Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Is That So Wrong?

I've been doing my very best not to be 'overly Western' during my time here and it has led to moments where I consciously abstain from certain acts just so I don't look like some dumb foreigner. There is no larger source of this guilt than a trip to Burger King. Don't get me wrong, my diet since coming to Bangkok has been close to 85% rice/noodles. Very rarely do I get anything like a burger or burrito and some of you may be shocked, nay, flabbergasted to learn that I've only had pizza twice since coming here. So why, when I enter a Burger King, do I feel a sudden shame. (You can spare me the 'health concerns' for now.) In the States it's not like I eat hot dogs and mac-n-cheese for every meal, I like to mix it up. I eat those things, but I also enjoy Italian food, Chinese food, Mexican food, etc, etc. How come when I come to a different country I feel an obligation to eat the local fare and nothing else. Maybe I'm just worried on how this might look to a passer-by. They don't know that I live down the street and am spending the next year living here. Maybe they think I'm just some backpacker passing through on my way to Malaysia or Vietnam. Some weak bum who can't get through the day without indulging in 'American' food, when in actuality I just wanted a quick bite before I got on the train.

Well until I figure this out or just plain get over it, I'll have to keep my eating at Burger King quick and quiet (and definitely no 'to go' bags).

ah well,


yatpay said...

Haha, I can understand that.. it sounds like Burger King is the only burger joint around, but could you find a little more discreet place?

Mike said...

word to that. I also felt compelled to actively avoid western fare for... oh... about 3.5 months after i arrived here. I was actively annoyed when, on my first weekend here, i was hanging out with other people who have been in Japan several years and they all wanted to go to McDonalds. I think part of it is the desire to appear distinct from obnoxious foreigners who get annoyed at trying something they're not used to, and part out of excitemy to eat the authentic "real" food of your new home. After a few months, though, one does beging to crave the variety that is available in the US (not hotdogs and hamburgers, but simply the existence of many, many options). I still avoid fast food (which i do in the States too) but i have recently branched out to Japan's version of Western food, which, truth be told, is still uniquely Japanese. They especially like Hamburger steaks and spaghetti with tomato sauce and nori (sushi seaweed). But i have to admit. The pizza joint in my town is damn good.

As an aside, we don't have burger king. Enjoy what you've got, brotherman!

Brandon The Unqualified Critic said...

I think being a member of such a prominent culture and society that has really made itself available across the world gives you a bit of a complex. I can't say from personal experience because I'm just a bumpkin that hasn't left the country yet, but it seems that being an American abroad involves a bit of guilt. Being from the more powerful/forceful culture that's always in the spotlight makes you more aware of yourself as an potential object of ridicule, so you're going to want to try and blend into and appreciate your host culture as much as possible.

I say enjoy your America-fare as long as you're getting the full Thai experience. I mean, I don't go down to Chinatown in Boston and point and ridicule Chinese people for eating their traditional food. Maybe I should if these Asian countries are giving my friends a hard time -- Bastards!

lannie said...

Um, eating at Mama's every night counts as eating foreign food. Yeah... I'm a buzzkill.