I had left a place which claims “Smiling faces. Beautiful places.” to go to the “Land of Smiles.” Thailand lived up to their name but upon returning to the south I have found people aren’t as friendly as I remember. At the same time I am not sure if this lack of friendliness and helpfulness is a southern problem or a societal problem.
I thought I remembered before leaving everyone said hello, waved or nodded their head, smiled, held the door open for each other, and said ma’am and sir. Now it just seems so unfriendly. In Trader Joe’s the other day, a little old lady in our checkout line behind us had dropped her change purse and change went everywhere. I looked as it happened and everyone around her is looking at her trying to bend down to get to the change but no one was jumping to help her. We were already at the checkout bagging our goods up and there are people all around who are available to help her as they wait in their line. I go to her and ask if I can help her and get down on the floor and grab it all up. (This is not me tooting my own horn.) I was so discouraged to see this beautiful southern place I left wasn’t the same. She was grateful for the help and the little old man ringing me up gave me a free bag because “one good deed deserves another.”
My next disturbing encounter made me feel so awkward and now that I think of it I shouldn’t have been made to feel that way. During our house hunt, we visited Chick-fil-a for Killi to play for a while. He had a great time with a little girl for about an hour. As we were leaving, we walked by the little girl and Killi said “BYE!” The mom was walking with her and with a big smile I said “They had so much fun playing together.” She looked at me like I had 5 heads and spoke to me as if I were a crazy person “oooo ok…. That’s nice…” I walked away feeling awful. Was I not supposed to say hello? Was I not supposed to smile? Was I not performing socially acceptable norms?
Yesterday, (don’t judge) we went to Chick-fil-a to play on the playground. We walk in and I guess I have arrived on a mommy day/some sort of event. Every table was full of moms and kids. I walk in and again I get looked at like I have three heads. Their eyes are saying “Who is that? Do we know her?” Not one person said hello in response to my “Hey!” I figure if they are going to give me the up and down I should at least make it uncomfortable for them and say hi! These moms have taken over every table in the restaurant with their belonging but aren’t actually sitting at the tables. Instead they are all hanging out and talking at one table as their children run wild and hit on other kids in the play area. The adults then proceed to scream throughout the restaurant like it was their home. I see why their children were acting like heathens now… I tried to say hello and make a friend but again all of those people were already friends and not one person was going to be kind or polite- I just kept getting the stink eye. Part of me wonders if I did myself a disservice by getting dressed and ready that morning. Had I looked frumpy and disheveled maybe they would have welcomed me into the fold.
In Bangkok, it was so easy to make friends. You heard someone speak English and almost instantly you had a connection and didn’t feel so alone. I thought here it wouldn’t be too difficult to make new friends since the south is supposed to be a charming place with lots of lovely, friendly people but when everyone already has a friend there is no reason for them to add anyone to their group…
If you are reading this, next time you see someone totally alone (or with kids) try and be friendly and say hello. It goes a long way.