Monday, February 22, 2010

It just doesn't happen at home

I went out for a quick dinner last, opting for a place on Yen Phu street, not far from my house. It was a simple setup; the cooks make the food out the front, you sit inside. I ordered my food in Vietnamese, incorrectly, and then went and found a seat as the young cooks had a laugh at my pronunciation. There was no one else in the place. Not a soul. This may have made me a little uncomfortable back home but it didn't bother me here.

I was taking in the place in my moment of solitude when a guy walks in and without hesitation sits opposite me. I nod and say xin chao Anh (hello big brother) to which he replies xin chao Em (hello little brother). At first I thought me might have been one of the cooks or that he worked there but after a few seconds he ordered his food which raised my eyebrow. "Is he getting his food to take away" I thought and even so why does he have to sit here, virtually on top of me. The seats and tables are plastic and kids size in most street food places. Here I was sitting on my chair with my feet on the ground and my knees were higher than the table. The table was small as well so with two plates and a glass on my table I really had to start maximising the space.

I have learnt to accept the small chairs and tables but the fact that this guy chose to sit right opposite me in a completely empty restaurant really challenged my cultural boundaries. If he had really wanted to talk then I could acknowledge his decision but he wasn't even a little bit interested. I smiled and said a few things only to be met with nonchalant replies or glances. This made me a little uncomfortable and as my dinner was served I could only think "Why........Why are you fucking sitting there".

Not enjoying my meal I tried to forget about it and take myself away to a happy place. I was getting somewhere quite happy but was rudely distracted by the guy turning around every 20 or so seconds to watch the Korean soap show on the TV. His back was to the TV so his only way to see what was going on was to of course turn around. This was taking me away from my happy place. It didn't occur to him to change to one of 37 empty seats, yes I actually counted them. His food arrived and now we had two massive plates, two bowls and two glasses all on a tiny table fit for a little girl and her first tea party.

I ate my food quickly and left. Riding home I wondered why. Why did this guy sit where he did when he had 37 other options; 37 other options me or probably anyone from the western world would take. Maybe it was his seat. Maybe he comes in everyday and sits in the same seat. Maybe he has OCD and under no circumstance will he sit anywhere else. Maybe sitting on your own is not cool but there was only me to judge and I would have happily called him cool if he sat somewhere else. I really don't know the reason but one thing I know for sure is that it just doesn't happen at home.

Dan explique que dans la série "ca ca n'arriverait jamais chez nous", il s'était installé dans un troquet vide pour manger une soupe de nouille, quand un local est venu s'assoir a sa petite table, en face, alors qu'il y avait 31 tables vides autour. Dan s'est dit que le type devait avoir envie de compagnie, mais non, il répondait d'un grognement a ses tentatives de conversation.
Parfois, il faut juste se dire qu'on ne comprend pas bien et que ce n'est pas grave. :)

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