Thursday, August 19, 2004


Give Us A Smile, Luv

I once read a magazine article that suggested in order to enjoy life more you should look people in the eyes and smile at them, especially strangers on the street. I think that this is a lovely idea, though it probably works better in a small northern town than in London. Even so, you can openly beam at the little old man who sells newspapers, the bus driver, the Australian bartender, or the lively Big Issue seller - all with little fear of repercussion. A smile, cheesy as it sounds, can make you and a stranger feel serious warm fuzzies. Unfortunately, the positive aspects of random smiling and eye contact are not globally applicable. In Japan, were I to smile at someone on the street, they almost certainly wouldn't notice. They would have already been well occupied in studiously avoiding any eye contact with me. This behavior isn't just reserved for hairy gaijin, eye contact is traditionally considered disrespectful and position-challenging in Japanese culture. It's really bizarre when you are conversing with someone who you know to be respectable, honest, and kind - yet they won't look you in the eye for love nor money... my old supervisor, Sayama-sensei, at the Tochigi B.O.E. would be a prime example of this. Nice guy, very shifty look. Here in Peru it's a whole different cup of cha. Everyone on the street wants to look in your eyes, especially if they're blue! Foreigner = money, and you soon learn to AVOID EYE CONTACT unless you want to be constantly hassled, shouted at, whinged at, or stalked. Women take eye contact as an indication you are desperate to purchase their dusty wares; men take a smile as an explicit declaration of your desire for carnal interchange. You can't even glancingly smile at little children either, for fear they will assume you wish to adopt them. I am dying to set my clenched jaw free...

Might never 'appen??

The men are no different here though. My road is full of scaffolders at the moment. Walking up there is all the invitation they need to start hassling you.

Because my parents would be so proud: "Mum, Dad, I'm marrying the scaffolder who whistled and leered at me from the top of a building. I just couldn't stop myself from going over to say hi after he asked me to show him my tits."

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