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gossamer
February 16th, 2013, 11:48 PM
I'm from a country in which I'm a racial minority (white in East Asia). A new friend who just moved here said maybe I could speak to her daughter, aged 8, about how to deal with the attention she gets for her long, never trimmed, gorgeous flaming red hair. Apparently the comments are bad enough for her when she's back home, but here she gets chased around by photographers, touched by strangers, pointed at wherever she goes, and all happening in a language she doesn't understand.

I can't remember how I used to deal with the attention when I was a little blonde kid. I guess having grown up in it I was used to being on display all the time? My mom says she taught me to respond, "I am not a doll, I am a person," but there's no guarantee that will stop anyone from doing anything but be excited that the white "doll" can talk too! What, if anything, could I tell her?

What would you do? She's telling her mother she wants it all cut off, but that still won't change the fact that she's going to be a redhead hounded for photographs and pointed at by everyone.

Any words of wisdom or similar experiences? Ideas for coping mechanisms?

ghost
February 17th, 2013, 01:15 AM
It can be hard for kids to stand up for themselves, especially if they're in a new place and already feeling intimidated. I assume her mom comes to her defense when this sort of stuff happens to her daughter and she's around to witness it? I'm not a parent, but I remember my mom being fiercely protective of me when I was little and extremely shy, and and seemed like I was getting attention I didn't want -even "good" attention (like from friends of the family...the kind who always seem to want to pet your head, pinch your cheeks, whatever!)
For times when she wasn't around, she taught me to say firmly -quietly, if I felt too shy to speak loudly, but always firmly- "Stop that. I don't like you pointing at me/ staring at me/ touching me/ insert problem here," while looking them in the eye. That was about as much as I felt empowered to do as a young child. I think most kids could handle that, or your "I am not a doll, I am a person" line, but after that if she's feeling really uncomfortable, it might be best for her to let her mom or dad know (or a teacher if she's at school) and let them handle the situation. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't seem to listen to kids trying to make themselves heard -they just find it "funny" or "precocious".
Hopefully your friend's daughter will eventually be able to just ignore any unwanted comments, stares, or pointing, but that can be terribly hard to do when you're only 8. I hope she is able to feel more comfortable in her new country soon!

AnqeIicDemise
February 17th, 2013, 01:17 AM
She needs to learn that her looks are always going to get attention when she's such a minority. While its freaky and sometimes annoying its not out of hatred or dislike that she's being hounded with so much attention. These people have never seen anything like that before and they find it unique. While its not on par with perhaps having a physical deformity or disability, it is something people gawk at.

Explain to her that these people just don't know any better and it is sad that their parents never taught them any manners. I find such behavior akin to that of a child who sees a person in a wheel chair for the first time. Sadly, these are adults so no one's there to give them a little talking to about how rude they're being. Perhaps she's just going to have to be the adult one here (rather depressing turn of events!) and have to teach them to behave better. Let her know that the length of her hair isn't going to help matters. Short or long its a beautiful shade of red that no one has ever seen before in such parts of the world and they'll continue to gawk.

I just want to hug her.

ETA: I learned to ignore people because in the city we grew up in I was the odd girl out. Big eyes, full lips, cute feet. (It was an Asian community) As I got older the focus changed to other parts of my body and it wasn't the women cooing saying I was such a cute doll. Sexual harassment is harder to deal with than overt fawning.

I still just want to hug her.

inertia
February 17th, 2013, 02:08 AM
It's true that this little girl will have to learn to deal with the attention of being a minority, but why can't she cut her hair to minimize that attention if she wants? It sounds like this little girl didn't like the attention she got because of her hair even when she lived in her home country, and that makes me wonder if the reason she has all this gorgeous long hair is because she wants it herself, or because her mother wants her to have it. At the very least, if you want to buy some time for this girl to think about it more carefully, she could try wearing her hair in braids or buns or some other style which doesn't attract quite as much attention as a mass of loose flaming hair. She'll still stand out no matter what, but there's a difference between "standing out" and "celebrity hounded by paparazzi" level.

auburntressed
February 17th, 2013, 04:02 AM
What would you do? She's telling her mother she wants it all cut off, but that still won't change the fact that she's going to be a redhead hounded for photographs and pointed at by everyone.
Yeah, see... if her hair is flaming red in an East Asian country, she'll be getting that attention even with a pixie cut. It sounds like she has convinced herself that cutting it all off will stop it, but it just won't. At age 8, though, I'm not sure there is a way to convince her that the solution she has decided upon for herself won't actually work. I was 8 when I got my hair cut off to shoulder length for the first time, and I was absolutely CONVINCED that shoulder length hair would mean I wouldn't fight tangles anymore. When, in fact, all it did was make me miserable and make me look terrible.

I don't have any advice about how to deal with it, but possibly a good way to help cut down on the attention a little would be for her to learn how to wear her hair up and put a scarf or hat over it when she is out and about.

gossamer
February 17th, 2013, 04:35 AM
It's true that this little girl will have to learn to deal with the attention of being a minority, but why can't she cut her hair to minimize that attention if she wants? It sounds like this little girl didn't like the attention she got because of her hair even when she lived in her home country, and that makes me wonder if the reason she has all this gorgeous long hair is because she wants it herself, or because her mother wants her to have it. At the very least, if you want to buy some time for this girl to think about it more carefully, she could try wearing her hair in braids or buns or some other style which doesn't attract quite as much attention as a mass of loose flaming hair. She'll still stand out no matter what, but there's a difference between "standing out" and "celebrity hounded by paparazzi" level.


Actually, I never said that anyone was trying to convince her not to cut her hair. Her mom is 100% willing to do it if she finds a reference photo for her mom to cut it to.

Apparently, she's gotten really good at deflecting the attention in her home country, but the attention there is usually people making dumb comments like, "ooh, where'd you get hair like that?" not chasing after her with cameras.

gossamer
February 17th, 2013, 04:38 AM
Yeah, see... if her hair is flaming red in an East Asian country, she'll be getting that attention even with a pixie cut. It sounds like she has convinced herself that cutting it all off will stop it, but it just won't. At age 8, though, I'm not sure there is a way to convince her that the solution she has decided upon for herself won't actually work. I was 8 when I got my hair cut off to shoulder length for the first time, and I was absolutely CONVINCED that shoulder length hair would mean I wouldn't fight tangles anymore. When, in fact, all it did was make me miserable and make me look terrible.

I don't have any advice about how to deal with it, but possibly a good way to help cut down on the attention a little would be for her to learn how to wear her hair up and put a scarf or hat over it when she is out and about.

If I do end up having a chat with her about hair, I think we'll talk about why people might be reacting the way they are and how it's just going to be unavoidable, no matter what length it is. She's only here for a few months, it's not going to be permanent.

I'm also thinking about contacting a red-headed acquaintance of mine who grew up here. Unfortunately, I think the solution just involves developing thick skin, but how do you explain that to a kid?

Icialine
February 17th, 2013, 07:54 AM
I'm from a country in which I'm a racial minority (white in East Asia). A new friend who just moved here said maybe I could speak to her daughter, aged 8, about how to deal with the attention she gets for her long, never trimmed, gorgeous flaming red hair. Apparently the comments are bad enough for her when she's back home, but here she gets chased around by photographers, touched by strangers, pointed at wherever she goes, and all happening in a language she doesn't understand.

I can't remember how I used to deal with the attention when I was a little blonde kid. I guess having grown up in it I was used to being on display all the time? My mom says she taught me to respond, "I am not a doll, I am a person," but there's no guarantee that will stop anyone from doing anything but be excited that the white "doll" can talk too! What, if anything, could I tell her?

What would you do? She's telling her mother she wants it all cut off, but that still won't change the fact that she's going to be a redhead hounded for photographs and pointed at by everyone.

Any words of wisdom or similar experiences? Ideas for coping mechanisms?
I was in the same position as this little girl. I'm biracial and had long wavy red hair that was easily styled into long curls, in Canada- a country that was much less ethnically diverse in the 70s and 80s than it is now . Let's just say I literally stopped traffic even as a toddler. Strangers were always complimenting my mother, or me, about my skin-tone, how pretty I looked, how well I was dressed,etc, but mostly they couldn't get over my hair. They always wanted to touch it, made jokes about wanting to steal my curls, and on and on. In the street, at the bank, in shopping centers, it was like being a minor celebrity. I must say they always asked for permission when my mother was around and it wasn't really an ordeal to be admired but sometimes you really do wish you could just fade into the background and look like everyone else.
From a child's perspective I thought the easiest way to get some peace and quiet was to show less hair, so I got my mother to give me an up-do (similar to a ballerina bun) throughout grade school. That did work but not much. The color was so bright that it still caught everyone's attention.Still, they couldn't touch it, only comment on it, so it was a vast improvement.
Next, I pestered my mother to dye my hair black. I knew that if I told her it was to be less conspicuous she'd refuse so I convinced her that it was because I was very much into ancient Egypt at the time (technically true) so she finally did let me change my hair color. This set me on a coloring and experimenting phase that had me trying every shade and haircut you can think of until I was in my twenties and developed an allergy to hair dye and make-up that lasted several years.
I thought I'd be miserable when my hair was red again (it had darkened to auburn by then), but I loved it. So, I had spent thousands of dollars on products and hundreds of hours applying them and then applying conditioners to undo the damage caused by them, and paid stylists a small fortune to cut and style my hair and probably messed up my immune system with all those chemicals, for nothing.
If I could go back and talk to the little girl I was I'd tell her to not change a thing about herself and instead, learn how to make people respect her boundaries because the fact of the matter is that she will have to learn to do that at some point no matter what. Girls who look less 'exotic' may be lucky enough to be able to put off learning to do this until they're in their teens and start attracting attention for their developing body, but, a delay is all it is.
Learning to firmly say 'Thanks for the compliment but I don't want you to touch me or my hair' and developing the strong will necessary to make people abide by your wishes, even when you're child, by being ready and willing to tell off the few who don't listen is an invaluable lesson and I wish I had realized that.
If she cuts her hair right now- even if she's convinced herself that it's really because she likes short hair better- she'll regret it because some part of her will always wonder if it wasn't, at least a bit, out of cowardice.If she's anything like me,that self-questioning will eventually bother her more than what the rude strangers did.
As I said, I really feel this 8 year-old's pain; being pointed and gawked at as if you're a doll or some rare specimen is annoying and, at some point, it does feel like, despite the fact that it's worded as compliments, you're really being subtly told to stop being such a freak of nature, but conforming to the norm isn't the answer.
In the end, simply because a bit of dye and shorter style still didn't make me all that inconspicuous (the same applies to this little girl who will still stand out just by being white in an East Asian country), I didn't get out of having to learn to stand up for myself from an early age but, knowing how I love my hair now-so much so that I grew it longer as an adult than it ever was when I was a child- makes me regret everything I put it through because I let the attitude of some pushy strangers influence me to think I disliked it. The saddest part of all this is that the whole time that I was doing my darnedest to get rid of my long red hair my love for it attracted me to artwork that featured redheads like pre-Raphaelite or Klimt paintings, yet, if I hadn't grown allergic to dye I might never have faced the fact that I love it on me too.
Obviously, everyone's experience is different but my word of wisdom would be to teach her to deal with the situation by facing it head-on instead of looking for ways to back away from it. Then, if she decides to cut her hair someday, she'll know it's a choice being made solely by, and for, herself.

jacqueline101
February 17th, 2013, 07:56 AM
I agree all she can do is get used to it people will always notice some ones looks.

spidermom
February 17th, 2013, 08:36 AM
The easiest fix that comes to mind is use a dark deposit-only dye on it. Or cover it up with scarf or hat when she's out and about.

neko_kawaii
February 17th, 2013, 09:04 AM
My mother had the same trouble when she traveled. She is a very shy person but somehow she managed to accept the attention and smile and pose for pictures with people. At one point she was on a tour and one of the other tourists was a nun and both she and the nun were constantly being asked to pose for pictures because they were objects of curiosity as much as their surroundings. She also wears a wide brimmed felt hat (not western style) and got a lot of comments along the lines of "Where is your horse?" which she though hilarious.

I don't know how you teach a young child to either ignore or accept unwanted attention. Certainly if she doesn't want people touching her hair she should learn to say "Don't touch my hair" in the local language as well as something about not liking pictures if pictures make her uncomfortable. "Thank you for your compliments, but she is shy and doesn't like the attention." Or "Thank you, but we are too busy to chat or pose for pictures."

I wonder if her discomfort is due to her past experience with such attention not always being positive. It does not sound like people in this new place are being rude about her hair and maybe if someone could spend an outing translating the comments to her she would feel better about what people are whispering around her.

Naiadryade
February 17th, 2013, 10:06 AM
I like what people are saying about her learning how to stand up for herself. Which I know is hard for a little kid. Neko_kawaii's last paragraph right above this is also really interesting to me--I know at that age, I was starting to get really self-conscious about what people thought about me, especially since my peers were starting for find any reason to dislike and tease me. Maybe she thinks these people are teasing her, when they are probably usually actually admiring her.

And, it also occurred to me that if she could cover it all with a head scarf when walking around in the streets, she might get less attention, and thus help alleviate the fear until she can find the courage to stand up for herself. It would be a fashion statement, sure, and she's still white... but flaming red curly hair attracts immediate attention no matter where you are (except maybe Ireland/Scotland?? No idea), even if in some places people are more "polite" about it, because it's just downright impressive and, well, colorful. A plain scarf doesn't turn heads in quite the same way.

Sharysa
February 17th, 2013, 01:50 PM
Seconding all the good comments about dealing with unwanted attention and making her hair less noticeable.

Also, as an Filipino-American girl raised by VERY traditional immigrant parents, social customs are a LOT different for Asians than Westerners. Mom exaggerates the slightest change in my appearance; losing a bit of weight? "God, you're getting so thin! Make sure you're eating enough!" And then GAINING a bit of weight means that she has no problem joking about me getting fat (when I hover around 105-110 pounds).

I just have to deal with it because 1) she wasn't raised in America, and 2) she's my mother.

Just explain to her that China has a lot of different rules about touching or making comments, and she gets most of it because they almost never see people who look like her in real life, but they're not making fun or her or trying to be rude. And then tell her that most of them will stop if she (or her mother/teachers) lets them know how uncomfortable all the attention makes her.

humble_knight
February 17th, 2013, 02:12 PM
I would talk about being proud of her hair colour. As she grows older, I think she will have more problems with that than length of her hair.

rowie
February 17th, 2013, 02:21 PM
I would talk about being proud of her hair colour. As she grows older, I think she will have more problems with that than length of her hair.

This! Why should she change the way she looks just so that people could leave her alone. I know it's different in every culture, and that I think is what makes it more difficult with the whole notion of trying to conform to a particular culture or society. There will always be people who will not approve how she looks and there will be people who will adore it, it'll always be a mixture of opinions. However, when it becomes not safe for her or her safety is on the line, then that is when she should re-assess her options.

lapushka
February 17th, 2013, 03:34 PM
I'm from a country in which I'm a racial minority (white in East Asia). A new friend who just moved here said maybe I could speak to her daughter, aged 8, about how to deal with the attention she gets for her long, never trimmed, gorgeous flaming red hair. Apparently the comments are bad enough for her when she's back home, but here she gets chased around by photographers, touched by strangers, pointed at wherever she goes, and all happening in a language she doesn't understand.

That is *creepy* for people to do to an 8-year-old, but I doubt it's the length of her hair, rather the color of it - and she can't change that, not at that age at least. Woops, I noticed when answering that that's exactly what *you* said later on in your message.

Maybe her parents better teach her how to scream when strangers get too close for comfort (she's 8 years old for Pete's sake). That should scare them off. That, and the attention of her parents (who hopefully do master the language somewhat, at least enough to tell the strangers to F-off).

MissTulip
February 17th, 2013, 04:23 PM
Fantastic advice Icialine!!

This is probably really creepy of ME, but I am dying to see the shade of this little girl's hair now!:o
(and of Icialine's too when she was little ;) )

I think red hair is absolutely GLORIOUS!!

Celtic Morla
February 17th, 2013, 05:00 PM
As a child I had long pure white blond hair and it atracted a lot of attention. It wont change if she cuts it off. She will need toi understand she is as exotic to th elocals as going to th ezoo and seeing a lion. Except she is not protected from [people who want to touch her hair to make sure it is real or take pictures to show other people. Sh eshould be taught to say "Look no touch" in the local dialect. And that she is like that lion and people will want to look at her because hs eis so unique.

thirstylocks
February 17th, 2013, 05:01 PM
I don't have kids, but if someone touched my niece's hair or even got close to her, I would more than likely physically assault them LOL. Is touching strangers (esp children) really acceptable anywhere?

I wouldn't even be polite about it and ASK someone to not touch - they should know better. She should yell at them to lay off or even yell for help. This whole situation is so bizarre to me??

but as a PS, I think red hair is so beautiful and whenever I see a redhead, I tend to stare because its so pretty. But I would never harass a person over it!

Sharysa
February 17th, 2013, 05:18 PM
People often find Asians (raised in Asian cultures) to be quite rude by Western standards, because they have a WAY different concept of personal space or privacy than most Westerners. Especially with children, since a lot of Asian cultures view children as subordinate to adults. As in, lower-ranking.

Of course Asian cultures have a concept of familial well-being and protection, but to them it's NOT a big deal to just walk up and comment on a child's appearance and get in her space like that. They don't see it as out of place to do so, partly because she's a child; people raised in that culture would view that sort of thing as "annoying but not THAT bad," in contrast to the usual Western view as "distressing and potentially traumatizing in the long run."

And it's especially evident since the child in question is not only foreign, but has such distinctive hair.

I'm not saying that the OP should just shut up and have her niece shut up and put up with it as well, but intercultural things are complicated and I really don't like how everyone keeps implying/stating "JFDKLSAJK; I WOULD SMACK THEM IF THEY DID THAT TO MY KID" without taking culture into context.

lapushka
February 17th, 2013, 06:02 PM
I'm not saying that the OP should just shut up and have her niece shut up and put up with it as well, but intercultural things are complicated and I really don't like how everyone keeps implying/stating "JFDKLSAJK; I WOULD SMACK THEM IF THEY DID THAT TO MY KID" without taking culture into context.

So they should respect their culture, and they should have no respect for ours? Riiiiight. Especially since this is a child we're talking about!

thirstylocks
February 17th, 2013, 06:19 PM
It IS important to respect culture, but not at the expense of the mental well being of a clearly distressed child. How would the parents respect the culture in this specific case? By allowing it to happen and just telling the child to deal with it?

It's one thing to ogle and point and stare at someone - but once a stranger touches a child, it becomes really inappropriate and I don't doubt that many parents would flip out, even if they were adapted to the culture/customs of the place.

jeanniet
February 17th, 2013, 06:19 PM
So they should respect their culture, and they should have no respect for ours? Riiiiight. Especially since this is a child we're talking about!

They are in a foreign country, so the expectation that the native people living there shouldn't act according to their culture isn't very realistic. If you're living in a foreign country, what you may perceive as being rude isn't unless it is also rude according to the customs of that country. It's an opportunity for her parents to explain to her that the people aren't trying to be rude or hurtful. She still won't like the attention, but at least she can understand that they're not deliberately trying to upset her. It would probably be best to teach her some standard phrases to use, such as "Please don't touch," "Please don't take my picture" and so on. She can make her request politely, and then if the unwanted attention continues, she can ask an adult for help. Over time, she will probably be less of a novelty in the immediate area she's in, and it will become less of an issue. This is a difficult situation for her, but any time you're living in a foreign country there are things you're going to like and things you aren't. If she can learn to deal with this herself as much as possible, it'll make her adjustment to the country that much easier.

Rivanariko
February 17th, 2013, 06:37 PM
I don't normally advocate for hiding who you are, but since this is a short-term living situation for her, I think the best thing would be to get her some awesome hats and learn to pile her hair underneath them. There is nothing that is going to make flaming red hair not stand out in an East Asian city. And while teaching her to stand up for herself and respectfully ask people not to touch her is a wonderful life lesson, and something that should definitely be discussed with her, it's really not going to stop the problem, as I'm guessing it's probably not JUST the touching that is bothering her, it's the attention in general, which can be both intimate or from afar. If you don't believe me, then you've obviously never been in a room where everyone was pointing at you or looking at you. It's awkward when you're shy. Cutting her hair won't fix the problem, but she could hide it if she wants to be able to move about without quite as much attention. I don't know much about the fashions in the area, so a hat might stand out as well, but probably won't draw as much attention as her hair. Beautiful hair like that draws attention even in western cultures where it's relatively common!

I'm also a little disturbed about the "I'd smack someone" comments. I think that a violent or aggressive reaction is rarely appropriate, and certainly not when the person obviously meant no harm but was trying to show admiration according to their cultural norms. I'm not saying "grin and bear it", but rather find a more respectful way of asking people to back off rather than slapping or screaming at them. It's been my experience that people respond considerably better to that approach.

jeanniet
February 17th, 2013, 06:45 PM
I missed the part where you said she would only be there for a few months. In that case, yes, I'd mostly just cover it up, or even color it to tone the red down. A few months isn't really long enough for her to adjust to the culture (or vice versa)--but it is enough time for her to learn about the cultural differences. That's one of the huge values of being in a foreign country if you're a kid. The insights she'll gain from even a short stay will have meaning for her throughout her life, even if she doesn't appreciate them now.

lapushka
February 17th, 2013, 06:52 PM
That's one of the huge values of being in a foreign country if you're a kid. The insights she'll gain from even a short stay will have meaning for her throughout her life, even if she doesn't appreciate them now.

In this case, I'd doubt that. I'd rather think it will be traumatizing instead - unless something is done to shake the touchers and lurkers awake. Even if she is a minority, this is a *child*, and children deserve to feel protected, wherever they are!

chen bao jun
February 17th, 2013, 07:41 PM
I have experience dealing with this. My advice is to learn to speak the language, even for a few months.
I not only lived in Taiwan back in the early 1980's as a black person when people were much less used to foreigners than now but had a red-haired roomate that I went around with everywhere --and this was a time when many people in the Chinese countryside believed that demons had red hair. People would be scared of her initially (especially children) and couldn't keep their hands off me and especially not out of my hair--I'm black but so fair-skinned that they couldn't tell, but they were fascinated by the pouffy, curly hair. After I returned I worked with a famous exchange program (there weren't nearly so many back then as now) helping to train a very diverse group of students as to how to function in the culture. The idea when I first came on was that I'd be able to help blacks and other minorities live there successfully and have a good time, as I did, but actually a lot of the white students needed even more help, never having been in any situation where they were a minority before. EVERYBODY needed a lot of support and orientation and cultural training--this was not going to party as a tourist for 3 or months but going out to live as one of only one or two non-Chinese in China, in the countryside, just a few years after the Cultural Revolution and the isolation Mao had put China through, for years.
What we found that people who could speak and understand the language functioned so much better. I don't know if this is because they had more sense of control, knowing what people were actually saying instead of imagining all kinds of things or because the inhabitants tended to see and treat them more as real people when they could really talk to them. Even speaking a little of the language helped so much more than speaking none. Knowing what things meant culturally helped a lot too, so that they had training in this. Like a previous poster, I can't help but notice that a lot of the advice given so far to the OP is not going to be helpful as it is based on the presumption that foreign people in their own country should understand American ideas of personal space and comfort, which is not going to happen. The child is of course in a different situation than our students because she has to be there because the parents are there. She has a quality which is unique over there (fortunately, no longer associated with demons as it used to be) and one that is going to continue to make her noticed. Trust me, if she cuts her hair off, it is still going to be RED HAIR, albeit short; a person cannot wear a hat day and night and may get even more attention from wearing one and then taking it off to reveal the red hair and dyeing one's hair is not only likely to ruin it but what kind of a message is that sending to the child? It's more running away from the issue than anything. I am really sorry that there appears to have been no orientation and cultural training given to this family about the very different culture, but I would say at this point, hire a tutor and get some immersion into the culture to try to make this a good memory instead of nightmare. These people are not being unfriendly or hostile--and the child would actually be having a very similar experience if she were very tall, or very black or unusually chubby and a whole host of other things and useful lessons could be learned out of this. She could come back more sensitive about the things we do to people who don't fit into the norms of OUR culture, which is more diverse on the surface, but not really, if you know what I mean. It ought to be a good learning experience for the whole family as we found it was for our students, all of whom had some struggles but most of whom think it was one of the best things that they ever did in their life.

Sharysa
February 17th, 2013, 07:59 PM
So they should respect their culture, and they should have no respect for ours? Riiiiight. Especially since this is a child we're talking about!

I'm willing to bet that 98% of the people there don't KNOW American culture. Because, you know, they're Chinese citizens. In China.

Very, very, VERY far away from America.


If you're living in a foreign country, what you may perceive as being rude isn't unless it is also rude according to the customs of that country. It's an opportunity for her parents to explain to her that the people aren't trying to be rude or hurtful.


I think that a violent or aggressive reaction is rarely appropriate, and certainly not when the person obviously meant no harm but was trying to show admiration according to their cultural norms.

lapushka
February 17th, 2013, 08:10 PM
I'm willing to bet that 98% of the people there don't KNOW American culture. Because, you know, they're Chinese citizens. In China.

Very, very, VERY far away from America.

That would depend on where exactly in China she is.

Sharysa
February 17th, 2013, 08:20 PM
Ah, yes. But even in major cities, there's a big difference between people who know American culture from the media and people who actually have experience with American culture.

Rivanariko
February 17th, 2013, 10:50 PM
Ah, yes. But even in major cities, there's a big difference between people who know American culture from the media and people who actually have experience with American culture.

This seems like it would be like assuming that I knew all about Japanese culture and could seamlessly emulate it because I've watched anime.

Being generally familiar with a few cultural concepts =\= understand and applying the culture.

gossamer
February 17th, 2013, 11:04 PM
That would depend on where exactly in China she is.

I've been really busy and it's funny coming back to this thread and seeing all the information that's been invented by people not reading carefully.

1) This girl is not my niece.
2) She is not being forced to keep her hair long if she decides she doesn't want it anymore.
3) We are not in China, and never said we were.

So, there are a few things I'd like to note:
1) Concepts of personal space are definitely different here.

2) Reactions to novelty are different here.

3) Acceptable personal questions are different here.

4) Her parents are definitely looking out for her. Her mom just hoped there might be something I could add to help her understand she's not alone in getting these reactions.

5) American standards of personal space, politeness, and social values are not as universal as many posters seem to believe they are. It is distressing to this little girl because she's used to reserved American behavior, especially in the rural area she's from. The point is not to teach people here that Americans have different cultural norms. That's a long conversation that an 8 year old isn't capable of.

I'm rushing off again for the day. I'll be back to try and write more later.

MonaMayfair
February 18th, 2013, 05:29 AM
I had this in Japan when I was 7 or 8 because I had fair skin, green eyes and very long white blonde hair.
I spent quite a lot of time there with family (my aunt by marriage is Japanese)
I'm different though, I loved being stared at and photographed, lol! And I still don't mind strangers being unable to stop themselves from touching my hair either, I always touch other peoples hair...

lapushka
February 18th, 2013, 09:59 AM
That reminds me of a bunch of Japanese or Chinese tourists (couldn't tell the difference, sorry) in Antwerp many many years ago. My aunt is white blonde and they went crazy when they saw her, all of their camera's at the ready and just making their way in front of us shooting pictures of her, no shame at all.

Vrindi
February 18th, 2013, 11:46 AM
My best friend, a blond, lived in Japan when she was young. She said that on the subway, strangers were always touching her long hair. Apparently, natural red-heads and blonds are considered to be good luck. Once she realized that, it didn't creep her out so much. Also, the concept of personal space is much smaller than it is in most Western countries. Americans like lots of room! Not so much in Asia. She just stayed polite and asked people to please not touch her when she wasn't in the mood to deal with it. She said that that was really all it took, just politely asking people to not touch, but being nice about it. I don't know if this little girl is getting rude or mean comments, or it's just too invasive and strange, but looking someone in the eye, thanking them for their interest, but saying "please respect my privacy and personal space," can often be all it takes. Just be consistent. Tell her to put her hands up when she says it. That's a visual cue for, "this is my space." Hope this is helpful!

Sharysa
February 18th, 2013, 01:19 PM
I've been really busy and it's funny coming back to this thread and seeing all the information that's been invented by people not reading carefully.

1) This girl is not my niece.
2) She is not being forced to keep her hair long if she decides she doesn't want it anymore.
3) We are not in China, and never said we were.

Crap, I'm sorry about assuming 1 and 3. I'm guessing that these parts in your original post are what confused everyone?

Plus, everyone kept going on about "if this was happening to MY kid/neice," and I admit I forgot that the girl is your FRIEND'S daughter because I was busy trying to explain the vast differences in Asian society versus American society.


I'm from a country in which I'm a racial minority (white in East Asia). A new friend who just moved here


she gets chased around by photographers, touched by strangers, pointed at wherever she goes, and all happening in a language she doesn't understand.

It's pretty hard for us to think that you're NOT in China, from the information you gave us and how the problematic behavior pretty much screams "East Asian."

humble_knight
February 18th, 2013, 01:35 PM
If I recall correctly, many incidents of hair-touching by strangers [men and women] is in North America. Uhm, the incidents posted here by LHC-ers. As a Briton, I rarely hear of anyone in England being so bold as to invade another person's personal space and in particular touch a stranger's hair.

Long_hair_bear
February 18th, 2013, 02:00 PM
I can somewhat relate.....When I went to Chile, I was one of the very few white people there. I didn't mind, but I got alot of stares and even a few points. The crazy part was when our study abroad advisor told us that US women are seen as "loose" in that country. This was somewhat proven by all the stares I got from men. Also, I was taller than most everyone else (including men) and was the only one with naturally brown hair.

Tell her to keep her chin up. No matter what, people in a foreign country are interested in you because you're new to them, typically something they don't see every day. I hope she can get past it and keep her hair. :/

A fun way to get her to keep it if she does indeed have red hair is to tell her she looks like Queen Elizabeth. If she doesn't know who that is, its a great story and history lesson. :)

julya
February 18th, 2013, 02:13 PM
I have been to a few Asian countries, and as a blonde, I always stand out. My first experience was as a middle school student my class went to Japan for an exchange program, and I think that it really helped that my home stay mother was very fascinated by my long hair. It helped me to understand that my hair was being admired. I imagine that it could help the little girl in question if someone from the culture where she is living could explain to her why her hair is so popular. We also had a red head in my class, but as a boy with short hair he seemed to get a lot less attention as compared to the blonde girls in the class.

More recently on a trip to India, it was my sister who was the very popular one with the locals. Her hair is lighter blonde than mine, and she nearly always wears it down. I felt more incognito with my hair hidden in a bun.

Seeshami
February 18th, 2013, 04:36 PM
Teach her to say no, in a no nonsense, "I am not joking, seriously don't do it" voice, it's good for this, it's good to do towards bullies, it's good to do with predators.

chen bao jun
February 18th, 2013, 05:45 PM
My post talked about Taiwan and China because that's what I'm familiar with and what I worked with. I think my main point applies wherever these people are. Language learning needs to happen and not just on a superficial level. Learning some of the language will help with understanding the culture better and also of course with understanding what is being said, so feeling more in control and more comfortable for whatever amount of time this family will be there. An eight year old is not too young to learn some of whatever language it is--actually this is still within the optimum time period to learn a foreign language fluently and well. I think this because I have actual experience living and relating in this kind of culture as a very different looking person (and not as a tourist for a few days, either)and also experience teaching others later how to live in places like this long term. I think a lot of people are either getting hung up on 'let's apply the lessons we learned in assertiveness class to this totally different culture" or the good old 'white woman in a dark-people country, let's all share our experiences of getting noticed for being blond "stories and I just don't think any of this is actually relevant or helpful as regards the point of the question asked in the original post.

lindenblossom
February 18th, 2013, 07:32 PM
My post talked about Taiwan and China because that's what I'm familiar with and what I worked with. I think my main point applies wherever these people are. Language learning needs to happen and not just on a superficial level. Learning some of the language will help with understanding the culture better and also of course with understanding what is being said, so feeling more in control and more comfortable for whatever amount of time this family will be there. An eight year old is not too young to learn some of whatever language it is--actually this is still within the optimum time period to learn a foreign language fluently and well. I think this because I have actual experience living and relating in this kind of culture as a very different looking person (and not as a tourist for a few days, either)and also experience teaching others later how to live in places like this long term. I think a lot of people are either getting hung up on 'let's apply the lessons we learned in assertiveness class to this totally different culture" or the good old 'white woman in a dark-people country, let's all share our experiences of getting noticed for being blond "stories and I just don't think any of this is actually relevant or helpful as regards the point of the question asked in the original post.

Great insights, chen bao jun.

gossamer
February 18th, 2013, 08:22 PM
My post talked about Taiwan and China because that's what I'm familiar with and what I worked with. I think my main point applies wherever these people are. Language learning needs to happen and not just on a superficial level. Learning some of the language will help with understanding the culture better and also of course with understanding what is being said, so feeling more in control and more comfortable for whatever amount of time this family will be there. An eight year old is not too young to learn some of whatever language it is--actually this is still within the optimum time period to learn a foreign language fluently and well. I think this because I have actual experience living and relating in this kind of culture as a very different looking person (and not as a tourist for a few days, either)and also experience teaching others later how to live in places like this long term. I think a lot of people are either getting hung up on 'let's apply the lessons we learned in assertiveness class to this totally different culture" or the good old 'white woman in a dark-people country, let's all share our experiences of getting noticed for being blond "stories and I just don't think any of this is actually relevant or helpful as regards the point of the question asked in the original post.

Both of your responses to this thread have been marvelous, chen bao jun. I didn't have a chance to reply yesterday but I'm hoping I can do your words of wisdom justice today.

I am actually in Taiwan (yesterday it was Tainan, today it's back to Taipei). My amusement at the thread turning into assuming I'm in China was not at all related to your comment. Maybe we can switch to PMs to talk about your experience in Taiwan since it sounds absolutely amazing to me. In the 80s, this was me in Taiwan:
http://x66.xanga.com/53fe331278c30284672004/m223730095.jpg

Language: You're absolutely right, having some, even just a little, of the language will make a huge difference. In all my experiences with attracting attention for being different, I fall back on being able to talk back - politely engaging with the attention that is clearly interested in me as a different-looking person, more assertively engaging with the attention that exoticizes me as an object. When I see my new friend again, I'll try talking to her and her daughter about how much language acquisition they're going to work on even over these two months. The girl is in a Taiwanese school, so she may start picking some up on her own. I hope she does!

Minority status: What you said about the white students often needed more help makes a lot of sense to me. Growing up as a minority over here, it was really odd for me to move to a predominantly white school in the US for college. Especially once people started taking junior year semesters abroad and sharing their surprise at how their strongly held assumptions about their status in the world were challenged. Actually, I'm hosting a guest from the US right now and he remarks just about everywhere we've gone the past few days about being the only white person other than me at the sites. I'm not sure if that makes him uncomfortable or what... and we were in pretty urban areas. The little girl in question here is living out in the countryside. They've never seen anything like her!

Cultural Norms: I must not have adequately communicated what I was hoping to learn from starting this thread. The attention my friend's daughter gets is going to be unavoidable. I'm not looking to change Taiwanese culture or teach them that Americans are to be given more space and less attention because in American culture that's how people tend to treat each other. This is a little girl needing some coping mechanisms for a couple of months. From her mother, I gather that she's mostly happy being here, not in deep distress. She's annoyed. In America, she knows how to respond and stand up for herself when attention starts bothering her, but here she doesn't have the language AND she's getting far more attention than before. Talking to her about different cultural norms WILL help. Teaching her a little Mandarin or Taiwanese may also go a long way.

I suppose what I'm looking for, and have had a few excellent responses about, is how one might go about explaining this kind of multicultural understanding to an 8 year old.

I'd like to quote you again in closing, because nothing I can say is any more effective than what you already did:

I think a lot of people are either getting hung up on 'let's apply the lessons we learned in assertiveness class to this totally different culture" or the good old 'white woman in a dark-people country, let's all share our experiences of getting noticed for being blond "stories and I just don't think any of this is actually relevant or helpful as regards the point of the question asked in the original post.

Climber
February 19th, 2013, 02:32 PM
It's got to be tough for her, but what a great opportunity she has to learn about cultural differences at a young age! You could point out people may eat different foods and may dress differently, and then you can lead into other cultural differences. Start with stinky tofu and go from there! :p

I lived in Taiwan in the mid 90s, and I got used to being stared at. Lots of pointing and whispers. One of my roommates was blond, and she frequently had people ask to take photos with her. I rarely experienced that, being a brunette. And my hair was always up, so that didn't draw attention.

leslissocool
February 19th, 2013, 03:23 PM
I LOVED reading this thread, it's so fascinating and so informative. I hope other people come back and read this when facing a similar issue. Thank you all :blossom:.

Latte Lady
February 19th, 2013, 03:28 PM
I've been in her shoes. I stayed for a month with some missionary friends in Japan with my Mother. I was raised to be super polite so I had a hard time telling grown-ups off. I wish I had been taught some of the local language so I could better get across how scared I was for complete strangers to walk up and start petting me. Mom did protect me to the best of her know how. She would stay by me and ward off strangers by telling them I was shy and pull me behind her. She also let me know politeness had limits. Even foreign countries have rule about fondling people.
If my flinch back and head shake didn't get results I was allowed to smack back hands and was to shout 'NO'! In as loud as a voice as possible to call attention to them. That snapped them out of it as most Japanese don't want to appear rude to a child in public. I was only allowed to do this if they were touching me. Otherwise I was to be kind and to know that I WAS different and some finger pointing and strangers talking to me were a learning experience.
Most Japanese I met were very respectful and weren't a bother but there is something about a little blond and redheaded girls that make people forget themselves. In all honesty, they weren't trying to be rude. They were all being friendly and saying sweet things to me about how pretty my hair was and that I looked like a princess. I only see that in retrospect, though. I was only five and strangers are a big thing when you are five.

lapushka
February 19th, 2013, 04:07 PM
They were all being friendly and saying sweet things to me about how pretty my hair was and that I looked like a princess. I only see that in retrospect, though. I was only five and strangers are a big thing when you are five.

Exactly. She's only 8 years old, she's not going to take it as a learning experience at this age. The need to feel protected is much greater at this stage of her life and it's knowing that both parents succeeded in that which will make her look back on this in a positive way.

jeanniet
February 19th, 2013, 04:43 PM
I don't think it's that difficult to explain cultural differences to a child that young. You just have to use simple language, but she can understand that people in countries other than the USA have different customs (I'm sure she's already seen that), and what might seem rude to us isn't in Taiwan. When I was 9, we traveled to Asia (mostly Japan and India), and before we went to each country my parents explained to us the polite way to do certain things, such as bowing when saying hello, or the right greetings. They also told us some small cultural things--for instance, that in India it isn't impolite to ask personal financial questions, or personal questions in general. If there are some small things that relate to children, that would be a good starting point. But kids learn a lot about a foreign culture just from observation, so perhaps ask her what differences she's noticed. If she's in a Taiwanese school, she must see all kinds of different things. How do the kids play with each other? How do they resolve quarrels? Things like that.

Chromis
February 19th, 2013, 04:50 PM
I don't think it's that difficult to explain cultural differences to a child that young. You just have to use simple language, but she can understand that people in countries other than the USA have different customs (I'm sure she's already seen that), and what might seem rude to us isn't in Taiwan. When I was 9, we traveled to Asia (mostly Japan and India), and before we went to each country my parents explained to us the polite way to do certain things, such as bowing when saying hello, or the right greetings. They also told us some small cultural things--for instance, that in India it isn't impolite to ask personal financial questions, or personal questions in general. If there are some small things that relate to children, that would be a good starting point. But kids learn a lot about a foreign culture just from observation, so perhaps ask her what differences she's noticed. If she's in a Taiwanese school, she must see all kinds of different things. How do the kids play with each other? How do they resolve quarrels? Things like that.

Agreed. Also, since Gossamer mentions they are in a village rather than a big city, the novelty will wear off as people get used to seeing her which should help as well.

chen bao jun
February 19th, 2013, 07:38 PM
Gossamer, I'm glad I was helpful to you. I believe you will be helpful to the young girl, and I certainly do hope good memories come out of this. She sounds as if she has sensible and caring parents and also the Taiwanese people are great (although culturally so different) so I am hopeful.
I did have an amazing time there and am jealous that you are going to be in both Tainan and Taibei shortly. Thanks for sharing your photo. It made the nostalgic--the uniforms looked so familiar. I lived in Yangmingshan, Taibei.
Yes, in the program I worked with later (I would rather not say the name, I like to keep my anonymity online) we found it made a tremendous difference if a person could understand at least some of what was being said. I have noticed this even in the United States--when I go to Chinese restaurants with friends, they often want to know what the servers are saying in their own language--and often shocked to hear that it is mostly 'two orders of sweet and sour pork' and other very mundane things like that. Of course, in the case of the young girl, people ARE talking about her. But when she can understand what they are saying, she will undoubtedly be quite reassured. The conversations about me in Taiwan (before people knew I could understand) went pretty much like this 99% of the time: "Her nose is not big, I thought all foreigners had big noses." "At least her hair is black." "How does she get her hair to do that?" "She's not tall." "She's pretty." One time, when I had my hair in microbraids, I heard a woman who had clearly recently been in America, explaining to her friends that it was 'fake hair, in America they braid fake hair on the ends of their hair right now, it's stylish." Her surprise when I turned around and said in Chinese, "actually it's my real hair" was funny to see, but then we had a nice conversation. I also had fun when I went to the hairdresser, bringing a bottle of chemical relaxer that my mom had mailed from the US, because I had decided that I wanted my hair to stop pouffing in all that humidity (this was WAY pre-LHC). The hair dressers were in heaven. They kept saying that they had read about my kind of hair in their hairdressing manuals and had never thought they would have a chance to actually practice what they had learned. They didn't even want to charge me, they were so happy for the experience. (and prices were ridiculously cheap compared to America then anyway). And actually, they did a good job with the relaxer, although I had to laugh at how they styled my hair when they were done, with big bangs and a long pageboy that looked very Chinese.
My roomates were all amazed that I could put my hair up so easily--curly hair stays up easily compared to straight hair that seems to be more slippery. they were shocked that I could braid it and tie the braids in a knot on the top of my head and it would just stay like that. And I thought their hair was gorgeous, too. I was amazed to see how many different types of hair they had and have never been able to say 'Chinese hair' since then, since there are so many different kinds of Chinese hair (as there are many different kinds of Chinese eyes, when you live with people a long time, you really get to notice how each one is so unique and different).
My red-haired friend got admired a lot for having extremely white skin. Fair-skinned women at that time, were very admired in Asian culture. They used to say that Caucasian people had 'red' skin (or maybe pink--Chinese is not a good language for distinguishing niceties of color ) as opposed to fair skinned Chinese girls who were 'white'. But when they saw my friend, they said that she was really, really white and they thought this was very feminine and pretty. I don't remember our friends ever saying much about her hair,which really did make little kids burst into tears of fright in the countryside--but then she spoke to them the mothers used to tell the kids that she was not scary, and then she would talk to the kids and be friendly and it was alright. Again, this was a long, long time ago--I was in China last summer and went places with many blond and red-haired people and no one seemed to be anything but excited to see 'real foreigners'. the knowledge of the outside world seems to be so much higher now. In fact, in China, I found that no one was surprised when I spoke Chinese to them (people in Taiwan in the early 80's could hardly seem to get over the shock). They would say that 'lots of foreigners can speak Chinese.' What would surprise was when I kept talking. then they would, Lots of foreigners speak Chinese, but usually they do not speak it well. And then they would have MILLIONS of questions about the United States and want to keep talking forever, they were so interested. They also quite often picked up on my accent--Taiwan has a different accent than China--and would ask me what it was really like in Taiwan. To my astonishment, people said quite openly, Our government lies to us. In the last 30 years in both places, things have changed so much, I feel like my 1980's visit was historic.
My red-haired friend later became one of the first tour guides that went to mainland China and translated for American groups going there back in the day, and having red hair doesn't seem to have spoiled her time in Taiwan or in China. She had very long thick hair also (well, not long for this forum, but long for regular life)--I used to tell her it was Pre-Raphaelite hair. Quite beautiful.

neko_kawaii
February 19th, 2013, 07:43 PM
An amusing cultural experiment in personal space bubbles: while standing and conversing with someone from a large space bubble culture stand just a little closer than they are comfortable with and after they back up you scoot forward, they back up you scoot forward, repeat until they have walked across the room.

ravenreed
February 19th, 2013, 07:51 PM
Yeah, I was just thinking, invest in hats.


The easiest fix that comes to mind is use a dark deposit-only dye on it. Or cover it up with scarf or hat when she's out and about.

Latte Lady
February 19th, 2013, 10:11 PM
While I do believe learning the culture is the prudent thing to do if you are to be staying in foreign country ( no matter the age) this is a little more then that. Just because you are in a foreign country doesn't mean you have to let strangers paw you. What the local culture allows and what I allow to happen to my child, are completely different things! I know that, that if I were a mother, that I'd flip my lid if utter strangers thought they had a right the man-handle my child! This child is angry/scared enough to consider altering a part of herself in order to protect herself. I'f I can't stop the locals of my town to stop petting my hair I doubt a culture class is going to stop these folk. If I were a mother, I would be almost stalking my child to make sure she was safe, if she was truly fearful. For all I know, one of these people is a creep! Culture is all well and good but it won't stop someone from running off with an exotic child. What are the parents doing to protect this girl?

Sharysa
February 19th, 2013, 10:25 PM
People have already mentioned perfectly logical solutions like learning relevant phrases, and covering up her hair as opposed to actually altering it. Plus, her parents are pretty clearly involved closely with the issues.

It's good to be concerned, but you don't have to bring in child abduction.

Latte Lady
February 19th, 2013, 11:11 PM
I'm sorry if I offended. I was called away before I could finish the whole thread and allowed myself to stew. Unfortunately, child abduction is one of the first things I think about as a twelve year old member of my church was taken while on a church missions trip to Mexico. She was found a day later, unharmed, but was kidnapped because of her pretty blond hair. The guy was trying to convince her to marry him. I get a little paranoid.

Sharysa
February 19th, 2013, 11:29 PM
Ah. That's terrifying--no wonder you reacted like that.

AnnaJamila
February 19th, 2013, 11:55 PM
That is *creepy* for people to do to an 8-year-old, but I doubt it's the length of her hair, rather the color of it - and she can't change that, not at that age at least. Woops, I noticed when answering that that's exactly what *you* said later on in your message.

Maybe her parents better teach her how to scream when strangers get too close for comfort (she's 8 years old for Pete's sake). That should scare them off. That, and the attention of her parents (who hopefully do master the language somewhat, at least enough to tell the strangers to F-off).

This, actually. It's a bit extreme, but so is touching a child you don't know. It'll make them take their hands off, at least.

kiezel
February 20th, 2013, 01:42 AM
Most people in Asian understand the word, "no." You need to say it very firmly though for them to get the point.

Where in Asia, might I ask?

lapushka
February 20th, 2013, 09:19 AM
While I do believe learning the culture is the prudent thing to do if you are to be staying in foreign country ( no matter the age) this is a little more then that. Just because you are in a foreign country doesn't mean you have to let strangers paw you. What the local culture allows and what I allow to happen to my child, are completely different things! I know that, that if I were a mother, that I'd flip my lid if utter strangers thought they had a right the man-handle my child! This child is angry/scared enough to consider altering a part of herself in order to protect herself. I'f I can't stop the locals of my town to stop petting my hair I doubt a culture class is going to stop these folk. If I were a mother, I would be almost stalking my child to make sure she was safe, if she was truly fearful. For all I know, one of these people is a creep! Culture is all well and good but it won't stop someone from running off with an exotic child. What are the parents doing to protect this girl?

Exactly, this. ^^ The parents are no doubt prudent, but it's a different perspective. There's the differences between the two cultures and then there's the issue of keeping your child safe in the midst of all of it.


This, actually. It's a bit extreme, but so is touching a child you don't know. It'll make them take their hands off, at least.

For a child that feels threatened, from her perspective it's not that extreme. In fact, that's what my parents taught me to do when I was little. At least it attracts the attention of other adults that could possibly come to the rescue if something truly bad was going on, if they go too far. Of course she'd need to be taught what would be acceptable and what wouldn't be.

gossamer
February 20th, 2013, 12:03 PM
Could we perhaps dial back the fear a little bit?

Her mom didn't ask me for parenting advice. Furthermore, I don't believe my friend is an irresponsible parent who would allow her daughter to be in danger of molestation or kidnapping. As an "exotic child" myself here, I was not under constant parental supervision to keep me from being snatched up.And yes, sometimes people touched my blonde hair. Sometimes people pet my dad's arm hair...

I was asked to talk to her, if we get the chance, because I have some background in being different looking as a child and having to deal with the attention that attracted. I hoped that there might be some LHC users who would have similar experiences and could share some ways of talking about it that might not have occurred to me.

I will not respond to comments that are only fear mongering or speculative comments and advice about my friend's parenting that I, as a single woman in my 20s, do not feel is my place to pass on.

neko_kawaii
February 20th, 2013, 12:11 PM
*applauds Gossamer*

humble_knight
February 20th, 2013, 12:53 PM
*puts on nursing hat*....

Do you know how cool it is for an 8-yr-old to have a young adult want to talk to them? In order for us to provide good quality care, we need to build a trusting therapeutic relationship with our paediatric patients, and quite fast in some instances. I've seen children row with their parents in front of us, then change behaviour when we communicate with them, if they trust us, of course.

I think you have a great opportunity to inspire this child and to give her an experience where she enjoys the company of an adult - in comparison to her experiences of adults staring, pointing at, talking about, or photographing. If I were in your shoes, and was asked by a friend to have a talk with their child I would just keep it simple and see where the child wants to lead the conversation. She may bring up the topic of her hair, or she may not. Either way, she will feel a bond with you as a fellow 'stranger' in a foreign land.

Just my :twocents:

Unicorn
February 20th, 2013, 02:02 PM
I see the LHC paranoia factor has kicked in :laugh:

Responding to the OP, It sounds as is speaking to her about the culture difference would help. Just understanding from a none emotional stance can make quite a difference in how she copes with it. As well as the language thing, is there a culturally/age appropriate gesture you could pass on to her, to halt people as they approach? E.g. When I visited Egypt, being female, I was of course careful in my interaction with any men. They of course know that Westerners are less strict about the gender divide and did at times push boundaries. Nothing awful from a Western perspective, just touching an arm when showing me around a shop or showing me merchandise, but taboo in their own culture. I learned very quickly to use the 'no' hand gesture of just shaking a open palm at the point of contact or attempted contact, while frowning my (mildly dramatised) distress at this. Not angrily just with a little frown to show I was uncomfortable with it. On each and every occasion they pulled their hand back while apologising. Maybe there's a similar gesture(s) you can pass on to her to help halt people in their paths?

I also spent some time in a small town in the UK. I was one of 4 black people there, the other three being a couple with a child. It was weird that people stared where ever I went. In the (small) shops, everyone just stopped and starred. Eventually I caught on that they were just curious, not hostile. I learned to simply smile at them and usually I'd be able to go to the front of the queue because they were curious just to see what I bought and to hear me speak. Suddenly I didn't mind being stared at :)

They're just little things, but they made quite a difference as I was no longer anxious in dealing with it. Maybe there are tips along the same lines you can share with her?

Unicorn

chen bao jun
February 20th, 2013, 02:34 PM
Great news, Gossamer. I know you will do a good job talking to her.
For those who expressed that concern, a child is in 1000% more danger of being abducted in the US than in Taiwan. And women in general are unbelievably safe there. I and my young female roomates were able to walk alone in parks at 1 am in the morning safely and had all kinds of personal freedom that simply do not exist for women in the United States, this was one reason I was so fond of this country. There is no need to worry about the child's safety at all.
Unicorn, you are a very sensible person. It was people just like you who we tried to pick out to send on our teaching program, because they were successful 'ambassadors' for the US who genuinely furthered multi-cultural understanding. I was called in as a consultant, along with others who had multicultural experiences because there were a spate of students chosen who were personable, intelligent, achieving and interesting people--who created all kinds of trouble because of their cultural insensitivity and, let's be frank, paraonoia. Several had suddenly come home way before time because they just could not function. One was a black person who was certain that everything everyone said about her that she didn't understand and that their staring, etc meant that they were 'racist' and that she was in danger--she was the only black, but the whites had other issues which I have mentioned in a previous post. This was back in the 80's. We got the program together and figured out ways to both better choose and train our teachers, so that we stopped having the attrition and had success but I am a little startled at all the things that were 'red flags' to us back in the late 1980's still being said in this discussion, more than 20 years later. It is discouraging, to say the least. Oh, well, nobody is applying for anything in this case and I need to chill out, since the OP has the situation as regards the little girl very well in hand.
I'm definitely not saying that Americans are always at fault when there is a cross cultural problem, but when you are in the other person's country, you as the guest have to follow their rules to some extent, while keeping your own boundaries (Unicorn is obviously very good at this...)

Sharysa
February 20th, 2013, 03:29 PM
I have to ask, does your friend's daughter try to make some sort of "go away" gesture or does she just stand there not knowing what to do?

Usually with a lot of Asian cultures, "staying still and not making too much fuss" is pretty general and they don't understand a lot of nuances that American culture does; most Asian kids are taught that anything less that physically moving away or vocally expressing distress means "I don't like it, but it's fine", so she may be unintentionally giving them the go-ahead if she stays still and lets them pat her hair. Just looking down and stepping away could solve a lot of the hair-touching problems.

Latte Lady
February 20th, 2013, 05:40 PM
She's always going to stand out there so she's going to have to get used to some finger pointing and just the general fact she's not going to blend in any more. I'm not there to look into people's eyes and read intent but they are most likely not trying to be rude. Just like the folks here at home. A stronger "NO!" and a back up with arms out forward should get her point across without being rude. They'll probably understand that and back up. They were poking at her after all. She, most likely, has an adult around and if that doesn't work, she should feel able to go to them and have them ward folks off. There really isn't too much she can do other tan that if they are just being curious. She seems to have people she can talk to to vent her frustration to and that is the biggest help of all. That's why this community was formed. As a support group of sorts. If she is allowed to, maybe she can open her own account here. I know that THE LONG HAIR LOOM has a 'princess forum' that is safe for children. Her parents would have to send an email saying that they approve of her joining.

gossamer
February 20th, 2013, 10:14 PM
*puts on nursing hat*....

Do you know how cool it is for an 8-yr-old to have a young adult want to talk to them? In order for us to provide good quality care, we need to build a trusting therapeutic relationship with our paediatric patients, and quite fast in some instances. I've seen children row with their parents in front of us, then change behaviour when we communicate with them, if they trust us, of course.

I think you have a great opportunity to inspire this child and to give her an experience where she enjoys the company of an adult - in comparison to her experiences of adults staring, pointing at, talking about, or photographing. If I were in your shoes, and was asked by a friend to have a talk with their child I would just keep it simple and see where the child wants to lead the conversation. She may bring up the topic of her hair, or she may not. Either way, she will feel a bond with you as a fellow 'stranger' in a foreign land.

Just my :twocents:

Excellent advice, all of it! And now I'm giggling imagining you in a nursing hat.


I see the LHC paranoia factor has kicked in :laugh:

Responding to the OP, It sounds as is speaking to her about the culture difference would help. Just understanding from a none emotional stance can make quite a difference in how she copes with it. As well as the language thing, is there a culturally/age appropriate gesture you could pass on to her, to halt people as they approach? E.g. When I visited Egypt, being female, I was of course careful in my interaction with any men. They of course know that Westerners are less strict about the gender divide and did at times push boundaries. Nothing awful from a Western perspective, just touching an arm when showing me around a shop or showing me merchandise, but taboo in their own culture. I learned very quickly to use the 'no' hand gesture of just shaking a open palm at the point of contact or attempted contact, while frowning my (mildly dramatised) distress at this. Not angrily just with a little frown to show I was uncomfortable with it. On each and every occasion they pulled their hand back while apologising. Maybe there's a similar gesture(s) you can pass on to her to help halt people in their paths?

I also spent some time in a small town in the UK. I was one of 4 black people there, the other three being a couple with a child. It was weird that people stared where ever I went. In the (small) shops, everyone just stopped and starred. Eventually I caught on that they were just curious, not hostile. I learned to simply smile at them and usually I'd be able to go to the front of the queue because they were curious just to see what I bought and to hear me speak. Suddenly I didn't mind being stared at :)

They're just little things, but they made quite a difference as I was no longer anxious in dealing with it. Maybe there are tips along the same lines you can share with her?

Unicorn

Definitely. Thank you for commenting, your experiences were very interesting to hear about.


Great news, Gossamer. I know you will do a good job talking to her.
For those who expressed that concern, a child is in 1000% more danger of being abducted in the US than in Taiwan. And women in general are unbelievably safe there. I and my young female roomates were able to walk alone in parks at 1 am in the morning safely and had all kinds of personal freedom that simply do not exist for women in the United States, this was one reason I was so fond of this country. There is no need to worry about the child's safety at all.
Unicorn, you are a very sensible person. It was people just like you who we tried to pick out to send on our teaching program, because they were successful 'ambassadors' for the US who genuinely furthered multi-cultural understanding. I was called in as a consultant, along with others who had multicultural experiences because there were a spate of students chosen who were personable, intelligent, achieving and interesting people--who created all kinds of trouble because of their cultural insensitivity and, let's be frank, paraonoia. Several had suddenly come home way before time because they just could not function. One was a black person who was certain that everything everyone said about her that she didn't understand and that their staring, etc meant that they were 'racist' and that she was in danger--she was the only black, but the whites had other issues which I have mentioned in a previous post. This was back in the 80's. We got the program together and figured out ways to both better choose and train our teachers, so that we stopped having the attrition and had success but I am a little startled at all the things that were 'red flags' to us back in the late 1980's still being said in this discussion, more than 20 years later. It is discouraging, to say the least. Oh, well, nobody is applying for anything in this case and I need to chill out, since the OP has the situation as regards the little girl very well in hand.
I'm definitely not saying that Americans are always at fault when there is a cross cultural problem, but when you are in the other person's country, you as the guest have to follow their rules to some extent, while keeping your own boundaries (Unicorn is obviously very good at this...)

Absolutely.
1) I am SO MUCH SAFER here than in the US. We live in an alley in a back lane and I have no fear about running out, alone, to the laundromat or nearby 7-11 at midnight if I need to. Once when I stopped to take photos in a nearby alley at about 10pm or so, I became the suspicious figure and had a couple of grannies staring me down until they saw that I was moving on.
2) Your posts are the highlight of this thread for me. Thank you so much for sharing! I think we'd have a lot of interesting conversations in real life.


I have to ask, does your friend's daughter try to make some sort of "go away" gesture or does she just stand there not knowing what to do?


I have no idea. New friend, and we only talked about this for about 5 minutes at lunch on Sunday.