Her eyes scanned from left to right. She missed me but I certainly didn’t miss her. She sat directly in front of me and she was digging. She was really digging. She was digging like there was gold. I cringed as she pulled out a yellowish-green gunk sitting on the underside of her long, narrow pinky fingernail. She rolled it into a ball and flicked it, shamelessly. Then she snorted.
As I watched, I thought, “Should I tell her politely that it’s not appropriate to be doing that in public? Should I hand her a tissue and maybe she’d get the point? Or should I continue to give this look of disgust for her to see?” In the end, I did nothing. I turned away when she looked at me. I wasn’t sure if she was embarrassed but I was. We both had the same face – yellow skin, almond eyes. This is how stereotypes are born.
But who am I to tell her what and what not to do? It’s an American taboo to pick your nose in public but maybe it’s a norm in China, just like how it’s perfectly normal to hock a loogie in the hutongs of Beijing. Cultural norms in America are no superior to norms in China. However, if I were living in a Muslim country where the cultural norm is for women to dress conservatively, I wouldn’t walk out of the house in a tank top. I understand there’s a difference between religion and hygiene, but if you willingly choose to live in a foreign culture you should at least respect its cultural norms. Right?