When you think of what staring is, you imagine yourself looking at someone, or something, either through amazement or fear, or just pure interest. And it can also be taken as a sign of aggression, of intense concentration or boredom, and of affection.
When someone stares at you, and you catch their eye, you immediately wonder what they are looking at; have you got your slippers on instead of your shoes? Have you got your knickers tucked in your skirt? And at first you look away but you are immediately drawn back to that person to see if they are still looking at you, and they are!
If you stare at someone else-maybe you are people watching-you don’t want them to catch you ogling because they, most of the time, will have the same reaction as yourself. In Western society most people don’t like it, and it can be considered rude. Come on, you can hear yourself “What are they bloody looking at?”
Not so in Thailand. If you travel around Thailand and stay in more rural areas, people WILL stare at you. It is quite disconcerting at first but they mean you no harm. It is simply because the locals are not used to seeing foreigners, especially in places which are not particularly on the tourist trail.
I lived in Surin, in northeast Thailand, for three years and I was stared at everywhere I went- I got used to it after a while but sometimes, just sometimes, I would ask myself quietly “What are you looking at now?” I went shopping at the local supermarket-they stared in my basket to see what I was buying; I went to work each day-they stared at me as I cycled passed; I went jogging in the park-they stared at me as I ran by; I went to the bar alone-they stared as I sat drinking my beer. Oh, they stared!
A few years ago, my mum and auntie came to visit, and, as they walked to meet me at work, a guy on a motor-bike stared at them, taking his eyes off the road. My mum, being the sociable character she is, smiled and waved, nearly causing a road traffic accident when the guy almost fell of his bike. He hadn’t expected her to wave at him.
I remember going to Tesco Lotus and, as I cycled out of the car park, a whole family, six in total, both adults and kids, who had parked themselves in the car park to have a picnic, stared as I cycled off. I had clocked them staring so I reluctantly gave them a huge (false) smile and waved at them (Come on, it’s a bit tedious all this staring.) But it was their reaction, from all six of them, enthusiastically grinning and waving back at me, that made me realise just how much I love this place. Needless to say, the false smile I was wearing became a massive, genuine, grin from ear to ear, and gave me such a feeling of happiness. It really made my day.
Now I am living in Bangkok, the stares don’t happen very often. There are far too many foreigners living here for anybody to take much notice of us. But, if you’re in Thailand, and someone stares at you, don’t worry or be angry about it, be happy that they are intrigued and interested in you, smile back at them and just see what happens. Enjoy the Land of Smiles.