deird1: Dawn drinking a milkshake (Dawn milkshake)
[personal profile] deird1
A piece of random Aussie etiquette for you:

(Context: I was reading a discussion of various cultural "gifting" things, and the Aussie cup of tea came up. Was the first time I'd really thought about it.)

If you go to someone's house, for any reason that requires you staying more than about a minute, you will be offered a cup of tea or coffee. (By which I mean, they'll say "Would you like a tea or coffee?" or offer one and instantly apologise for not having the other. Never just the one.)

When this happens, there are various options at your disposal:
1) "Yes, I'd love a cup of tea."
2) "Yes, I'd love a cup of coffee."
3) "No, thank you."
4) [the hidden one that foreigners don't know about]

Options 1 and 2 are great. Option 3 will... be a problem. Most likely, your Aussie host will look a bit puzzled, and ever-so-slightly frantic, and start offering up all the miscellaneous contents of their fridge until you pick something. This is because, as with many cultural issues, there's a whole lot of subtext happening.

See, you think the conversation has happened like this:
"Would you like a tea or coffee?"
"No, thank you."

Whereas, it's actually done this:
"I am happy to be your host. Are you happy?"
"No. I am not happy. Host better."

(It's much the same as the standard "How are you?" "Good! How are you?" "Good!" exchange. Very few people are actually asking. They're just checking that you're willing to be pleasant in their direction.)

The subtextual conversation we're aiming for is:
"I am happy to be your host. Are you happy?"
"Yes, I am happy to be your guest. You're being a good host."

This will be best achieved by the aforementioned options 1 or 2, or by secret option 4. Which goes like this:
*friendly sigh* "I'd love a glass of water!"

...then, you say thanks for the water, and if you're not thirsty, you don't actually need to drink it.

Date: 2016-09-06 11:59 pm (UTC)
alexseanchai: Purple lightning (Default)
From: [personal profile] alexseanchai

(I hate subtext in realtime, can't process it properly, and as such would absolutely have hit this one wrong had the opportunity ever arisen. Thanks!)

Date: 2016-09-07 12:16 am (UTC)
heliopausa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heliopausa
:D I have collided with this! It's great fun to observe how strongly ingrained one's own culture is. If someone comes visiting - not just to the door, but actually inside the house, then yep, I'm internally compelled to offer them a cup of tea. :D

Date: 2016-09-07 12:34 am (UTC)
immer_am_lesen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] immer_am_lesen
I find it's a great 'occupier', especially if you have little to talk about with the visitor- you can just sit and enjoy your cuppa.
The worst is when they say "no, I'm right thanks", or ask for some water. With the non-anything-drinker, they sit there awkwardly while you enjoy your cuppa, with no mug to fiddle with. And with a water-drinker, there's only so much water they can sip before they either have to act dehydrated and get another glass, or just hold it and look...odd.
Even if I don't *need* a tea, I always accept one, as it's nice to have a little, and better than looking and feeling awkward. And yes, the host feels like they are hosting well. There's something a little bit insulting about someone not wanting a warm beverage you are offering. :-)

PS- I always offer tea, coffee, decaf, hot I find the fourth option is often a winner if the first couple aren't. :-)

Date: 2016-09-07 08:39 am (UTC)
vass: A sepia-toned line-drawing of a man in naval uniform dancing a hornpipe, his crotch prominent (Default)
From: [personal profile] vass
This is true. And I don't know how I knew that already, since I wasn't explicitly taught it and it's the sort of social thing I have trouble picking up. Just lucky, I guess: usually I actually would love a glass of water, especially if it's that or have them go to the trouble of making tea or coffee.

Date: 2016-09-07 08:42 am (UTC)
zeborah: Four zebras and their reflections in the water they're drinking from (reflective)
From: [personal profile] zeborah
I'd accept hot chocolate if I was offered it, but when the question is 'tea or coffee' it's not safe to presume on hot chocolate the way it is for water. And I'm not going to accept something I hate the taste of if I can help it because then I've either got to drink it (ugh) or leave a full mug behind when I leave (wasteful and exceptionally rude: I'd drink it rather than leave it, but I'd resent you for foisting it on me).

Surely people can't actually drink more of tea or coffee than they can of water. I suppose it's more obvious that you've finished your water because the glass is transparent. Or maybe tea/coffee drinkers naturally start off slower due to the heat of it. Still, I'd think the solution would be that, if the water-drinker has finished their drink and the conversation's flagging, that's your cue to say sincerely, "It's been so great to see you again," at which (with appropriate back-and-forth of course) they can flee in immense relief.

Date: 2016-09-07 08:45 am (UTC)
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeborah
I feel like I independently invented the water thing in desperation because I hate tea and coffee but people always look so confused when I say so. I'm rarely thirsty at all but at least there's nothing unpleasant about drinking water, so.

Date: 2016-09-07 10:07 am (UTC)
immer_am_lesen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] immer_am_lesen
If tea and coffee are so abhorrent to you, then asking for an alternative which may not occur to a lot of people (I'll sometimes forget to offer hot choc as it's so rare that someone doesn't want a tea/ herbal tea/ coffee/ decaf), is something you should do. If they have it, great, and if they don't have it they'll apologise and you can still ask for your glass of water.
I doubt any host ever would FORCE you to gag down a drink, if they knew you hated it so much, and making yourself drink something you hate is just silly.
It's normal as a host to assume acceptance of a tea-or-coffee warm beverage, so if it's not your thing, then you need to just say you really don't like it, and ask for something else- though they'd probably offer you alternative milo/ hot choc/ juice/ lemonade/ cola/ water once you decline the standard two, anyway... :-)

...and, if it's an 'immense relief' situation you find yourself in and wanting to flee, then maybe accepting anything at all in the first place isn't your best option. Just an "ah, no thanks, I can't stay, I have [invent thingo you have to go see to here]", and making a gracious exit, no need for stressing over refusals, acceptances, or stilted conversations, has worked for me.

Date: 2016-09-07 10:58 am (UTC)
zeborah: Four zebras and their reflections in the water they're drinking from (reflective)
From: [personal profile] zeborah
But if I ask for hot chocolate or milo or juice and they don't have it then it puts them in the position of having to refuse my first/second/third choice of drink and therefore unwittingly being a bad host; and putting them in that position makes me a bad guest. Whereas if I ask for water then they can grant my request easily, thus fulfilling their hostly duties to give me my first choice of drink, and everyone's happy.

Trust me, I've tried 'just' saying "I don't like tea or coffee", and I've got everything from confusion through to panic. And I've occasionally tried asking tentatively for milo or whatever seems most likely, and if they don't have it (they usually don't have it) they get super apologetic and I have to spend a long time saying it's okay and they still feel guilty and I get irritated at having to say it's okay *again*. Whereas if I just say "A glass of water would be great thanks" then they can just pour me a glass of water exactly the same as they'd pour someone a tea.

And certainly if I'm desperately wanting to go I'll make excuses and go if I politely can. But sometimes I can't politely because my host is the kind of person who Just Keeps Talking and you can't get a word in edgewise without practically saying "I don't care about the end of your story, I have to go". In these situations the only resort is to pointedly finish drinking all my water and angle my feet towards the door and fiddle awkwardly with things in the hopes that they'll pick up on my body language and wrap up their story.

Of course I'm exaggerating for effect, and anyway not everyone with an empty water glass is that desperate. And *anyway* my original point wasn't even about the guest's comfort except in passing; I was responding to your expressed discomfort with the odd-lookingness of guests fiddling with empty water glasses when the conversation lags, and suggesting that if you as host are uncomfortable then you can just as easily create a gracious exit too.

tl;dr I'm just trying to refute the idea that when a guest requests a glass of water it's "the worst". Unless of course you live in a place where clean water is legitimately not easy to lay your hands on. But otherwise if they ask for a glass of water, give them a glass of water and don't stress about it - or even put it in a mug if you don't want to have to worry about the odd-ness of the empty glass.

Date: 2016-09-07 11:36 am (UTC)
immer_am_lesen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] immer_am_lesen
...I never said empty water glasses made me uncomfortable, you somehow inferred that- I just said that someone holding a glass of water looks odd, to me. Somehow not as comfortable as someone nursing a warm cuppa.
If their glass is empty it doesn't weird me out, it makes me think they liked it, and I'll ask if they'd like more. Just as someone playing with an empty mug is a signal to ask if they'd like more of their drink, or if they're all done. :)

My reply to Mez's post was my personal opinion, not intended to be mistaken for some sort of serious hate for drinkers of water.

Anyways. Yay for all drinks, and friends to drink them with. The end.

Date: 2016-09-07 06:56 pm (UTC)
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeborah
Sorry, when my subconscious perceives a communication failure it can't account for I get longwinded when what I really should do is just go to bed on time for a change.
Edited (insert missing words...) Date: 2016-09-07 06:56 pm (UTC)

Date: 2016-09-07 10:12 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Wow. Sometimes I feel like I missed out on a looooot of social cues.

As a host I tend not to offer tea and coffee because I rarely drink the former and don't drink the latter, and any time I make them for someone else it causes me significant hidden stress/anxiety about whether I'm making it the way they like it and whether it's actually horrible and undrinkable. (Cooking etc is a huge performative-anxiety thing for me and apparently that extends to making hot drinks.)

So I tend to offer water or juice, and if they say "actually I'd love a cup of tea" I wave my hand at the kettle and tea/coffee-making-stuff and say 'have at'. :)

Laney cannot host

Date: 2016-09-08 01:12 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
See, or there are these other options I like to include in my hosting repertoire:
1. Let guest in, forget to offer anything while they are there;
2. Offer guest teaorcoffee, boil kettle, do nothing else;
3. Make guest's teaorcoffee, leave teaorcoffee sitting in mug going cold without offering it to guest (also works with warming them a muffin in the microwave);
4. Offer teaorcoffee to guest, realise guest is Mez who won't want coffee, blanch at challenge of making tea to Mez Standard, offer the use of teapot so she can make tea herself.

Re: Laney cannot host

Date: 2016-09-08 09:24 am (UTC)
immer_am_lesen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] immer_am_lesen
Haha. I have achieved #2 myself, on more than one occasion. It only happens when a really good friend visits and you actually have too much to talk about, you forget the whole eating/ drinking thing, until they get up to leave, and you cry "oh no! I boiled the kettle, but forgot to make the tea!"
Or if they bring kids. Then there are multiple kids, and no-one can remember anything when that happens.


deird1: lilac flowers, with text "how do they rise up" (Default)

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