>My latest e-newsletter.
I’ve been thinking about cultural differences a lot lately. Whether the culture we are a part of is the country we live in, our age group or the color of our skin, it defines who we are. I live in a country where the color of my skin causes me to stand out and daily I am referred to as a “farang”, meaning foreigner. I am constantly receiving comments about how white my skin is, how blue my eyes are and how light my hair is. Needless to say, it’s impossible for me to forget that I am living in a culture that is not my own.
My closest friends are two Thai girls named Aon and Ya who are around my age. We work together, live together and hang out together. We’ve gotten to know each other so well over the years that we tend to talk the same, act the same and finish each other’s sentences. We’ve even developed our own form of Tainglish (half English, half Thai) language. Because we are so close, I often forget that we are actually from very different cultures.
The other day there was a story on the news about a sixteen year old girl in America who ran away from home. Ya asked me why the girl would run away from a good home, what she was thinking. I said “You know how it is when you are sixteen and you have no responsibilities but think you know everything. You rarely think of anyone but yourself.” At this both Aon and Ya stared at me in confusion and I remembered again that we are from different cultures, different worlds.
The girls grew up in farming towns in Southern Thailand. They finished school at age twelve and both moved alone to Bangkok at the age of thirteen to work. They got positions in homes where they cleaned, cooked, took care of children and the elderly and did pretty much anything else they were told. They worked seven days a week and made about $20 a month, all of which was sent home to their families. Families that they didn’t see for a year or two at a time. By the age of eighteen, they were making about $35 a month and by the age of twenty-five, they were making about $65 a month. I once asked them as kids what they dreamed about being when they grew up. It broke my heart to learn that they didn’t dream of anything because once they were old enough to think about their future, they already knew they were being sent away to support their families.
When I was thirteen the biggest decision I had to make was what outfit would make me look the coolest at school. I didn’t even have a job until after I graduated high school. We grew up in completely different worlds, different cultures.
A large percentage of the world grows up like Aon and Ya did. Kids all over the world are being sent to work at incredibly young ages because their families are too poor to keep them in school. I can’t help but be incredibly thankful for the childhood I had, for the things my parents gave me. I don’t write this because I feel sorry for Aon and Ya. I’m thankful for the experiences that they had because it made them who they are today, my best friends. I write this because I think that sometimes we need to think outside of our own culture, we need to re-evaluate our priorities and remember what is truly important in our lives. What is important to you?