Thursday, December 10, 2009


For those of you considering an expatriate life, I have an important piece of advice: Foreigners are easily offended by the strangest things.

Consider this. I was looking on the Internet today for simple explanations of the blocking techniques Gokhan showed me last night. I came across this Muay Thai website, which led me to this remark:

Bata Loop Pak: In this technique, the boxer gives a front kick on the opponent's face. This is very insulting in Thai culture, as it is rude to show someone the soles.

I used to live in Thailand, and I'm very aware that showing someone your soles is considered nekulturny there. (In fact, this prejudice is infectious. For some time after I returned from Southeast Asia, I found myself scandalized by the sight of Americans pointing their feet at one another. I persuaded myself it was a sign of the advanced onset of post-imperial decadence.)

But even if you'd been advised of this taboo by innumerable anthropologists, would it ever occur to you that kicking someone in the face involves an etiquette dilemma over and above the obvious?

Turkey is an endless mine field in this regard, too.

Claire says: I am very sick of hearing, "In Turkey, it's considered rude to do X," X being whatever perfectly normal thing I've just done.

Mischa says: I am so sympathetic.

Claire says: Did you know that in Turkey it's considered rude to cross your legs when speaking to an older person?

Claire says: Did you know that in Turkey you can't wave to someone with your hand above the level of your heart, lest you offend them by appearing to command rather than beckon them?

Mischa says: I wrote a whole book about just this subject.

Mischa says: Remember how Martiya offended Lai-ma by giving her her running shoes?

Mischa says: Also, it's just as easy to give offense in our culture, as Borat demonstrated.

Claire says: Yes, but since I spend all my time in Turkey, it's always me making the cultural mistakes.

Claire says: I'm dying to bring Egemen to America and then make him feel hideously embarrassed and awkward all the time.

Mischa says: That's because you are a fool!

Mischa says: You should constantly be accusing him of acts of cultural rudeness towards you.

Mischa says: There are lots of things you should accuse him of, then bring up when he tries to accuse you reciprocally.

Claire says: I guess it can't be easy for him, having a totally socially unacceptable American girlfriend. I'm sure his embarrassment is very real when I wave with my hand above the level of my heart.

Mischa says: Whose wouldn't be?

1 comment:

  1. OK, both of you (C and M)....from now on you both may NOT cross your legs when in my company!