Islandexpat's Blog

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A list of annoying happenings

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In his Notes From A Small Island, which incidentally is very good, Bill Bryson describes an encounter with “a well-worn rant about the shortcomings of Americans” after meeting an old British couple in the Lake District.  He adds,

I never understand what people are thinking when they do this.  Do they think I’ll appreciate their candour?  Are they winding me up?  Or have they simply forgotten that I am one of the species myself?

He doesn’t say whether this is a uniquely British phenomenon or whether he’s encountered this in other countries as well.  Personally, though, I’ve never experienced this anywhere but in Britain.  To be fair, I’ve travelled to countries where I didn’t speak the language, so maybe the residents would have delivered the same “well-worn rant” if they thought I’d have understood them, but still.

My questions are slightly different from Bill Bryson’s:

*Do they want me to explain the basis of whatever perceived shortcoming is in question?  E.g. do they want me to give a sociological rundown of the reasons why Americans eat so much?
*Do they think I’m somehow responsible for said shortcoming?  E.g. are they holding me in some way accountable for the war in Iraq?
*Do they think I’m one of the “good” Americans since I live in the UK now?
*Or are they just trying to justify some sort of outmoded superiority complex (personal or national)?
*How would they feel if they visited America and I talked at them about the British being somehow inferior?  It wouldn’t be so witty then, would it?
*Seriously, how is this still socially acceptable?

I don’t have the answers to any of these, and I should be thankful it’s only really happened once.


Tell you what is really, really annoying, though.  Men – it’s always men – who shout, or practically leer, “NIHAO!” at me when I’m walking down the street, or try to start conversations by guessing my race, or say “Nihao” to me (and don’t say hello to ANYONE ELSE) when I’m just passing or standing in line at the fishmonger’s or whatever.  The last isn’t horrible, but still irksome because, as just mentioned, it’s only men that do it, never women, and so I do wonder if there’s some sort of Orientalist sexual fantasy dynamic going on there.  (For readers who don’t know me, I’m Japanese/Filipino, not Chinese.)

Listen, you racist *$&%@$%face, I have always wanted to say at these moments but never have, I just need to buy toilet paper, for God’s sake.  You thought we were all scared little Lotus Blossoms or massage parlour girls, didn’t you?  Well, you thought fucking wrong, buddy. [There’s more, but it sounds ridiculous when written down.]

This never happened in St. Louis.  This never even happened in Norwich.  I have therefore assumed that it’s a Cardiff thing, partially because Cardiff, as much as I like it, isn’t exactly Britain’s classiest city.


Speaking of jerks, let us not forget the Creepy Salsa Men.  I don’t just mean the ones at lessons who happen to give off a weird vibe, but also the guys who just hang around free dance or party nights to hit on women and don’t even know how to dance.  Don’t ask me to dance if you have never ever learned even the first thing about salsa, because there’s no point and it’s just difficult for both of us (because believe me, I will make things difficult for you if you do that to me).  Even more importantly, don’t make sketchy comments while we’re dancing.  One particular Creepy Salsa Man, who I started dancing with in a fit of misjudged good faith, said what he promise was “I can match with you” or “I can dance with you very well”.  Now, it was loud in that bar, and there is technically the chance that he was telling the truth, but I swear it sounded like “I can fuck you” [italics mine].  Luckily I managed to dance with some nice people after that and it didn’t ruin my night, but damn.


On a brighter note, I’m quite enjoying “Come Into My Sleep” from Nick Cave’s B-Sides and Rarities.  I’m also in the middle of Timothy Mo’s The Monkey King, so expect some sort of review soonish.


Written by Kelly Kanayama

September 8, 2009 at 7:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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