There’s a common saying that goes “honesty is the best policy.” It’s really nice to think that way, idealistic rather, as telling the truth is not always the best thing to do. An easy way to elaborate is to pose the hypothetical situation where someone is asking you questions that are far too personal.
Those individuals that are too honest wind up sharing too much about themselves. that often times not only do other people not care, you are also entrusting (potentially) incriminating information that may or may not be used against you.
This does not mean lying, its more being selective with the truth. Another way to put it, we often say “courtesies” lets call it such as
- Hows it going?
- How you doing?
Even when you don’t care and its expected you answer that you are well, not spew out your life story.
These kind words are there to smooth out social interactions when the reality is that we work exceptionally close to one another. Even during times when it may make it seem as though we are disingenuous, that’s just the way the world goes.
So an example with honesty, recently, I was volunteering on my 3rd work exchange farm in Mexico. The other volunteer there asked me if I was Chinese after telling her I was from San Francisco. I told her my parents were from China and from that point forward, I was treated more as a Chinese person then an American which irked me.
I had forgotten a key lesson taught in 2 variations by 2 different men.
Lesson From My Father
First was my father, around the time I left for college. Despite all his flaws I remember he counseled me, saying that whenever someone asks if you are Chinese, say that you are American, no matter what, know your mother and I worked too hard to come to this country for you to be treated as though you don’t belong in this great nation.
Setting A Desired First Impression
The second time was just over a year ago now, right before I began teaching my first class as a TEFL teacher in Thailand. My very last boss, the head teacher, commented that they have never had an Asian American teacher before. Thailand, being a ethnically homogeneous society (mostly) will struggle in understanding the concept that an American doesn’t have to be blonde and blue eyed. Therefore, you need to be firm in emphasizing the fact that you are an American.
Me being completely new at teaching at the time, needed all the help I could get, followed the advice to the T. It was only after more then a semester that I sprinkled in a bit of Chinese where appropriate to add a bit of spice to the lesson. But only well after the fact that I have established myself as an American.
“I’m an American. period”
My own rendition of these 2 lessons going forward, if folks I meet in the future don’t believe me to be an American in the future, I’ll light heartedly ask if they have been to the US before, followed by commenting that Americans come in all shapes, sizes and colors, yet we are still one people.
If there is further resistance, I will firmly say,
“I’m an American. period”
Before moving the conversation elsewhere. Now I’m not the ultra patriotic, red, white and blue Captain America type, so I don’t truly believe in the above statement. I love the East/West fusion I grew up with. But based on past experiences, the above method works best.
As straight arrows become broken arrows.
Kingston S. Lim
August 10, 2020
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Life Update I had an interesting little trip down to Brazil. It was really last minute. Originally it was supped to be Chile, I had ticket in hand, but was denied boarding when I got to the Miami leg of the trip. Country is still not open to foreigners apparently leaving me stranded in an airport. I bough a ticket to Brazil instead and this mini adventure involved camping out in 2 different airports in 2 separate countries on 2 consecutive nights (Mexico City and Miami) along with another 2 additional flights before getting here.
The country seems very ethnically diverse so far, which makes me feel a little more at ease as it is not so ethnically homogeneous as Mexico where I stood out.