10 things I picked up in country that my American mother would be ashamed of.
- I yell “Дервучка” (girl) or “Чон куз” (big girl is appropriate in Kyrgyz) when I need service while dining out at a café. It’s the norm here to address young women in this way in the same way we would say “miss” in America, but I still cringe a little bit at the literal translation since it seems so rude to foreigners.
- My personal hygiene has gone down the drain. I bathe (maybe) once a week and when I do it is from a bucket that contains as many rusty flakes of degrading bucket as it does hot water. I frequently use febreeze and wet wipes as a hygiene substitute.
- I slurp and make obnoxious noises when I eat, especially noodle “soups” (mostly sheep fat broth and rice noodles). It’s a sign here that the food is good and it is sometimes just impossible to avoid.
- I cut in lines. Here it is cut or be cut, the formation of a line is rarely is ever seen. Instead people rush the counter and if you’re not pushy enough it will take forty minutes to buy that bottle of yogurt or pack of noodles.
- I discuss my bowel movements on the regular. Whether its with PC doctors (because there is actually a medical problem) or because I’m just so excited I had enough fiber today! Bodily functions come up in conversations between PCVs about as much as they do between a group of 7th grade boys.
- I “vacuum” my room during the quietest parts of the day. Here it’s important to make your host family very aware of when you are cleaning your room, so they know you actually clean your room.
- I steal people’s babies. Well, kind of, not really. But it’s incredibly common, if I actually have a seat on a mashrutka, for me to end up holding the baby (or grocery bag, or suitcase) of the woman sitting next to me while she rustles through the packet (plastic bag) she uses as a purse for some fried bread to shove in the baby’s mouth (optimally to keep it from crying).
- I feel incredibly rude when I speak. Not only do you have to speak pretty forcefully here to get what you need in general, for example asking “may I please have that tomato there” at the bazaar is a big tip off that you’re a tourist, even if you’re speaking in local language. Common protocol is “What are those? Tomatoes? How much? No, that’s too much, give me the tomatoes. I will pay this much.” Additionally talking to jigeets (young men) in an overly friendly way (don’t forget to drop that smile or they will either think you are crazy or want to marry them) can lead to problems due to the cultural differences of what we perceive as “friendly” but what is perceived here as “flirtatious.
- I answer my phone and inappropriate times. Without voicemail here the common practice is to call and call and call over again until the person answers. So answering the phone the first time it rings and walking out (or my personal favorite ducking your head under the table and having a full on conversation, because if nobody can see you, you’re definitely not a disturbance) in the middle of a meeting actually ends up saving whatever meeting I’m in from multiple interruptions.
- I shove my way through a crowd and have trampled ejes. I ride the same mashrutka home every day and around 4:00pm these mini busses begin to fill to the brim. I am often so crammed between people I have to shout to the driver through 20 people to stop on my street and then push and shove people out of the way in order to peel myself out of the door before the thing speeds away.