August 12, 2009
“Soyez bienvenue! Je peux vous offrir un café, un verre peut-etre?
No, merci, c’est gentil.
This was a typical greeting from friendly Belgian people, when I first moved to Brussels in 1990, but it was a culture shock for me.
Things are different in Ireland.
In Ireland, the conversation would go like this.
“Come in, you’re welcome, can I get you something?
No, no I’m fine thank you very much.
Are you sure? Have a cup of tea, or coffee if you prefer.
Ah go on, I’ll put the kettle on.
Thanks very much.
When offered a drink or other hospitality in Ireland, it is normal to refuse at first. Your host or hostess will then insist and, depending on the situation, you might say no again, only finally to succumb to the third or fourth offer.
(If you really do not want anything, by the way, you will have to have a very good excuse – best to ask at least for a glass of water.
Hence, my dilemma when I moved to Belgium. When offered hospitality I refused at first, like any well-mannered Irish boy, and they took me at my word! I had to learn to adapt very quickly, to avoid going thirsty.
You can see where this is heading. Irish people often EXPECT TO BE ASKED TWICE!
PS. As implied above, Irish people may sometimes expect to be asked even three times before accepting hospitality. Here, the analogy with Lisbon Treaty referendum breaks down. There will not be a third referendum! Unlike the article above, this is not a joke.
Author : Jim Murray