Living in a different country as an expatriate you are in the fortunate position to learn first-hand about another culture. I find myself even more fortunately positioned, not only do I get to share this interesting country with her very friendly nationals. I find myself surrounded by a diverse group of people from many different cultures.
For most of us the common factor is a sense of fun and adventure. Sometimes conveyed more fully through hand and face signals, for while English may for us be the universal language, often it is difficult to find just the right word when this confusing language is not your mother tongue. Even when two countries may profess to speak English, confusion can and does occur.
There was no confusion though as we celebrated a new friends birthday the other day. Here in Indonesia on special occasions Nasi Tumpeng is served. This dish is full of significance, with the height of the cone symbolizing the greatness of God or Allah, the food at the base of the cone symbolizes nature’s abundance and the yellow turmeric tinged rice symbolizes wealth and high morals. This symbolically rich feast is as pleasant to the tongue as it is to the eyes. To accompany this dish our group of friends has started a tradition of serenading the birthday person with ‘Happy Birthday’ in our native language. What a truly special gift to receive well wishes sung in Chinese, Indonesian, French, Dutch, Fujian, Malaya, Spanish (accompanied with dance moves), Japanese and in the case of Hindi, where there is no ‘Happy Birthday’ song, with a very pretty blessing.