Sunday, 5 April 2009

Yes We Did (Eat Cupcakes)!

So I had a little shindig to celebrate Inauguration Day in January, and invited all my local friends and colleagues, as well as a neighbor lady I see regularly in my building.

I even got some cute cupcakes custom-frosted for the occasion by my local cupcakery. As you may recall, the Inauguration was broadcast live around 6pm Cologne time, so it was perfect for an after-work party.

Ironically, the group included only two Americans--me and a colleague I had only just met (second from left, above)--along with a Brit (far left), a Russian (second from right), two Germans (not pictured) and four Turks (one on far right, other three not pictured). Still, between the cupcakes and the California champagne (bought in LA at Christmas especially for this purpose), a good time was had by all. A veritable World Peace Party.

But the biggest laugh of the night was this: the "corrected manuscript" of the party invitation I had left by my neighbor's door. On the morning of the party, I found a little packet on my doorstep containing two pieces of paper:

1) my original invitation, marked up in red pen

2) ...along with a separate piece of paper with the invitation completely rewritten, along with a response from the neighbor saying she couldn't make it.

This neighbor, who has always been very friendly, had found my grammar so intolerable that she couldn't just respond to the invitation--she not only felt compelled to correct it, but had to send it to me for my edification!

Readers from North America, and perhaps from the UK as well, will require no explanation for my astonishment at receiving this unsolicited grammar lesson. In "our" culture, and I use the term loosely, the proper response to a new neighbor's inviting you to their home includes expressions of gratitude for the invitation, followed by either acceptance or decline (the latter accompanied by a plausible excuse). It definitely does NOT include the return of an invitation with corrections, even if the thing was composed in the most atrocious English imaginable. For an American or a Canadian to respond as Frau K did would be regarded in my native land as gratuitously insulting to the host and unfathomably rude on the part of the invitee.

But I knew Frau K meant me no harm, so I found the whole thing hilarious. Every time I looked at her note, I couldn't help laughing at what a misfit I am in this country. And part of me was even interested to learn more about the details of grammar that I'd missed. It also made a fun topic of discussion at the party, since my gaggle of expat friends found Frau K's antics as funny as I did--so all's well that end's well.