By Robin Abrahams
A couple of good letters came in suggesting that J.G. of San Juan can continue speaking Spanish even when someone responds in English:
Another reader writes:
During our honeymoon in Israel, we were somewhat surprised to hear our Jewish Israeli guide speaking to an Arab shopkeeper in Arabic, while the shopkeeper responded in Hebrew. Although the motivation for this asymmetry, demonstrating mutual respect, was different than that of JG, it did show the possibility.
These are great anecdotes. With people J.G. isn't familiar with, however, it might be good to follow their lead on what language they want to speak, just to avoid giving any possible offense. And speaking of giving offense in other countries, another reader writes (in response to this "My Word"):
Well, yes. Even in the U.S., you make the "OK" sign under the table, or mentally, because who wants to admit that despite being a grown person they still can't remember which water glass they're supposed to drink from? And you NEVER make hand gestures in a foreign country. Ever. Except for that universally understood writing-on-the-air accompanied-by-quizzical-look that means, "Check, please."