Cultural Differences: Asking Three Times


When living overseas there are cultural differences we quickly pick up and learn from. It can be interesting and funny, but also extremely awkward at times.

Let me give you an example. Life in South East Asia is really fun. In my opinion one of the most fun places to live in the world. Yes, I’m biased, but the people are so friendly and there are just so many interesting things you can do! Just jump on a plane, and you can travel to sandy beaches or beautiful mountains all within an hour or two.

Delicious Dessert

Okay, so back to the example I was about to give on cultural differences. I remember purchasing a delicious dessert type snack. It’s is similar to a “crepe.” You choose whatever ingredient you want to be placed inside of the “crepe.”

Strawberry, banana, chocolate, peanut sauce, and then many strange things I don’t even know what were..! I would always buy the “crepe” with banana and condensed milk sprinkled on top. After lunch, it was always the perfect little dessert to have with a cup of coffee.

Met My Friend

One day, I had purchased the “crepe” with banana and met up with a friend. It’s served on a plate and has been cut up into bite size squares, and you’re given a toothpick to eat it with.

I asked my friend if he wanted to share and I was about to give him an extra toothpick to use. But to my surprise, he said “no thanks.” I thought that was weird, why would anyone not want to eat this delicious dessert?

It’s so good! Maybe it was not something he liked, and he would prefer something other than banana inside. So I started eating it all by myself…

After a few minutes, there were only two pieces left. I had noticed by now that my friend would look at each piece as I would pick it up from the plate with the toothpick and then eat it. I was wondering if I was holding the toothpick in an unusual way, like I sometimes do with the chopsticks.

You Sure You Don’t Want A Piece?!

After I took the second to last piece and ate it, there was only one piece left. I then thought maybe I should ask him again if he would like the last piece. Maybe he changed his mind and would like to try it after all?

Before I could complete the sentence, he answered “yeah, sure,” and took the toothpick and ate the last piece! Then I realized he maybe had been too shy to say “yes” the first time even though he really liked this dessert.

I felt pretty bad since I had been sitting there eating the entire “crepe” by myself right in front of him!

Cultural Differences

Later I learned that this is very common in many cultures. People will say “no” at least two times to be polite, and you had to ask a third time for them to finally say “yes”. I had not lived there for very long, and I was learning something new each day about all the cultural differences!

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All these cultural differences are what makes traveling so fascinating, and it’s really what makes each country unique and special in its own way.

This time I learned that there are many cultures around the world where you have to ask multiple times before they will accept your offer. Saying “no” the first two times is just them being polite toward you.

Have you ever experienced this before?

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The last 15 years, I have been living in various countries around the world. It's been amazing learning new languages and meeting so many interesting and wonderful people of all kinds of backgrounds. I enjoy writing about these experiences, as well as helping people discover what is in their heart to do.

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