‘Flush-Free Niacin’ for Cultural Blunders

I flushed and laughed nervously with Robynn through this post – It’s perfect for those who have experienced the slow flush that goes from head to toe when we realize we’ve made a cultural blunder.


niacin-flush-free-16222_1Lowell takes Niacin to manage his triglycerides. (although we recently heard a report on NPR that disavowed the effects of this overused medication)…still he takes Niacin. On the bottle it reads, “Niacin Flush free. Inositol hexanicotinate. 500 mg. Dietary supplement.” It’s the ‘flush free’ that intrigues me. I’ve often thought that I’d like to take something like that to help me not flush or blush when I’m faced with cultural blunders. Even now 5 ½ years into this culture I still make mistakes.

I still feel that interior flush creeping out onto my face.

A year ago I had such a moment (I find myself blushing at the memory). We had some friends who were back from Indonesia. Their first three years in Indonesia had not gone as they had expected. There were so many disappointments. The culture shock they experienced was deep and poignant. Leaving the stillness of the Kansas Kanza prairie for the chaos and crowds of the urban tropics must have been intense. Micah and Sara invited us to come have tea. Perhaps we could help them debrief and process some of the shock of it all, some of the trauma.

As we were leaving our house I had this horrible panic set in. We had nothing to bring with us. I should have baked something. I should have picked up some flowers or some sweets. In a moment of desperation I suggested we could stop at a small grocery store around the corner from our house. They had fresh stoneground bread on Tuesdays. We could pick up some bread. You can never go wrong with bread. Although we were running late we still swung by the grocer. Lowell ran in and purchased a lovely loaf of fresh bread, jumped back in the car and we were on our way.

After some quiet in the car as we settled into our drive across town and out into the country where Micah and Sara were staying, Lowell asked a question, “Why did you feel the need to bring something?”

Even as he said it I knew immediately I was confused.  I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I had had a cultural-out-of-country experience. I was perplexed and I was embarrassed. I began to blush and flush. I flustered and blustered. “One of the countries we’ve lived in you’re supposed to bring something sweet the first time you visit.”

Lowell looked at me tenderly, he shook his head, “I don’t think that’s here.” I was mortified. “But you can never go wrong with bread” he said gently.

We arrived at our young friend’s house with our loaf of culturally awkward bread.

And the awkward bread dominoes all started to fall. Micah saw the bread and immediately wondered if we thought they had invited us for a meal and we were to bring the bread.

“Did? You? Eat?” he stammered nervously, his eyes looking around the kitchen to see what they could possibly rustle up. The wheels in Sara’s head also began to whirl. You could see it on her face. She even crossed over to the fridge and opened the door, hoping I’m sure, for some inspiration.

Lowell, seeing Micah’s fear and Sara’s anxiety, immediately jumped in to reassure them, “Oh no, we just brought you some bread for you to enjoy later.”

I wish there was a Niacin-type medicine I could take for these type of blunders, a medicine that would erase the awkward blush on my face, the uncertainty in my heart. It would need to be time-released. Something I could take in the morning but it would last all day.

I never know when I’m going to trip myself up. I’m always taken off guard when the cultures I’ve experienced tangle up inside!

But until such a miracle drug is created for the culturally confused, I guess, you can never go wrong with bread!

What about you? Where have your cultural blunders made you wish for a flush-free drug? 

5 thoughts on “‘Flush-Free Niacin’ for Cultural Blunders

  1. Is that an American thing or a Kansan thing – certainly in Ontario you should take something (especially the first time). All the more reason to live in Canada Robie Joy – you would fit right in – less blushing and flushing :). Love you, sweetie.

    mom xxoo


  2. At my job right now I interview people from lots of different cultures, in Russia but in an American cultural setting. I know that most Russian men will not shake hands with a woman…but what about a S. Korean…or a S. African…or someone from Holland. And they are all living cross-culturally and perhaps they know that American women shake the hands of men… Many awkward blushing moments I have had over the past six months trying to figure out my way!


  3. Great post, Robynn. And Lowell comes through as the hero he is! “I don’t think that’s here…but you can never go wrong with bread… “


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