Melanie and I have been in Thailand for a while now and we’ve experienced some cultural differences that were surprising. During our TESOL course, we briefly had an instructor on Thai etiquette and cultural differences between Western countries and Thailand. We learned that Thais are very forward about talking about their (and others’) bodies. If you’re tall, they’ll tell you; if you’re older – they’ll say “you look old” without a second thought.
Fast-forward a few months later – to now.
Melanie and were exploring and found a little restaurant called the Bistro Terrace after we saw they had a Nutella sandwich. (Okay, I chose the place because of the Nutella sandwich – it sounded great.) Plus, we wanted to eat outside on a beautiful day – and this place is completely open.
In addition to the Nutella sandwich, we also ordered a pineapple-coconut smoothie, pad thai, and monte cristo sandwich. We were give our drink – which was delicious and waited for our food. When it was brought out, the woman put the pad thai in front of me and placed the two sandwiches in front of Melanie.
Then she rubbed Melanie’s stomach.
Welcome to the danger zone.
Melanie and I looked at each other and i laughed nervously as the woman walked away. Melanie has always been sensitive about her stomach (thanks for that one, society) and I wasn’t sure how she was going to respond. Melanie isn’t the skinniest girl you’ll ever meet and she knows that she has a little tummy – but no one has blatantly rubbed it. In America, that would be a horrible breech of etiquette. Here, it was an observation. She laughed it off and we finished eating. The food was fantastic – I liked the pad thai but i loved the Nutella sammy. It just hit the spot – and the maple syrup was a nice touch.
After lunch, Mel told me that she wasn’t sure how to respond to the shocking belly rub, so she laughed it off. When I wanted to go back to the Bistro to eat again – she told me how having her stomach touched – literally – rubbed her the wrong way. It’ll definitely make convincing her to come back here harder – but not impossible. Still, I dislike putting Mel in any situation that makes her uncomfortable.
We were aware that Thailand had great food and loads cultural differences, but somehow we were still served a generous portion of culture shock.