Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Pressure of Dinners: Part II

Our neighbours are Peter and Aiko. He is from Sussex, she is from Japan. They have two boys, Hugh (about 4 years old) and Louis (about the same age as Elizabeth). Peter is a stay-at-home Dad, and Aiko is a visiting scholar.  I see Peter out in the courtyard often, chasing his boys around and stopping them from jumping off high walls, or doing 'jumps' on their tricycles, etc etc.

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 (手ぢら?) (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.

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