Cultural Differences – Observation #2
Did they just say that to me?!
Conversation #1 at my neighborhood nail salon in Singapore:
Manicurist: (as she’s massaging my arm) Lots of hair! Lots of hair! You should take off. Will be more pretty, more sexy!
Me: (looking up from my magazine a bit startled) Ummm ok, thanks for letting me know. Will keep that in mind.
Conversation #2 at nail salon:
Manicurist: You pregnant?
Me: (shocked and horrified as I am pretty confident I don’t look it) No, why do you ask?
Manicurist: Because you have your hand on tummy.
Me: Oh, it’s just a habit when I’m sitting sometimes. (promptly take my hand off my stomach)
Conversation #3 at nail salon
Manicurist: You skinnier, you skinnier! Were fatter, were fatter!
Me: OK, thank you (I think??)
Manicurist #2: Your face, your face, much thinner. Is good. Fatter before.
Me: Thank you (wondering just how fat my face WAS a few months ago??)
Conversation #4 at nail salon:
Manicurist: You married? Have kids?
Me: No, not married and no kids, yet.
Manicurist: Why not?? How old?
Me: I’ve been doing other things in my life and just haven’t been in a rush for either. I’m 36.
Manicurist: Ohhh I see. (look of disapproval of being my age not married or with kids)
My reason for sharing these conversations with you isn’t to enlighten you with nail salon chitter-chatter but rather to illustrate another cultural difference I have noticed living in Singapore. Locals will definitely tell you exactly what they think regardless of how it may sound or potentially make you feel. Of course they don’t intend any harm or to offend at all, this is just another cultural difference. (No, it doesn’t just happen at nail salons but these were the first examples that came to mind for me!)
Spending a good portion of my life in California being “PC” was ingrained in me for most of my adult life. So you can imagine how conversations like those above can come as a bit of a shock when I first experienced them.
Whether it is about your weight, your hair, where you live, where you’re from or anything really, you always will know where you stand on that particular topic with a local. I guess that is a good thing though. If you think about it this could be a better way than people being overly-polite but not exactly 100% honest because they are so concerned about potentially offending someone.
I am so accustomed to it now I barely notice anymore. I just politely smile, play along and engage in the conversation. Oh and sometimes I throw a zinger right back!