When I first arrived in Asia, I read various culture guide books. But believe me, there are some really weird ideas floating about out there that those writers NEVER touch.
Take, for example, the time I was living in Jakarta in the late 80s. I was out with for dinner and drinks with Ellie, a Jakarta girl with a great sense of humour, and an amazing head for cocktails. We were enjoying a good gossip when a guy sauntered over, and proceeded make a nuisance of himself.
While giving him the brush-off, he muttered, "White girls have no morals, so what's your problem?" He was really rather aggrieved; and even more so when Ellie sent him off with some rather pithy comments I didn't quite catch.
When I delved further into this this, I discovered most of my friends thought the same way. They pointed to the white hippies/backpackers who were notorious for shacking up with locals for a few days while passing through, the amazingly appalling way tourists behave in Bali, and Hollywood films and American TV shows where everyone is always doing everyone else.
I pointed out that Indonesians are just as likely to have affairs as other folks, and also behave horribly when away from home. The only difference is that they are more furtive about it. Over there, discretion is the thing that matters; public appearance is key.
Also, many Indonesian films and TV shows are about forbidden love (mind you, thanks to Suharto's censorship, sex scenes consisted of dramatic music, closeups of heavy eye contact with fluttering eyelashes, and then a quick cut to the final scene where the man is sitting on the edge of a rumpled bed, smoking a cigarette).
Although my pals all agreed politely that everything I said was true, I could see they still thought white women were more promiscuous than Asian women.
When I tell friends in Malaysia that story, they laugh. And then have a heated debate over differences between Asian and Western values. We have many fine arguments about it, and always enjoy ourselves. It's a wonderful way to discover prejudices.
For me the whole question was settled a few weeks ago during one of those discussions by a pal who I've promised not to name. "White girls are easy," he pronounced authoritatively. "But if you come across one that isn't, then that's because there's something wrong with her."
So there you go.