Monday, October 17, 2011

An apology; boots, feet and flip flops


Firstly, I need to apologise to any Thais who found my foot picture offensive. I was in London, quite sick and I forgot myself.

While I take the time (and the blog post) to apologise, it’s worth noting that this is an excellent example of cultural differences.

Thais (as I understand it) have a sort of hierarchy when it comes to body parts. Heads, as the location of the soul, are treated with great respect. You may touch a child’s head but after a certain age, the touching of heads should be avoided. You will see all sorts of exceptions for this out and about, but since it’s impossible to understand the nuances of these guidelines, we foreigners should stick to general rules.

For Thais, feet are the lowest and dirtiest part of the body and they should never be pointed at anyone, or used to open doors, stop coins running away or to point at anything.

I do believe (though I failed most spectacularly when I posted that picture) that if you wish to live in/visit a different country, you should find out about the things that cause offence and respect those differences.

But here’s the thing: after my boot fuss (which was mostly made on Facebook) I wanted to blog about the fact that I was REALLY wearing my flip flops in the UK in October. I was walking down the Strand; it was early morning and quiet so I sat on an empty cafĂ© chair and stuck my foot in the air in front of a British ‘landmark’ (the phone box.) I had to do it several times because my foot waved around in the air. A commuter walked past me and laughed. That’s it; there’s the difference: he thought I was a nutter, but he wasn’t offended.

So to the biker boots. They very nearly made it back to Bangkok in a virgin state which would have made me cross and sad but a walk saved us: on the Thursday morning of my writing retreat we went out, up, along and down the valley in Heptonstall, near Hebden Bridge. 

And we shall gloss over the small matter of the blisters the boots gave me because they are so pretty...


7 comments:

liz fenwick said...

I'm sure that you didn't think about blisters with that view!
lx

Jenny Beattie said...

I didn't, Liz, you're quite right. I didn't know HOW I was going to leave that view behind. Just so beautiful...

Chris Stovell said...

I thought it was a great picture - and a lovely foot, but it's interesting to read about the unexpected ways we can unintentionally offend people. I seem to have a week of offending people so I'll keep my feet to myself in case I offend any Thai readers!

Debs Carr said...

I think it's fascinating how different cultures see things. Your flipflop pic didn't offend me, but I'm glad you managed to get a chance to wear your boots.

Flowerpot said...

great view - how was the course?

shenandoah valley bed and breakfasts said...

Thanks for sharing. It’s really fascinating. Moreover, visit Virginia and explore its beautiful attractions.

Sue Guiney said...

Actually, these cultural differences are fascinating and so important. To be aware of. Plus, they are the stuff of making believable fiction, eh? Hope the blisters are all healed :-)