They say it’s hard to be a Saint in the City but I say it’s even harder to be a Belgian in Peru. Or to be a Belgian anywhere outside of Belgium for that matter, because old habits die hard. Take the Belgian idea of politely offering a cup of coffee to a visitor in your home:
HOST: “Would you like a cup of coffee?”
GUEST: “No thank you.”
HOST: “Are you sure? I can make a fresh pot.”
GUEST: “No thanks, I’m actually in a hurry to get to blablablah.”
HOST: “I’m going to make a pot of coffee because so-and-so is coming over in a bit.”
GUEST: “You don’t have to do that I was just leaving anyway.”
HOST: “Here’s some cookies, you sure you don’t want a cup of coffee with that?”
GUEST: “Well if you’re having a cup, I’ll have a cup with you.”
The Belgian guest will politely say “no” at least 2 or 3 times before accepting and the host will keep offering until the guest accepts. The idea is that the guest can’t accept the first time the host offers because it would indicate that he or she came hungry/thirsty to the guest’s house. A similar weirdness takes place when you’re passing that plate of cookies around the coffee table and everyone will refuse to take the last cookie until the plate with that lone last cookie has gone around the table 2 or 3 times, then someone will finally cave and eat the last cookie. The idea is that you don’t want to leave the host without anything, so nobody takes the last of anything until the host has insisted on passing plate around 2 or 3 times.
One of the things I like best about being in Peru is that we eat very well. Unlike the so called developed world, we eat real and fresh foods, not food-like industrial products. For example, we buy fresh bread twice a day, we don’t get bread that lasts 10 days in a plastic bag from a factory 3 states away. We make fresh juice for breakfast most days and I’m the self-proclaimed king of the Philips blender: mangos, papayas, pineapple, bananas, it’s all fair game.
Now lately mamacita linda’s been in a rush to get to work in the morning and she might skip breakfast at home, like this:
Me: “Mamacita, do you want a glass of juice before you go?”
Mamacita Linda: “No papi thanks”.
Me: “Sure you don’t want some of my world famous mango juice?”
Mamacita Linda: “No papi I already told you I don’t have time”.
Me: “Hmmmmmmmmm this is the best juice ever, do you want some before you go?”
Mamacita Linda: “NO PAPI!!!! How many times do I have to tell you the same thing??? I don’t have time!!!! I don’t want juice!!! I don’t want breakfast!!!! Quit asking me the same thing over and over!!!”
Oops. Then I realize I’m no longer in Belgium and there is no such thing as a worldly Belgian.