Crossing Cultures

July 1 is Canada Day. How did I celebrate it? Well, I consumed the last piece of maple candy given to me by my friend sometime during Christmas 2011. Yes, a care package all the way from Canada. The maple candy can be rather sweet but how fitting because it brings me sweet memories of my days in Canada.

Truth be told, I fell in love with Canada the moment I arrived for my tertiary education. Friends used to tease me and say “don’t fall in love there,” and that of course is because they want me back in my own hometown. I remember when I was in a queue waiting for my student ID card and other things, I saw someone who was involved in helping with the registration. He had dark hair and was fair skinned, with slight resemblance to Tim Matheson. I thought,..oh dear… I really must  guard my heart.

Until today I don’t quite understand the meaning of culture shock, but I guess it’s the initial phase when you deal with the difference between the culture you’ve been immersed to, and the culture in the country which you will be living 75% of the year in. I was very shy, and was afraid of  the crowd. (I still am.) I was never outspoken and preferred to be hidden in the back or corner. I used to sit facing the wall in the cafetaria as I was afraid of people finding me sitting alone. Many of them walked in the cafetaria in groups. Somehow it was so easy for them to bond with others. Took me a while to find the few people I really hit it off with. I’ve also been very naive and would never read anything more to a question thrown at me. For example, someone once asked me what I’m doing that night. I literally told him I was doing the laundry that night. I suppose (today when I look back), I think he was going to ask me out but I was really going to do the laundry.

One time, one exchange student from England asked if I wanted to meet up with him. (I never took it as a sign of interest, but just a meeting between two people.) I told him I had to pack. (I was telling the truth -I had a flight to catch the next day and was leaving for summer holidays). I laugh today when I think about it. He was a really nice guy and we’re still in touch today but he’s happily married and has several kids.

Now, this would be the funniest incident. I met many people during my student days and at an event, when I was leaving, I shook hands with a friendly guy. When we shook hands, he scratched the palm of my hand. I thought nothing about it because I was never exposed to it. When I got back to the dorm, I asked my friend about it. She said she had no clue either. I never saw the guy again. I think he was an actor in a play, I can’t really remember the details. This was about 16 years ago.

Just two days ago, I found out what that handshake (and palm scratching) gesture meant. (Not sure if the meaning is still the same today). It was apparently a sexual come-on. I probably would’ve been disgusted back then if I knew what he was thinking. I am still disgusted today.

Whatever it is, do not shake someone’s hand and scratch the palm. It’s not a nice thing.


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