Is this cultural miscommunication, or am I being scammed? How to proceed?
July 31, 2008 8:57 PM Subscribe
Looking for advice about how to handle a cultural misunderstanding...or possibly a scam. Not sure how to reconcile the experience and associated feelings, and especially unsure about how to deal with the situation in the most sensitive and informed way.
I met and lived with an amazing family in Mexico recently. We shared stories and spent meals together and laughed a lot. I was looking forward to returning again the next year. A few days after I arrived home in the US, I received an email (in Spanish, but I am not fluent) from one of the family members, "Mary" (mid-30s, mother). She asked how I was doing and then launched into a story. Mary explained that she was walking around with a large sum of money (we're talking the equivalent of thousands of US dollars) and she was either robbed or lost the money. She went on to explain her financial problems, and also asked that I not say anything to her mother (giving the explanation that her heart was too delicate and she couldn't handle such news). Mary never outright asked for money, but her sharing of this info was awkward because we weren't THAT close to begin with.
I haven't responded to the email and I am not sure how to proceed. I certainly won't be offering any financial help, but I feel as though the relationship is now irrevocably damaged. Unless I am missing some nuance or cultural difference in this situation, I think this is an attempted scam. It breaks my heart, because I am now unsure whether its wise to keep in contact with any of the family members, and am questioning whether I should go back next year. I feel especially bad for the mother, if she is unaware of this behavior, and I would hate to lose the bond I (thought I) built with her (and Mary). I also wonder if this has happened to other guests, and if something should be mentioned or done about it? But most of all, I feel as though my wonderful, heartwarming experience of their gracious hospitality has been tainted, and this saddens me.
I have had past experiences to know that I am usually a pretty good judge of character. Mary's email comes as a complete surprise. Can this situation be repaired? How? How should I respond? Would it be foolish to think I could stay there again, or is that walking into drama?
Thanks for any insight on this situation!