Last weekend was a weekend of parties. My elder daughter attended one on Saturday and my younger daughter went to two on Sunday. I was Mrs Taxi Driver all weekend, although I did get to meet some new people and have some fun chats with other parents, so all happy.
However, what these parties did bring home to me is what a potential mine-trap parties can be when you are new to a place and don’t know how others do it.
In our case it’s not so much the South African culture we have to worry about as the girls go to an International school and have friends from all over the place. But there is still a collective “knowledge” of how things are done – and the fear is that you will just get it plain wrong.
Sounds a bit silly? Well consider the following:
- first of all – who do you invite? Just a couple of friends? The whole class? The whole YEAR group?
- in some countries, no-one answers the invites, but they all still turn up
- in some places, everyone will be at LEAST half an hour late
- in others, they will all turn up on the dot of time
- in some, you have to cater for at least two or three times the number of guests you have invited because they will all bring a brother, or a cousin, or a granny….who will all expect to be fed
- do you leave your children at the party? If you do, will anyone be looking after them?
- if the parents stay, will they expect to be fed?
- if the parents leave, will they be back on time to pick them up? Will they even actually come back at all (and yes, this has happened to us – in St Lucia).
So whilst an earlier post I wrote about birthdays was whether we would have any friends to invite to my daughter’s 10th birthday party in a couple of weekends time, now my worrying has reached a whole new level. Add to the above things like how much food is expected, will we have to do party bags and will those guests who haven’t replied to the invitation turn up anyway? On top of this, we have had to battle venue issues (what sort of place was available? When we found somewhere, we had to book the food separately from the activity…); payment issues (they wouldn’t take an online credit card payment; we couldn’t pay direct into their bank account because we don’t have a bank account in the country yet…); and cake issues (where can I get one???? I can’t make one even if I wanted to – my baking equipment is still on the high seas….) and it’s left me feeling quite weak and in need of a llie-down instead of pumped up and ready to celebrate!
But in the end I decided that as this WAS such an international enviroment actually everyone would probably do it differently anyway. So we’re doing it the way we would back home (except we are inviting more children than we would – as she doesn’t yet have one or two “best” friends). We’ll only cater for the invited guests. Parents can look after themselves. I won’t encourage extra brothers or cousins to stay. We probably won’t do party bags but will send them home with some cake. And I will assume that only those who have said they will come will, actually, turn up.
It could be great…..or it could be a total disaster!
What birthday party cultural clashes have you encountered? Have you made any major boo-boo’s – and if so did you manage to cover up any faux-pas’? Do share your stories, it’s always good to know we’re not alone stumbling crazily through this expat life!