Wednesday, May 1, 2013

"Pro-Choice" of another kind

There is a quote in "Silverado" which really fits life overseas: "The world is what you make of it, friend."

When you live overseas, this is so apropos. "Things" happen. People say stupid things, do stupid things. Cultural differences will aggravate you. I have posted several times on this theme, so I won't kick a dead horse here (how did that idiom come about, anyways? Who's dumb enough to do that? Now you're pissed, and look like an idiot hopping around in circles like a three-legged rabbit, to boot).

But making one choice will influence your whole experience. To be, or not to be, that truly is the question. Do you become offended, or not? I'm not talking about the big things like actual prejudice or refusal to rent you an apartment, but the daily grind.

At first, I was offended. I ranted and raved, bitched and moaned. And overall, I had fun my first year here (it's fun to bitch and moan!) but certainly didn't intend to stay any longer. Then my future wife showed me that many things I was pissed off by were actually intended in a different way entirely, but since I was expecting to be offended, I saw them as offensive things.

The lady at the bank called me "Gaijin-sama". Oh, monkey-crap, someone has called me gaijin?! Well, to say "Hey, you!" is a lot less polite. Someone asking if I can write kanji characters isn't really intended to be impolite. Since so many foreigners, Americans especially, never learn the kanji, it's a natural question intended to lead into an offer to help you if you can't write the language. I've seen a lot of westerners who can't use chopsticks, just end up sticking them into the food like mini daggers. So the server brings a fork without asking if you need it? So what? Just don't use it.

Next time you travel, think about your choice.

People who don't learn this choice inevitably go home disappointed (or leave me disappointed that they don't go home...).

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