A colleague once asked me to substitute him in his Intermediate Russian class. I don’t teach Russian, and the fact that it’s my first language doesn’t qualify me to teach it. The colleague really needed somebody to substitute for him, though, so I felt like I had to help him out. My colleague was not a native speaker of Russian, so he announced me to this class as “a real Russian person who will answer all of your questions about the Russian culture.”
“So what would you like me to talk to you about?” I asked the class.
“Do you eat bottles after drinking vodka?” a student asked eagerly.
“Yes, can you show us how you do that?” another student suggested.
“That’s like totally the best thing about the Russians!” the rest of the students chimed in.
“I’m sorry, guys, what are you even talking about?” I asked, dumbfounded.
“Well, isn’t it a tradition in your country that after you finish a bottle of vodka you eat the glass bottle? We saw a video here in class where people did that. It was way cool.”
“Yes! It was the best!” all of the students agreed enthusiastically.
“No, we don’t have any such tradition,” I tried to explain, making a mental note to kill my colleague. “The video was probably humorous.”
“Oh, you just say it because you don’t want to show us how you do it,” the students responded. “Of course, it’s what Russian people do all the time.”