There are a few things you should know about me before I write this post:
1. I am a happily married woman.
2. I took enough credits in college in the Russian language to qualify as a minor.
3. When my mother offers to pay my way on a cruise, I will most definitely go.
About three years ago, my mother, my sister and I went on a cruise. We’d never traveled alone together and it was the first time my sister had left her three young boys alone with her husband. As the eldest child, I found myself in the border collie mode — herding us along, trying to circumvent troubles and above all, providing the entertainment.
So when we positioned ourselves in our deck chairs during the first day at sea, we also noted a relatively handsome captain’s assistant, in his crisp white uniform shuffling chairs around on the deck. On my way to get a drink for the group, I subtly noted the country from which this gentleman hailed. Knowing my mother and sister were watching me, I took advantage of the situation.
I stopped and told the man I noted he was from Slovakia and asked if he spoke Russian. In his thick, intriguing accent, he told me that no, his country had its own language, but some of it was similar to Russian. So I said the Russian word for hello and asked what that meant to him.
He paused and I could tell he was trying to watch his words carefully. “Well, in my language,” he said, “that would mean, um, unbridled sex.”
Now it has taken me three years to be able to share this story, but in recalling it, I know there is a lesson for all of us: Whether customer or business owner or non-profit director or PTA president: Don’t expect others to speak YOUR language. Make sure you speak theirs. Otherwise, you could get in trouble.
And don’t let this keep you from simply saying “hello” to everyone you encounter. It could lead to a very entertaining story.