I was naked, very naked and people kept coming up to me to practice their English. No it wasn’t another nightmare, I was at a jjimjilbang trying to sweat out the flu I had. All I wanted to do was just soak and sleep in the giant tubs but that wasn’t going to be the plan for the day apparently.
When you’re a foreigner in Asia you’re seen as public property. For some this is a huge overwhelming nightmare of never having privacy, for others it’s their dream come true. I hated it a first, but after almost a decade I don’t really mind it anymore. Not really, EXCEPT when I’m going to the bathroom. There are many places in China that still have one long squat public toilet and everyone can see what you’re doing. Not a big fan of that, especially in the age of cellphones with cameras. My journal has pages of hilarious stories such as being made to shake a small child’s hand in a grocery store while the father yelled out “hand in hand” to his son. Or being made to pose with farmers in rural China while everyone took pictures with their ancient cellphones or being approached while naked (this happened more than once) and so on. The boundaries that we are so used to in the West tend to be vast compared to what is in the East.
And the questions…the questions! Those that can speak semi-fluent English or (not so much) have no problem approaching you. I’ve been asked about everything. From where my husband is (because what man is going to let his wife skip around the world by herself), to why my eyes are so blind, to how much money I make. Money actually seems to be the biggest topic which is funny because back at home in the West, it’s totally the opposite. We don’t talk about money. Ever. We can talk about everything else, but when it comes to finances, we’re as quiet as mice.
Why is this?
There are a number of suspected factors. Shame, fear, embarrassment and lack of education all fall on top. We don’t learn about money like we should in school. Growing up, most of us weren’t involved in the family’s finances. As we grew older money talk was never a prevalent thing in society and even with the advent of social media we still don’t discuss finances. Social media it seems is for exactly the opposite and people always seem to have no worries rock-star lives.
When it comes to budgeting and finances this is one of the most important things that needs to be changed little by little. There will be no overhaul on this topic because for most it takes time to get used to talking about a new thing. Baby steps though bring big changes. Think of it as the snowball effect. One small thing such as talking to your friends can grow into something great like getting out of debt.
If you don’t know where to start, bring up your money goals with your friends and take it from there. You don’t have to jump straight into the fact that you have nine million dollars in debt or the fact that your job doesn’t pay enough. Again focus on small steps and move them into bigger ones.
And don’t put it off. Start today because tomorrow could be too late.