Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cambodians tell is like it is...

I was having quite a laugh today remembering some of the funny, yet slightly disturbing, things I heard all of the time in Cambodia. Usually it was just the misuse of he/she distinctions and using "used to" for all past-tense sentences-- even when they meant something that just happened one second ago. For example, my Teaching Assistants would say something like, "I used to see Joshua arrive" when they meant, "Joshua just arrived." 
I will never forget the first teen event I had with just the girls. I had practiced saying, "Hello, beautiful ladies" and thought I was ready to greet them with my new and brilliant vocabulary... I was wrong. I walked in proudly and said loudly, "Hello, naked women!" Oh, the shame. In the US, this would just cause great bursts of laughter in a group of 14-17 year old girls. In conservative Cambodia, this was not the case. I was rewarded with shocked stares and nervous smiles. I still try to pretend it never happened.

On February 3, 2011 I posted on my Tumblr some things that I had been told one week. Cambodians are much more honest in public settings than, I think, we are in America. We are always walking on eggshells to make sure we don't offend people. Check it out: 

Things I’ve been told this week:
  • What is wrong with your lips? (Didn’t even know I had a problem there lol)
  • You have so much stuff in your hair. (Like what exactly?)
  • I maybe think you need new chaaampiii (translation: shampoo) because you hair no good. (No argument there lol)
I invited my assistants over for spaghetti tonight. Things I was told tonight by, oh you know, my dinner guests:

  • Did you take a shower yet? I think you no shower yet. (My roommate laughed and asked if I smelled bad and was informed that I didn’t smell bad but I looked quite non-showered…. not sure if I should be grateful I didn’t stink or be sad about my unclean looks lol)
  • I think you are busy because your hair…. it… looks so busy.
  • I think I cut onions because you no good. (Um, for the record, I cut them much faster than she did BUT, apparently, not as well.)
  • I love you. (I’ll take that :)) 
  • You are so quick. (Not sure what this means but I will take it as a compliment lol)
I’ve come to realize that in our culture we live in a bubble of self-denial and, therefore, get offended by the truth. Here you can call anyone fat or too tall/short or whatever because it is just honest. I think I like it more here. You get used to it and realize…. well, what’s wrong with the truth?
 If you’re fat, you’re fat, and if you are slow at doing a task, you’re slow at it. Someone not telling you this doesn’t change the facts. And, here in Cambodia, you can really believe someone when they compliment you because they mean it. They wouldn’t say it if they didn’t.
Cambodian Royal Palace 

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