There are many things I have had to adjust to over here in the Philippines…but forthright personal commentary is something that I never expected from a country that is so deferent and polite.
Never before have I simultaneously felt so beautiful and so chubby all at the same time, and never before have I been told those things in front of 25 other people…so it makes for an interesting mental rollercoaster ride.
See, the thing is, it’s no big deal to comment on a person’s personal appearance over here. So if someone thinks you are beautiful, they’ll tell you that very openly. And if someone thinks you are a bit chubby, well they’ll certainly tell you that as well.
It is not intended as a personal attack, rather just a statement of fact. To that person, you are in fact beautiful. The same goes for the person who calls you chubby. They’re not casting judgement on you, just reporting on what they see in front of them.
This morning in class we were discussing typical characteristics of an Australian. Each person had to come up with 5 words to describe Australian people and then we polled the class to find out the top responses.
Among the typical ones, such as “tall”, “white”, “direct”, “loves beer” and “loves sport”, they listed “loves to bake”, “loud”, “frank”, “hilarious” and “beautiful” and it became obvious which Australian they were taking their inspiration from. I was feeling good about myself until “chubby” started being suggested as another typical characteristic.
I wouldn’t normally be so sensitive, only that some time ago I was taking a cultural immersion class and we were discussing our favourite past times and hobbies. I showed the class photos of my baking exploits and mentioned that it was my favourite thing to do.
And then, I kid you not, the guy I was standing next to reached over, grabbed my upper arms and said, “Ahh, no wonder you’re a little bit chubby then”.
If only violence in the workplace was permissible.
Of course, all this frankness is not all that bad.
There is a guard who works outside our apartment building, who every time I walk past him calls out, “so beautiful ma’am!”. (Unless I’m walking past with Reece, in which case he just smiles at me, but doesn’t say a thing…cheeky bugger).
I’d quite like to have him follow me around all day, just in case I’m feeling bad about myself!!