Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dinner Party to Learn Western Manners

Two months ago, Monday night Tree House workers thought it would be fun to learn about Western manners and to learn how to cook a Western dish. They drew a vision map. Part of the vision was accomplished.
Over the past two months, they learned about western manners, planned a menu, picked out music, made lists of things to buy, created a role play to teach five manners, invited students to the Tree House to learn about western manners weeks before the party. Those who came to the Tree House and were able to describe the differences between a Western manner with a Chinese manner received an invitation ticket to the main event a real dinner party.

It was a three course meal:
1. Watermelon, cucumber, tomato salad
2. Ham and spaghetti
3. Cake

Over a period of 2 hours, three groups of ten students visited the Tree House at the designated time on their invitations, watched a role play and then practiced their western manners by eating a meal prepared by my site mate.

The role play consisted of 6 students: one student introduced the role play, four students played two Americans and two Chinese people exchanging ideas about manners, the sixth student had a hammer, would knock the students on the head when they did something wrong and then would reveal a painted sign with the rule for the correct Western manner.

(Which rule is being broken here?)

What were the five rules?
1. Napkin in lap
2. Pass food
3. Don't make noise when eating
4. Cut food into small pieces
5. No elbows on the table

All the students really loved the event. They thought the spaghetti was strange tasting. Some said it was sweet. Others thought the salad was strange mixing fruit with vegetables. They said it was salty. They thought it was inconvenient to have to use the right hand to cut the meat into small pieces then switch hands to use the fork in the right hand to eat with. They learned how to use a fork to spin the spaghetti into a nice little mouthful.

It was interesting to watch the students use forks and knives, to cut food, to pass food, to wonder how to eat noodles with a fork, to use serving utensils rather than their own. As someone who grew up using a fork and knife, I forgot just how different western manners are from Chinese habits.

I was really proud of the Tree House workers. I didn't have to do anything except make small talk with the students. The workers led the event and would tell the students how they could improve their Western manners.

Everyone hopes that next year there will be another dinner party.

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