Culture Shock Episode 3
This is less a matter of fatness and more about Thai honesty. Thai people are the nicest of them all. They are also extremely honest. When they call you fat, it’s not meant to be offensive or rude, it’s just stating facts. It’s like saying I have blonde hair and blue eyes. I’m the first person to call myself a big girl and I’m very confident in myself, so I am endlessly amused by the conversations I have about fatness. These stories are too hilarious not to share:
When we first got to Pua, Marissa and I told our first friend that we didn’t have many appropriate teaching outfits. A queen of fashion himself, he was eager to help us out, but warned, “I think the store will need to special order clothes to fit you”. In reality, they probably did need to.
My first week of teaching, a student pulled me aside and pinched my arm and said “cellulite”. I was not prepared for this type of conversation. Completely thrown off, I was like “b*tch, there is no cellulite on my forearm. Yeah, sure, I have cellulite in other places on my body, but my FOREARM? That’s just not true. You don’t even know the word 'sibling', yet you know cellulite?!” Turns out she was trying to say “skin so white”.
Another time, I mentioned to a Thai teacher that I loved cao soy and he was so excited to treat me to lunch at the best cao soy place he knew. A few bites into the hearty soup, he asked if I wanted a second order of soup. These weren’t dinky bowls of soup- they were huge. I said "no, thanks". And he said “You sure? You big person.” He just wanted to make sure I had the best dining experience and casually mentioned that I’m fat. It’s actually very nice if you think about it.
One of Marissa’s students asks her every day if she’s pregnant and this really annoys her. My weren't quite as forward, or so I thought. One time, my student raised his hand and said “Teacher, you have baby?” I said, “No, I’m just fat.” Everyone goes, “Ohhhhhhh”. They just wanted to know! Classic mix-up.
Last, but certainly not least, I taught my students about compliments and played a Secret Santa-like game in which they would get randomly assigned a classmate to anonymously shower with compliments. For example, you are so smart, I like your glasses, you are really at good at basketball, etc. My absolute favorite compliment that one classmate wrote to another was, “You are very fat but so cute”. That just about sums it up.