We are products of where we come from.
I consider myself one of the most non-Kiwi New Zealanders I know, and when I visited home last year I kept being asked what part of America I came from. But yesterday, being the opening of the Rugby World Cup in Aotearoa/New Zealand, I found myself in a sports bar watching the game. I cheered the Tongan Sipi Tau, had shivers down my spine at the All Blacks' Haka and drooled along with every other female and a few males as Sonny Bill changed his shirt. And learned a little about our culture viewed through other eyes.
I was sitting with a couple of Irish guys (my other nationality, so I felt at home) and they were talking about New Zealanders. Apparently the rest of the world thinks it strange that when you tell a Kiwi to come stay if ever they're in town, they do. Being a Kiwi, it had never ever occurred to me that people would offer you a place to stay if they didn't mean it. In Aotearoa, we tend not to say things we don't mean. Apparently, in other parts of the world, people say things just to be polite (yes, even in Ireland, which is not the first country that springs to mind when one thinks of polite gentility). The Irish boys told me that in Ireland you have to say no the first time anyone offers you something and wait for them to offer again before accepting. They also said they miss out on a lot of things because of that.
The conversation left me feeling defensive, uncomfortable and wondering how many people I'd inflicted my presence on when they hadn't actually meant the invitation they'd extended. We're a very literal people and believe what people say - and I hope I don't begin to question that because I prefer to believe people. But I just found out that the rest of the world doesn't necessarily work that way.
It's a very strange thing to feel I need to apologize to people for taking what they say as truth, but that's how I feel right now. So, to anyone I have inflicted my presence on in the misguided belief that an invitation meant a welcome, I humbly apologize. Though I do advise you to think before you say things that you don't mean.
THIS JUST IN: I have been advised by a number of American friends and my Australian guru that they all mean it when they invite someone to visit - perhaps it's just an Irish thing?