When I met the mom of my roommate from Panama I offered her my hand to shake, but she unexpectedly hugged and squeezed me, placing a big kiss on both my cheeks. Then she took tons of sweets for us out of her suitcase.
Studying in Wageningen means meeting people from all over the world. We make friends, learn and live with students from very different backgrounds. What they bring with them—foods, music and habits—is a sneak peek into their worlds. Yet, meeting their mother gives a much deeper and unexpected insight. Motherly encounters often result in a culture shock. Ukrainian, Brazilian, Greek and Italian mothers don’t really speak English, but they smile warmly. When they visit, they spend more time in the kitchen, and prepare tons of food. If they offer you this food, refusing is out of question. And if you are vegetarian, be prepared: NOT a valid reason not to taste their homemade salami and sausages!
The mother of my Indian housemate spoke perfect English, skilfully cooked chapatti, and invited us at any time to their home in India. When she noticed I was procrastinating in the kitchen, she frowned, severe, and asked whether I had already completed my schoolwork. This enlightened me on why Indian pupils do so well at school. The mother of my American housemate did not bring or prepare any food. She spent the day talking to everyone she met, informally, emotionally overt, unashamed, simply unstoppable, just like her son. Resemblances are impressive—and cute. Chinese mothers hardly ever come over: they send boxes of mysterious goods via airmail.
What about my mother? She made pizza for all of us, of course. When she said goodbye she gave my German friend two kisses on the cheeks. For us that’s normal, but he blushed up to his ears. I bet he still remembers how he met my mother.