As pretty much everyone knows, living abroad brings lots of changes and cultural adjustments. But did you know one of those big adjustments was learning to accept the things people said to me? I'm about to tell you some of the things I heard this past year in Myanmar and Thailand. If you have lived in Asia you will probably slowly nod your head in agreement as you read this post and will think: “I totally know what you are talking about!” If you have not lived in Asia you will think “How rude!!!!”
To be honest I see both sides of things.
Before I share these conversations though I must give you a little background information: people in Myanmar and Thailand (and Asia in general) are really honest and straightforward and it isn't considered rude. It is very normal to just tell someone if they are gaining weight, to tell someone they are fat and so on and so forth. For some reason it is just not rude to be told that.
The conversations I’m about to tell you have made me smile, have left me with my jaw wide open and have made me come home and say "Dave, you won't believe what so and so told me" followed by an outburst of tears and then I was over it. I realized that for the most part, people were being friendly and conversing, so sometimes I just had to tell my emotions to deal with it and keep on smiling. I also wouldn't trade about 99% of these conversations. It was fun to just let people ask questions and to be open in answering them. I think that's one of the neat things about living abroad.
So here are some of the conversations I have had with people over here! Hope you enjoy them. =)
Person 1: “Beka, What do you do to exercise?”
Me: “Well, I used to run all the time and then I lifted a lot of weights before I came here but now I don’t do anything because exercising here is so hard to do.”
Person 1: “Yeah, I can tell. Your stomach is getting big.”
Me: I don't know what I said! I know my face turned red and it was awkward for me but I tried to be polite. Then I went home and cried to Dave.
Person 2: “That little girl, her Mom is very pretty but ... that little girl looks like her Dad.”
Me: “I think the little girl is cute.”
Did you catch it? They were trying to say that the Dad is not good looking at all and that the poor child looked like her Dad. Rude! Thankfully the parents or child were not around to hear that one.
Person 3 came up to me and started rubbing my belly like there was a baby in there. I can kind of see someone doing that if I was 8 months pregnant but to not even look pregnant and have someone come up and rub my belly is just in another category of its own. The person didn't mean any harm by it and I didn't take offense so it was okay. I've learned to just smile during situations like that. A smile gets you through so many awkward conversations.
Person 3:“How is the baby in there?”
Me: “There is no baby in there.”
Person 3: laughs, “Oh! Well do you want a baby?”
Person 3: “Do you want a girl or a boy?”
Me: “A girl”
Person 3: “Okay! Well I will pray and God answers my prayers!!!”
Me: awkward smile...
That above scenario has happened twice. The second time I just gave a look; the look where they knew not to keep going down that road and I told them that they already knew that no baby was in there.
Person 4: “We want you to stay here in Thailand and work full time!”
Me: “Well, our full time ministry is in Myanmar right now and that is where God wants us.”
Person 4: “Well! God can just send someone else to Myanmar! I’ve been praying and God answers my prayers!"
Me: awkward smile...
***Disclaimer*** person 3 and 4 may or may not be the same person.
This next conversation happened in Singapore and Dave and I cracked up. We were headed to the Gardens by the Bay. We were in the vicinity but just couldn't figure out how to get there. We went to the concierge at the mall and this is what went down:
Dave: "How do we get to the Gardens by the Bay?
Concierge: "Are you afraid of the sun?" (ha ha ha! I was trying not to laugh at this point)
Dave and myself: "No, no we aren't."
Concierge: "Okay then you can take three lefts, take the elevator and then take the walkway."
Now, I do know why they ask that here. Asians are super protective of their skin and they don't like to tan or be in the sun too long. Plus, it is ridiculously hot in SE Asia so I get it but still! Dave and I cracked up. I guess if you are afraid of the sun there is a covered route? I should have asked.
During the year Dave and I taught Bible to the junior high kids. I had the girls and he had the boys. We told them they were free to ask anything they wanted an oh my word! Here are some of the things we got asked from our students. Mind you, this is edited. I can not, nor will I ever put the things they asked in full detail on the blog. But I will tell you, it's very eye opening and sometimes hilarious. I am glad they felt like they could ask us anything and we tried our best to answer in a way that was appropriate and helpful.
- So, girls don't have balls? <--- That's a true question. Anatomy isn't taught much there, obviously. Dave and I each did a body book with the junior highers that covered basic anatomy and all that stuff. It was eye opening to them.
-Are aliens real?
-Which state has the fastest internet? <-- As weird as that sounds I do know why they asked that. In Burma different states have different internet speeds due to population. In Yangon, where millions of people are, the internet is so sloooooow because there isn't enough internet to go around. However, in smaller populated locations it is faster.
-Do police like donuts?
-How much does one bullet cost? <--- I have no idea why they asked that.
-What type of birth control do you use? <--- Dave got asked that and I'm pretty sure he just told them it wasn't their business =).
Lastly, about 99% of my taxi rides had the same conversation. After I would explain a million times where I wanted to go and we finally figured it out I'd hop in the car. Soon I could see the driver switch between watching the road and looking at me in the rear view mirror. When I saw that happen I got ready for the following conversation:
Driver: "Where you from?"
Driver: "oh, America! Very good! Very good! Obama! You like?"
Driver: "Oh ... Bush?"
Me: "Yes, I like Bush"
Driver: "Very good! Very good! Job?"
Me: "I'm a teacher and my husband is a doctor."
Driver: "Oooh very good! Very good! How many babies?"
Driver: "Whaaaat? No babies? Oooooh! When?"
Me: "Um ... not in Asia. But someday."
Driver: "oh! Very good! Very good!"
Seriously! I can't even count how many conversations I had like that. Every taxi driver was so so so shocked that we had been married 2+ years and weren't popping out babies right and left. In Burma it is pretty much the norm to get married and 9 months later have a baby so I know we were a rare exception.
I also kept thinking how bad I felt for women who came to Asia and struggled with infertility. I can not imagine. So, if you ever plan to visit or do a missions trip or something along those lines, please research some cultural things and get an idea of what people might ask you. Also get ready to be told you are fat. I'm not fat and I was told I was. Don't worry though, I'm sure I went home and comforted myself with mashed potatoes or a mango or something along those lines. ;)
What do you think about these conversations? How would you respond if someone said something like this to you?
If you live abroad are they blunt like this as well? If so, how do you deal with it?
I'm also writing a post with things people have asked us since we have been back. Questions like, what do you miss the most from Asia? What was the favorite place you traveled to, etc. So, if you have a question comment below with it and I'll add it into my post.