Even new habits die hard
Some habits are hard to acquire. Others are not. For example, it didn’t take me long to pick up the Lebanese habit of asking ‘do you want/need anything?’ upon leaving. Whether it’s leaving a room going to the kitchen, leaving the house to go shopping, or even getting off the bus to go to work (I’m not kidding, I once heard a guy ask the bus-driver if he needed anything – how he would get the wanted item to the bus-driver once he would drive off, I don’t know); you ask the question every single time.
Usually, the question is answered with ‘your health’ – as in, you don’t need to bring me anything other than your safe return. Hardly ever is it met with an actual request to bring anything. If somebody does ask for something specific, it’s most likely because your destination is spoken of earlier and they know you’re going to that exact store that carries the item they need.
The problem started when I came back to the Netherlands and forgot that this is not standard practice. Every time I left the office, I would ask my colleagues ‘do you need anything?’ First they didn’t know what I meant. ‘Do I need anything? Like, what kind of thing?’ I would try to save face by making up a story about going to the supermarket rather than to the soup-place around the corner for lunch, to increase the chances of them thinking the question was a genuine one, rather than a strange routine I had picked up abroad. When they started ordering their groceries from me, however, it was time to lose the habit.
I still ask it though, but only on one occasion: just before packing my bags to go to Lebanon. The perpetual request?
Stroopwafels. Lots and lots of stroopwafels.