Dry Cleaned

I’ve been cleaning out some old files lately. In the process, I came across some letters we sent to supporters back in 1995. One contained this little story that Pete told about a lesson he learned during his six week trip to South Korea (for a global conference on world evangelization). Re-reading it made me laugh all over again. I hope you enjoy it too.

Pete writes:

 I had been in Korea about a week and, along with the other staff workers, was running out of clean clothes. It was time to get the laundry done…

The Koreans generously offered to pick up the laundry and take it to be cleaned.

They came to collect the dirty clothes.

“Do you want these dry cleaned?” they asked.

“No, washed please,” we answered. And indeed, they came back washed… and that was all! Bags of soggy laundry were returned to the staff workers!

Apparently, many people in Korea have their clothes washed but not dried. It is half the price. But with the humid air and no place to hand things to dry, this was certainly impractical for us. We learned that we should have said, “Washed and dried please.”

It took several more days to re-collect the wet clothes and have them dried and folded or pressed. And we learned a good lesson in cross cultural communications—just because we use the same words doesn’t imply we mean the same thing!

Have you ever been the “victim” of a cross cultural misunderstanding? What happened?

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