian Gal said...

Got a problem with your daughter's classmate's mom. The daughter must have attended other birthday parties. The mom must have some experience of local custom in these things. While it's good to be sensitive to the customs of others, it's good for those living here to return the sensitivity. I would bet it's a combo of custom and the classmate's mom losing her sense of time (translated dingbat in ruder circles). Hope the dents on your tongue heal up soon cause I know that had to be a comment bite backer.

Purechristianithink said...

Possible that the mom is a little ditsy. But the girls are just in first grade, so it could be that she just hasn't been to that many American style b-day parties. Even more possible: this is all just more evidence that children's birthday parties are evil and should be banned forever.

Anonymous said...

So, did you stay and have fun with the rest of the folks? Lighten up, it was a party and obviously the kids were not bored. I have seen b-day parties where the kids couldn't wait to leave. Why is this person's way wrong?
Muphinsmom

Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

See I totally understand that! Would I ever have a party like that? Nope...I want to know when those kids are leaving my house!

Living where there is a large hispanic population, I see this all the time in everything! Not just b-day parties!

Purechristianithink said...

Anony--this person's way isn't "wrong" nor is the traditional American b-day party. But there is much fertile ground for misunderstanding and hurt feelings when cultural expectations collide. That was my point. She seemed "inconsiderate" to the parents of some of her guests. We seemed "rude" to her. Yet everyone's intent was to be on their best behavior.

The Simpleton said...

Lol. Just more evidence that one party's cake is another party's poison. It is the custom here in my rahther anglo community for parents to stay at birthday parties for the whole time. In essence, it's a party for everyone, including siblings of the guests. Of course sometimes this is more pleasant than other times.

And we'll see what happens to the custom when the kids are, oh, 16 or so.