After being here for nearly a year, we have some level of understanding when it comes to cultural differences. Even with and increased level of understanding, however, I constantly try to view things from a perspective other than my own. One of my most constant struggles is when to sit with someone and for how long.
Some things remind me of home. For example, when you greet someone, you ask how they are doing. The customary answer is "fine;" we recently discussed with our teach that you wouldn't really respond differently even if you did not really feel "fine". As I have mentioned, it is polite to invite people into your home... whether it is a neighbor walking down the street, the landlord dropping something off, or a friend passing by. When you have someone in your home, you bring drinks and snacks out to them, whether they seem to want them or not! The signal that the visit is coming to an end is typically when they bring out the coffee.
There are two big differences I have noticed between these gatherings and those at home. One is that it seems like there are fewer times when it is appropriate to decline an offer here. The other difference is that no matter how much a guest protests, they really probably want something to eat or drink, and the other side of that is that when I am a guest in someone's home, I MUST eat or drink what they put before me!
It is helpful to figure out these different cultural nuances, but I find myself in different situations weekly that leave me wondering how to best honor my host. It makes me unjderstand much more about what it means to be part of a culture. At home, we do many of the same things, but I am much more capable of "reading people," and I am more comfortable "making entrances and exits." I realize this is only natural; I guess I just have to get used to the fact that there will be times when, no matter how hard I try, I just won't "get it," and I may offend someone.