This is one of the most popular questions I get from friends and family back home. Now when you use the term “weird”, I associate it as “different” or “something that I am not used to” where I am from. Seeing as much as I have and putting yourself out of your comfort zone you will run into things that are “different”. When you stick out in the crowd or look out of place, people might interact with you a little differently. This has happened to me on numerous occasions.
When traveling in Lijiang, a city in China’s Yunnan Province, I was one of the few foreigners walking around the old town when I visited. I have very limited mandarin skills but can navigate through a city without technology. As I was exploring a man flagged me down in front of his tea shop. “HELLO! HELLO!” is all the English he knew. You get stared at and told hello walking around China as a foreigner, but this guy was persistent. So I stopped, smiled at him and he invited me to his tea shop using hand motions. I guyed around that day and said yes, why not go in and check it out! I sat down in one of the cool Chinese tea “stations” and he proceeded to give me about 10 different types of tea. I was there for a good 30 minutes, watching him prepare and pour the tea so I could learn how to do it the traditional Yunnan way. It was a free lesson and taste test. Naturally, after drinking so much tea I needed to use the bathroom so in my limited Chinese I asked to use the toilet. I went out back to a toilet behind his shop, good old Chinese squatty potty and shower combo. When I came back in the owner’s wife was there with their what it seemed to be a 6-month-old son. The tea owner wanted his wife to take a photo of us, so I said yes and took a photo with him. He then wanted me to take one with her, which I did as well. Then he handed me their 6-month-old child and we proceeded to have a photo shoot throughout the tea shop. I estimate like 100 pictures were taken of me and their child. That wouldn’t probably happen to me in New York City.
I have had several photo shoots with different people on the street, in public and many many times when I am not even looking. It still amazes me when traveling to some parts of this world where people genuinely do not interact with people that are different. In their day to day lives they do not see westerners and when they do they become very excited and interested. There have been several times throughout traveling China where people have wanted to touch my arm or leg hair. They are mainly kids that do that out of curiosity. Most Chinese do not grow body hair. I think the weirdest one was an old man on a bus in Shenzhen wouldn’t stop staring at me, talking about my eyes and pointing to my beard. A younger fellow bus rider translated for him and the old man was shocked at my beard. The translator said he wanted to touch it, so I let him. The weirdest moment on a public bus, having an old man touch your beard.
These types of things happen pretty regularly living in Asia. I will add a second part to this post in the coming weeks. Be on the lookout for that!