A Swiss student, perusing the shelves of Store 24, saw a box of what he thought were tasty blueberry muffins. He grabbed the Duncan Hines box and got in line.
Bad news when he got home: It was nothing but powdered muffin mix.
Helping foreign students avoid masty surprises like the blueberry muffin mix episode is the job of the Harvard International Office, which tries to ease the adjustment to American life for this year's 122 freshmen from 38 countries.
The office helps foreign students find host families to stay with, and this fall distributed a handbook telling foreigners everything from how to endorse checks to converting European clothing sizes.
Among the tidbits: Americans find physical closeness repugnant, and in fact, "eighteen inches is the closest contact they will usually tolerate."
Complained Walter Kohl '89 of Germany, the son of Chancellor Helmut Kohl, "I don't know how to measure 18 inches exactly because I'm used to dealing in centimeters."
The guide aslo urges foreigners to avoid stereotyping, as there is more to Americans than "what you see at the movies or on television."
As far as manners go, the guide instructs foreigners to wait for the "hostess or wife" to begin eating before they do.
Ellen Harvey '89, originally from England, said that Americans' friendliness generally makes it easy to adjust to life at Harvard. She did say, though, that some remarks which in the U.S. are considered polite would elsewhere be rude.
Some students expressed surprise at the frequency of the question, "How are you?" Others added they were somewhat shocked at the in-