Straight from the Local's Mouth - Three unforgettable comments from my backpacking trips

by Amanda/Backpacking Tips Asia
(Oslo, Norway)

While backpacking in Asia, you're going to meet a lot of people; backpackers and locals. Getting to know locals is fun and in most cases it generates interesting conversations.

1) "Why you not married?"

Who hasn't heard this comment before? Whether you're single or not, if you think you're hot or not, you're going to be asked this question.

I've been asked this question by locals in Asia, male and female. It doesn't necessarily mean that they're hitting on you, sometimes it's loose talk, part of the let's-ask-this-farang-some-intimate-questions-round or just plain ice-breaker to make conversation. It depends on the context.

Well, let's talk about what this comment usually means. I haven't needed to lie about having a boyfriend or a spouse because I do have a boyfriend I can refer to when people ask me if I'm married or have a boyfriend. That wasn't the hardest question to answer.

But in situations where the conversation developed and it felt uncomfortable, the trickiest part was to answer this because I had to choose to lie or not:

"Where is your boyfriend?"

Oh crap, should I tell the truth, that my boyfriend is in Norway, or should I lie and say that he's in Thailand waiting for me. I pulled the truth in Koh Pha Ngan and that didn't go well (not threatening, it only made me very uncomfortable. I wished I told the lie just to save myself from the hassle). I tried the lie in Phnom Penh and that went well.

So what does this mean?

Most normal people don't enjoy lying. But in some situations it is necessary. What's better? Rejecting them the traditional way (like, I'm not interested) or serving a white lie to protect yourself?

I don't have the answers. All I know is that I've lied when I've felt uncomfortable. I didn't feel good about it, but I did.

While we're at it, there are some persistent guys out there, and sometimes lying about having a boyfriend or not won't help. Is total rejection the most efficient way to handle it then?

If you're a solo traveler, click here for more info

2) "Why you so brown?"

Pale backpackers who don't tan easily would probably find this comment as a compliment. In my situation, I'm not sure if it was a compliment.

I was staying in Bangkok for the 3th or 4th time and was heading for Koh Chang island the next day. I wanted to book a nice bungalow and decided to try a travel agency instead of reading reviews online. I stayed at Rambuttri Village Inn and just a couple of meters off their property, dozens of travel agencies, restaurants and shops await you. I picked a travel agency and talked to the guy sitting behind a desk. A nice and chatty guy, that's for sure. I booked a bungalow based on his recommendations.

When I passed their office later that day, he looked at me and waved me in.

We talked about Koh Chang and how tourists love beaches, how I love beaches. And then he said:

"Why you so brown? Brown dirty..."
I was like: "Uhhmm.. Because I like it."
"But why do you need to be brown?"
Again I said: "Because that's how I like it."

I looked him in the eyes and at some point he just shrugged and said: OK, OK.

Tanned and holding a snake in Bangkok

I was really tanned at the end of my first backpacking trip

I love tanning and I'm not ashamed of it. But this input reminded me that large parts of Asia, including Southeast Asia, has an obsession for pale skin, the same way many Europeans obsess about getting tanned.

Well, I didn't exactly stop tanning after this comment. I tanned even more :-)

3) "Are you (having a) baby?"

I didn't know if I wanted to laugh or cry when a local store owner in Thailand thought I was pregnant. I had just toured and exited Cambodia at the Poipet and Aranyaprathet border crossing. I met some Dutch travelers on the way who convinced me to take the train with them to Bangkok.

We took a tuk-tuk to the train station, and while we were waiting for the train we stopped by a small family shop to get some snacks and beverages. Two minutes after I entered the shop, the local owner smiled at me. I smiled back.

Suddenly she stood right next to me, stroke her belly and pointed at my belly and asked "Are you baby?"

I didn't need to think that long to know what she really meant. This comment caught me off guard.

My instinctive response to her was: "No, no, too much Angkor beer" and just smiled.

My fellow Dutch travelers just laughed of the whole situation. To be honest, the whole ordeal kind of shook me off. And come on, it made me question how I actually looked like and how my body had transformed after months of beer, rice and noodles.

Damn, do I really look that chubby?

Have you seen my belly

You don't really think about what you eat when you're backpacking because hey, you're on a vacation. That was and is my mantra.

Well, the local lady certainly was right. When I returned to Oslo, I weighed myself and I had actually gained 5-6 kilos. If this was 5-6 kilos of extra muscles I wouldn't bother, but it was 5-6 kilos resulting from too much Pad Thais, Amoks, delicious street food and beer drinking.

Would I do it again? Definitely! ;-)))


Farang = Foreigner

Posted: March 09, 2013

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