Thursday, March 15, 2012

"Foreigner! Foreigner!" : An Apology Ahead Of Time

Even Ronald McDonald makes mistakes.  At least he is polite enough to wai.  (photo credit)

With about two weeks left till we hit the States, I have been noticing more about my kids' and their lack of basic knowledge about American social cues/faux pas.  This has, thus, drawn attention to my own amnesia concerning what is acceptable or not when you are attempting to be a blessing in the States...or, at least, trying to blend in.

Forgive us, Father, we know not what we do.

I am simply apologizing ahead of time for the following possibly awkward scenarios:

1.  We have been living in a country where most people can't speak English.  This has led to a sense of being able to say what we please in our native tongue, in front of people, assuming that the other has little to no understand of what we're saying.  As long as I say anything with a smile or through clenched teeth, we have been getting away with rebukes, rude questions from the kiddos that we try and gloss over, and general remarks about appearance.  Plainly: I am so so so very sorry if my kids remark about your weight, skin color or other physical features within earshot of you.  You have been warned and I am already mortified.

2.  On the issue of appearance: wherever we go, it is complete acceptable for Thai people to yell out (or talk amongst themselves) about the "Foreigner!":  If you feel racially profiled by my kids at some point of our visit, please know that it is "normal" to us and is something we've just had to deal with and understand people's hearts.  Most of the time, it is just innocent talk.  We mean the same!  After living southern Thailand, we noticed that whenever we saw the token Westerner, that we would call attention to them by saying, "Hey!  Check out that white person!"  There is so much we have had to undo.  Not all the kinks are worked out yet.  I. Am. Sorry.

3.  Thai people can pick their nose or their ears in just about anyplace or situation.  My kids have followed suit.  Feel free to be grossed out.

4.  They have no proper American table manners.  Just last night, they passed cups in front of our friends' face, yelled across the table, got up and down as they pleased, talked with their mouths full of food and had to be reminded to wait until everyone was seated before we prayed and began eating.  I blame us for all these oversights...but a child simply remaining at the table for more than two minutes at a time is a little miracle here in our second culture.  Please extend the grace as we navigate the intricate art of table manners in the States.  Or, go ahead and teach them yourself!  I have forgotten so much already!  *burp*

5.  It is common for food to be deemed common property amongst friends and strangers who think your kids are cute.  If we go to the market, my kids get free snacks almost everywhere: hot dogs on a stick, random fruits, boxes of milk, and candy, candy, candy!  Kyla is already a little moocher.  It doesn't hurt that she's darn cute and has (rare) curly hair and white skin (see #2).  Oh yeah, and she's chunky.  Somehow, being chunky creates this incredible need in others to force feed your kids all the candies and cakes they can handle.  If you meet her or my other kids and they eye you and your singular bag of Lays, just know that it is pure instinct.  They are wondering, how exactly can we split that bag 4 ways?

6.  When we all kick off our sneakers at your front door, or even as we enter a store located on a street front, you may have to remind us that most people in the States don't actually do that.  For the few years we lived in the States after returning from a year in Korea, I felt so horribly wrong for keeping my shoes on in someone's house.  Asian conditioning will do that.  Hey, does anyone actually enjoy cleaning the floors all the time because of the junk shoes bring in?  Exactly!  Your housekeeping sanity could possibly be within reach if you make everyone free their toes and show off their holey socks upon entering your home.  It is worth a try!

Grace, grace to us.  Thank you, ahead of time, for giving it out if we get to see you in the U.S. of A. soon!  I plan to record some of our best faux pas stories and will excitedly use your response as anecdotes.  Let me know if you want to request a name-change ahead of time!  :)


  1. Hey, Alina,

    What a rich experience you have provided your children. Not to worry grasshopper,, People here will not think that you or your babies are strange. Maybe you , but not your children. You have raised them correctly for where they live now. Not to worry. They probally will act better than most kids here ..

    Can't wait to see all of you


  2. Alina, I couldn't help but laugh while I read your post. Brought back so many memories! You and your kids are going to do great, I'm sure. Please, just do your best to be YOU :) I wish I could see you while you're over here!

  3.'re funny! Can't wait to see you guys, too!

  4. Megan, glad I could bring back the memories. I will try my best to be ME. Wish we could see you, too! If you ever travel to TX or Illinois over the next four months, let me know, girl!


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