Friday, May 30, 2008


Missy's birthday party with all her little friends from barnehage was yesterday. Details and pictures later--for now I have a bit of a poser for you all.

For reasons entirely too lame to dwell on, I ended up inviting ALL the girls--not just the girls Missy's age, not just the ones she plays with regularly, but ALL the girls at the barnehage--and in so doing, managed to invite 2 little ones that have never been to a birthday party before. Their mothers (in one case, a foster mother) were so pleased, yet nervous about the prospect, that they both called to ask if it would be okay if they stayed for the party--just to be on the safe side.

Fine. Fine. Whatever. I had no problem with that. More adult supervision is always a bonus at these events.

The one mother (the non-foster one) is a foreigner like me. From the Philippines. Been here nearly 10 years. Very quiet. Even more tortured than me by small talk, it would seem. Anyway, she didn't bring a gift, just a card with money. While I think it's a little chicken shit to give a 4 year old cash for her birthday, it's not unheard of here, and that's not my problem. My problem is the amount of cash she gave: 350 kroner (about $70).

It's too much--crazy too much--and I don't feel good about keeping it. Do I approach her about returning some of it? Or, would that just embarrass the hell out of everyone, and insult her entire family and 6 generations of ancestors? Keep in mind that even though she's been here nearly 10 years and one would think that she would have learned by now that the accept norm for a birthday gift in these parts is closer to 100 kroner: a) this is her only child, b) this was said only child's first birthday party, so no etiquette setting precedent to go on, c) she made several comments while she was here that led both Mister and me to believe that her family's contact with other Norwegians is limited, so it stands to reason that she had no one to ask "Hey what would be considered appropriate here?"

I would feel differently--like maybe she meant to give us that much, rather than she just didn't know how much to give--if both her and her husband where high earning professionals. But they're not--he's a farmer, she's a checker at a grocery store. Surely, they don't have this kind of money to throw around. I know we don't. Also, by approaching her, awkward as it would be, we would be letting her know the local standard for the next party they're invited to. So, you know....civil service, and all that?

I honestly don't know. Do I say something or not?


jillybaby said...

Hmmm JEDA you're right, that is a sticky one and one I'm not sure even I would know how to resolve. So, in my infinite 'special Scottish people' wisdom, I have come up with a solution. Yes it's lame but it is a solution and it strikes me that you're not abundant in those at the moment.

Anyway the aforementioned solution. Firstly, keep the money but there are conditions attached...

You strike up a friendship with this woman, I'm not talking a jillybaby replacement, just a little more than smalltalk. Then you discuss the possibility of her kid having a birthday party when the time comes. The outcome will be that she will experience first hand the levels of gifts normally given and their respective values.

So it's like a subtle hint to her without offending or embarassing her. Sure it's a lot of money but to approach her about it direct would be a mistake. She just needs more exposure to the norwegian way of doing things and you could be her saviour.

Does that help?

Anonymous said...

First of all, I think it was great (not lame) of you to invite all the girls from the barnehage. I'm sure Missy loved having all those kids about. Regarding money as a gift, in my particular culture it is seen as OK, as long as it's family members making the cash contributions. Yes, 350 kroner is a LOT of money. I agree with Jillybaby to tackle the issue in a subtle manner. Otherwise, if you go about it in an in-your-face Gringo way, she will get offended. By all means don't return the money. You may tell her if you see her that her gift was "very, very generous" thus implying that is was a bit grand. But beware of the language barrier since this lady's Norwegian is not that fluent and I assume her English is not that great either. Good luck! Claudita

La Dragon said...

Hm. This is a bit of a pickle, isn't it. See, my gut feeling is that you could and perhaps should say something to her... civil service and all that... but I haven't the slightest idea how you'd go about doing so diplomatically, if you don't know her well enough to know if she's the sensitive and easily-offended sort, or not. But I have to believe that there's some way to communicate it. I mean, I kind of feel bad for the woman.

Queen LaTeacha said...

What would Jesus do?

Joanne Rasmussen said...

Hi I am loving your blog. My 2 cents worth. I would purchase a suitable gift for your daughter to the value of about 100K then put the change in an envelope and invite this woman round with her daughter for a play date and give the envelope to her and show her the delightful gift you got for your daughter and explain how you felt too guilty to keep the balance?