I invited my team to dinner on a Saturday night a few weeks ago. The occasion was a farewell party for one of my junior team member. As I was thinking of a little party, I invited a couple of others too. One of my guests was a Chinese girl who works in my department and looks after the Chinese collaborations and market. She found it a little difficult to adjust in Bangkok in the beginning but is doing much better now.
Just to make her feel a little involved in our little party I called her over to my cubicle for a chat one afternoon (we shall call her Liu here!)
Me: Hey Liu…do you drink?
Liu: Drink water?
Me: No do you drink…like wine or alcohol at parties? Coz I was thinking of getting us some port and some other stuff too.
Liu: Oh do you want me to get wine?
Me: You bring wine if you like and I will get some port.
Liu: Okay! Red or White please?
Me: Whatever you like. Have you ever eaten Indian food before? Can you eat spicy food?
Liu: No, is Indian food very spicy?
Me: Not very. I shall put less of spices for you. Can you eat sour food?
Liu: What is sour please?
Me: You know like lemons.
Liu: I HAVE TO EAT LEMONS? (She was looking quite shocked)
Me: No not eat lemons. We call this food Raita. It’s made of curd or yogurt and vegetables or fruits. It will taste a little like lemons…sour. Can you eat that?
Liu: Where can I get that please? (Starting to look uncomfortable)
Me: Errrrr…you may get it in some Indian restaurants maybe? (I was totally confused and unsure as to where the conversation was leading)
Liu: You want me to get it and eat it? (Looking very distressed by now)
Me: NO… no…I am asking you…would you mind trying it?
Liu: Oh but I am not sure where I can get it. (By then she was probably wondering why I wanted her to go buy some weird food out of the blue and eat it and I realized I shouldn’t have called her for chit chat.)
Me: NO you don’t have to get it from anywhere… I will make it for dinner. You try it at my place.
Liu: Oh at dinner at your place? Sure no problem…I was thinking…
She walked back to her cubicle still looking at little confused but much relieved. She kept stealing a few glances at me. I was a little overwhelmed by how close I was to falling victim to mis-communication and misinterpretation. I breathed a little easier knowing that I had not convinced a poor girl to eat lemons or go Raita hunting on a hot afternoon… funny though it sounds now.