Saturday, August 28, 2010

Living In Malaysia: Big Boobs And No Face

Chinese people talk of face, meaning dignity or respect.  For example, when someone older than you makes a hideous mistake, you give him or her face by pretending not to notice.

My more chauvinist friends insist that Westerners don't have face because we aren't properly civilised.  My kinder pals tell me sweetly that OF COURSE Westerners have face, but somehow we have less of it.

I think part of the problem is that we Westerners have this delusion that Asians are somehow more cultured than we are.  That attitude gets you into all sorts of pickles when you move to Asia.

Take for example the time when our mate Ah Joy invited us to his son's tea ceremony.  This is a pre-marriage ritual where the bride and groom serve tea to their parents and older relatives as a gesture of respect, and then get advice and gifts of money from each.

Ah Joy's family enjoy a joke so Ah Joy's son Peter and his bride-to-be were being regaled with advice like never put down your money when the jockey is betting on another horse and other bits of ancient oriental wisdom. 

All of us guests were sitting in the living room watching.  In proper Asian fashion, we'd left our shoes at the door.

Suddenly Ah Joy rushed up and told us frantically to go get our shoes.  Turning to my mate Edgar, I asked what that was all about. Was it, I asked, something symbolic? 

Scenting something interesting, the picture of innocence, Edgar asked, "Symbolic?"

Like a fool I asked if the guests had to wear shoes for the next part of the ceremony as a symbol of wealth to come for the happy couple or something similar.  You know, like something borrowed, something blue in Western wedding ceremonies.


Edgar fell over laughing and immediately told everyone else what I'd said.  In case someone missed it, he repeated it in Hokkien and Teow Chew for good measure. 


When everyone was having a good laugh, Ah Joy explained.  "The tiger beer guys are coming to make a delivery. Those guys have no respect.  They trample over everything.  So get your shoes before they step on them."


Ah Joy tried to give me face by not laughing but it didn't really work.  I could see his mouth twitching. Also, I heard he retold the story to all of his mates who weren't there to hear it first hand.

I was reminded of the story when Edgar retold it the other night to a table load of people who hadn't yet heard it.  He also let slip my Chinese nickname: Big Boobs.

So clearly I have no face.  But it's OK, clearly I have other assets - and it's not just my entertainment value.

14 comments:

Brian said...

Sometimes just being there to provide the "entertainment" is a good thing!

Katnip Lounge said...

Good lord! I think I would either explode from amusement or anger...but I know for sure that I wouldn't have that nickname...

*sigh*

BeadedTail said...

It sounds like it's always interesting there for you!

A Bookaholic said...

oh deeear...what an experience! hehe Edgar sure loves teasing u :D

Gattina said...

I had to laugh about your shoe story. As you know I live in Waterloo near Brussels. One day my husband had invited three collegues who came from Sweden and Danmark. When they arrived before entering the house they took their shoes off ! I was quiet surprised not used to such a gesture at all and told them that they could keep their shoes, but they said that it is the use in their country in order not to bring dirt into the house !!
that was new to me, lol !

I took my peeing Arthur with the zoom !

Inigo Flufflebum and d'Artagnan Rumblepurr said...

Hee hee!

Hannah and Lucy said...

Your shoe story made me laugh - I think that would be the exact same thing I would have said!

Mishkat said...

The shoe story is too funny! And the "face" discussion is really interesting.

Admiral Hestorb said...

I had to laugh here at my home..but I also would have given you LOTS pf face and never laughed there had I been there. That's embarrassing but I suspect you are like me and well able to take a joke when it's on you. I have worked with mainly men in my career and I learned early on to be thick skinned. :-)

Dennis the Vizsla said...

Johnny Dangerously: "You got those. I like those on a woman."

boo_licious said...

Oops...how did u discover his nickname for you?

Pam said...

That's funny. And what a nickname! I laughed out loud about that one.

Simba said...

Very interesting regarding cultural differences.

~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

How rude of them to say such a thing! And how patronising and hypocritical too, to talk of "Westerners" having 'no face' when they are so rude, chauvinistic and uncouth themselves!