This weekend, I went to a Vietnamese wedding. I brought no suitable clothes with me, so I needed to go shopping. Armed with a lovely Vietnamese girl, and a male friend as interpreter, we headed to the shops. And three shops down, we still hadn’t found anything that fit me. I had gone from my usual shopping style of looking for colours and styles I like, to rifling through the rails looking for anything that looked big. I ended up with a lovely dress (and bright orange shoes!), though because of the size issue, it was a little short.
Asian women are much smaller than Western women. Here, I am a giant: bigger than even the men. Every time I go to sit on one of the small chairs or stools common at restaurants, the Vietnamese teacher gives me a concerned look, and asks me “Should you really sit there Emma?” Okay, so I did break one of his chairs, and fall off my chair at the wedding, but where else am I supposed to sit?!
On the way home from the shops, my friend laughed and said, “You are like an elephant in a shop for mice!”
This brings me to my next point. Vietnamese people are very honest. If they like what you are wearing or how you look, they will tell you. If they don’t, they will also tell you, in the guise I think of friendly advice. Comments that would be considered rude in the UK or Australia are commonplace here. Since I have been here, I have been told that my boobs are low and I need a new bra, that I am very tall, that I have lovely skin. I have already given away almost all my sun cream as the women are obsessed with having fair skin and you can’t buy sun cream here. I’m not sure if they realise that the reason my skin is pale is because I am a different race to them, or whether they genuinely think I just look after my skin better.
I like the honesty here. You always know where you stand – and when someone gives you a compliment, it means a lot more. Being here, it doesn’t seem to make sense to tell people a white lie just to save their feelings – for then, how do we ever know when we are being told the truth?