October 14th, 2003

Not to perpetuate another stereotype...

...but there are a whole lot of older white guys walking around with young Asian women (mostly, some men).

Of course, they could all be long-term interracial couples. Sure! No commercial activity going on here! Nope, nope. :)

And far be it for me to criticize interracial couples. I mean, I'm part of one. In fact, I've *never* dated someone of my own ethnicity, though not for lack of interest. :)

But it's so common here that when I mentioned it to Leah at dinner tonight, she said she's stopped thinking it strange. In fact, when she sees an unaccompanied white man here, she thinks, "What is wrong with you?"

In a slightly related note, I find that when sex workers solicit for business on the street here, I'm never approached, even if I make eye-contact. That particular method of doing business seems to be for white foreigners-only. (Perhaps black also; haven't seen very many black men on the streets here. I'm told Asian customers frequent the karaoke bars, and I understand there are separate houses for Thais.) This is cool with me as I'm not looking and it makes it much easier to move around some neighborhoods at night. Watching some of the white guys is kind of amusing because the the scene is pretty hard-sell in places.

At one point a whole cluster of women shouted out at me in English, to my great surprise, but then I realized they were actually shouting to the tall white guy beside me, as became obvious when they crowded around him and completely ignored me.

One vaguely feels invisible at times like this.

I think the same thing is going on here as happened to me in Japan. From my appearance, I might or might not be a local (the roughly six million Chinese are the largest ethnic minority in Thailand), but the social consequences of treating a local as if he were a foreigner are much worse than treating a foreigner as if she were a local, so here too people err on the side of caution.

This is all quite excellent as I like blending in, but it really makes me wish I spoke Thai.

LJ-crush meme.

Huh. I didn't even know it existed. And now they're selling the information.
Well, that sucks.

I didn't participate in the data collection, and I'm not going to try to retrieve any info, so those of you with a crush on me you can let me know, or not. :) Your secret is safe from me, at least.

I'm sad about the ex-crushes, though. :)

Race, ethnicity, and language have really been at the front of my mind lately...

...which is not a surprise given that I just came from South Africa.

One small observation is that nearly all signs and announcements in Southern Africa are written in English (except in former Portuguese colonies, where it's all in Portuguese). In South Africa, some signs are also in Afrikaans. Road signs generally have pictograms.

This wouldn't be quite so odd, really, except that English is very much a minority language. So you have the weird disconnect, when travelling around Southern Africa, of having all the signs around you in English, but everyone around you speaking some other language, be it Xhosa, Zulu, Afrikaans, Losi, or what have you.

Most people speak some English, but clearly for many people it's very much a second or third language.

For me, the disconnect is quite noticable and odd because I'm used to the situation in the States, where the signage often follows usage. If you start to see Spanish billboards and signs, you can probably expect to hear Spanish on the streets, and if you see Chinese, you can probably expect Chinese dialects. To have the languages on the streets bear little relation to those posted was jarring.

Mozambique was a great exception. Signs were in Portuguese, and so was conversation on the streets. A Welsh linguist I met in Maputo pointed out that he was surprised that everyone spoke Portuguese as their home language; he'd expected a situation more similar to that in South Africa, where people would speak some African language on the street.