DEAR ABBY: While I agree wholeheartedly with your reply to "Hurt in Holstein, Germany" (8-11), regarding the gift of candy, I would like to add some insight to the German culture. I am married to a German man, lived there for five years, and enjoyed the opportunity to immerse myself in their customs and way of life.
I learned that not only are birthdays celebrated more widely in Germany (more parties and such), but it is also custom for the birthday person to supply the cake, eats, drinks, etc.
Commonly, one will take something in to work or school for the group as a way of celebrating. So I understand quite well how the family in that letter hit upon the idea of sharing the American candies with the student's class. It would indeed have been a treat for her classmates to have something from another country, instead of the usual treats.
While I can't say I agreed with every custom and cultural difference, I have never regretted having had the opportunity to experience them. It is in this way that we learn and grow. -- BEEN THERE, LEARNED A LOT, PORTLAND, ORE.
DEAR BEEN THERE, LEARNED A LOT: Thank you for sharing your insight. Many readers echoed your sentiments. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: "Hurt's" host family was simply following a common German custom. Yes, it's different from what we do here in America, but Hurt would do well to consider how generous it is to give "gifts" to others on one's birthday, rather than sitting back and receiving, as we do in the U.S.A. -- ERICKA S., AUSTIN, TEXAS
DEAR ABBY: Here in the Pacific Islands, when a family receives goodies from outside of the islands, it's expected they will be shared by everyone in the community. There is no more heartwarming feeling than sharing. I hope "Hurt" at least learns the value of sharing -- if anything -- from her stay in Germany. Otherwise, it will have been a colossal waste of time for her to have been there.
If this world is at war, it's no wonder. We are not willing to share. -- ISLAND BOY, SAIPAN
DEAR ABBY: That exchange student needs to lighten up. In Germany, tradition dictates you take candy to your classmates. But not just "any" candy -- it has to be special. The host family was not being rude; they were actually being complimentary. -- FORMER EXCHANGE STUDENT TO THE USA FROM THE U.K.
DEAR ABBY: My family moved to the Netherlands when I was a child, and I attended school there from grade two to grade seven. It was customary for each "birthday" boy or girl to bring treats for the teacher and class once a year. It was something we all enjoyed very much.
As adults, the "birthday" person is expected to hold an open house, so friends and family can drop by with gifts, and the host or hostess provides the coffee, baked goods and chocolates. Perhaps they have similar customs in Germany. -- KATHERINE A., NAPLES, FLA.
DEAR ABBY: Sharing the family's gift with others was a way for them to indeed "share the wealth." I lived in Austria for 15 years. They loved it when I'd bring candy from the U.S. that they didn't have in Europe. -- JOHN N., BAXTER, MINN.
DEAR ABBY: "Hurt in Holstein, Germany" should realize that sharing the candy was an honor, not an act of ingratitude on the part of her host family. No opportunity to teach the world about our culture should be missed. -- TEACHER IN MEMPHIS, TENN.