It's funny that after living here for four years, you still find yourself alienated by the smallest rituals.
The thing that struck me recently was birthdays.
Now, there are things I have come to accept:
- It is the worst luck ever to wish someone happy birthday in advance. Big no go. Always on the day or later.
- You have to bring your own cake to work on your birthday. Don't expect anything from your colleagues.
So those are (weird) stuff I got used to. But there are just some others that I find it hard to live without.
Without them I was not just visually unhappy on my birthday, I was also verbally unhappy.
Let me explain:
- Birthdays only count when you have a birthday cake with candles on it.
- There is preferably a physical present wrapped with wrapping paper.
- When you have the birthday cake in front of you, others must sing you a birthday song.
- This is closely followed by the request that you make a wish with your fingers intertwined and eyes closed. You're not allowed to reveal what you wished for.
- Then you blow out the candles, all at one go.
- And you make sure you make the first cut on the cake. Whether you end up separating the pieces is secondary.
After making the most amazing cake a few days later, submitting to my tantrums on my birthday, my husband wondered aloud why I blew out all the candles, thus making the room extremely dark.
Oh honey, you don't know anything about my culture.