A little frustrated about this, I thought about how this would never fly, as it were, in America. Yet, to accept the pests as my dining partners is to conform to the culture and succeed as an exchange student.
I found myself snared between cultures once again, though this time with my host brother as the butt of the circumstance. My family and I took a weekend trip to Phuket, the resort island on the Andaman Sea, and stayed at a fine hotel with more foreigners than Thais.
As my brother and I were making our way to the pool one morning, a couple of Americans stared at us as we passed, likely curious as to why the Caucasian boy was walking with the Thai and speaking a peculiar language with him.
My brother smiled and said “hello” to them as we walked by, not receiving a reciprocal welcome. I explained to him that unlike Thais, not all Americans greet strangers in passing and aren’t always as outwardly friendly. As my cultural instinct has me swatting at curry-deprived flies, his has him engaging with foreigners he isn’t acquainted with. They are normal reactions, occurring only because of inexperience and recent arrival.
Time is the wizard behind the curtain as always; the problem and the solution. It was only after a great deal of time that cartographers accurately put the world on a map, deeming China no longer the Middle Kingdom and it was only after Greek astronomers advanced far enough in their field that the sun was discovered not to revolve around the earth. Over the past two months of living in Thailand I’ve learned a lesson only a person residing outside America could receive. America is not the Middle Kingdom, nor is it the center of the solar system, it is just one nation with one culture among hundreds. Flying 8,600 miles away, sneezing, feasting with flies and simply stepping back, I’ve gained more knowledge about our culture than one could fathom.
Zak Aldridge is a junior at Milford Central School. To read more from him, visit eightabovetheequator.wordpress.com.