So anyways. Last week, Peter told me they had friends visiting from Japan for the weekend. These friends were a pair of doctors who have 2 kids the same age as hi, and they were on their way to a conference in Bordeaux, and in Peter's words, "They say they're going for the conference, but I think he is really there for the wines." Apparently, they've both taken this wine-tasting-sorta-sommelier-type course. Peter tells me they're having a barbeque on Saturday, and would we like to come? Of course! Yay! BBQ! At someone else's house! With other kids! The same ages! Easy-peasy! And the best part: they are right next door so afterwards there will be no drunk-biking home!
I ask what we can bring, and Peter does the usual British response, "Oh, you know, a bottle of something would be great." So I think that is that.
Matthew gets home, and says, "Well, they're Japanese. We should probably buy a gift. And wrap it. You know, it's their culture to bring a gift if you're going into someone's home."
Cue instant panic by Georgina. "What do you mean, a gift? Like for Aiko and Peter, or for the boys? How much are you supposed to spend? Is it rude to bring something to eat or drink? Oh my God, I don't even want to go anymore."
Matthew made me look it up, and yes, Wikipedia agrees:
It is considered impolite to go to someone's house without a gift. In Japanese this is called tebura (手ぶら) (empty-handed). A gift is usually brought in a paper bag (preferably a bag from the shop where you bought the gift).
Well, then I was all stressed out. I spent the next two days thinking of an appropriate gift for a Saturday barbeque. Maybe bubbles for their boys? No, they can be messy inside. Maybe a new ball? No, they might not want a new soccer ball, since all their boys do is kick theirs over the fence into our yard. Maybe a book? Is that rude to buy an English book for a half-Japanese family? Maybe something for their house? Well, they probably don't want anything for their house, since they're renting like us and moving in January... Waitasec, they're only half-Japanese, maybe this gift giving thing was going too far to the Japanese side??? Why am I freaking out about this??? It was just supposed to be a barbeque!
In the end, Matthew helped me do some deep breathing, and we decided, yes, a bottle of wine would suffice. So we went to a proper wine shop, not just the local grocery store where we normally go. And then, freak out part II started, when I remembered the visiting Japanese family are practically Sommeliers, and would have a discerning palate. After about 18 minutes of picking up random bottles of wine with funny labels, we asked the wine shop dude. He recommended a wine (I forget what it was now) and said it was the wine he'd served at his wedding in June. Well, if that isn't a great recommendation, I don't know what is. So we bought it. And also a decorative wine-bottle bag (paper, of course), from the shop we bought it in. Phew. I was finally relaxed for the barbeque.
When we got there, I thrust the bag into Aiko's hands, and felt immediate relief. We then proceeded to eat, drink and have a great time. Until about 2 hours into the barbeque, and I started thinking about what to cook for them when we have them over to our place.