When I Tried to be Culturally Respectful…

*** Some swearing in this post, folks! ***

We normally fly with Malaysian AIrlines for our annual UK trip. They tend to be the cheapest. Probably still are at the moment, what with all their troubles. Last year, though, Emirates came out with the most affordable deal, which worked out well, because it meant we could fly right into Birmingham, near Mr Thomas’s parents.

It also meant stopping over in Dubai. And I was shitting myself.

A number of reasons. Firstly – I’ve a sailor’s mouth. Worse, even. Just today, I yelled out ‘Holy Fuck!’ in front of my nephew, who even at three years old knows I’d used a bad word. His mouth made an ‘O’ before he started to laugh hysterically because he knew Didge had said a naughty word. (Apologies must go out to my sister here. The little man may return home parroting my profanity.)

Secondly, I’ve the kind of figure that can’t be hidden well by clothes. The kind of cleavage you look at and wonder if things get lost in its depths. Which does happen. Loose change. Food. Fluff that would outdo any man’s belly button collection. There comes a point when no amount of brassiere engineering can contain such volume. Am not ‘showing off’ here. Am simply stating fact.

Thirdly, I’m Catholic. Which wouldn’t matter necessarily but the Italian in me likes to be quite brash about it. I’ve a massive crucifix dangling from a chain with an actual figure of Jesus in all his horrid glory. It is so detailed that you can actually see his six-pack. Not sure who decided that Jesus would have had a six-pack. You’d think with all that bread he’d have been a little bloated. But there you go.

Now, this is all highly racist, I understand, but I felt that these three things would get me into trouble in a Muslim country. I try and be very considerate of other cultures. I do. Like when we’re in England, I know that it is inappropriate to order a half measure of gin. When in England, you order a full measure. Mainly because they don’t do half measures. And people in pubs stare at you if you insist on a half.

In Asian countries I know that I must keep my shoulders covered as it is offensive to show your shoulders. I drape a scarf around the offensive body part even though it’s forty-five degrees and the heat is killing me.

Had I ventured outside of the airport in Dubai, I would have covered my head. Is Muslim custom. I may not agree with it, but I am a guest in their country, and I will abide by their customs.

Seeing as though I was only in the airport (and all airports, in my opinion, should be akin to International Waters. Do-as-you-will type places where anything goes) I didn’t cover my head.

But yes, shitting myself. Thought I’d end up in jail somewhere for showing breasts, flaunting religion and swearing like a sailor.
So we get to the customs check point. Mr Thomas and I were separated. We’d walked quite a distance at this point, it was hot, I was sweating, and yes, I was swearing. Walked through the metal detector and locked eyes with the guard. Was that my mistake? Should I have had head lowered in respectful manner appropriate to my sex? Not sure. Noticed his eyes travel downwards to my chest. Then came the sneer. The lip curl.

Now, not sure if it was Jesus he was sneering at (perhaps he, too believed that Jesus would be sans six-pack) or the abundance of flesh, but whatever it was, he wasn’t happy.

He started barking at me. Pointing and saying ‘this, this!.’ I was trying to work out what he wanted from me, there being a language barrier and all. He then actually stepped forward and pointed, within centimetres to my gold bangle. He wanted me to remove it. Perhaps it had made the metal detector go off. I’ve been asked to take the bangle off before. No biggy, as long as I can hand it to someone and see where it is – I don’t like the idea of something of such value being out of my sight.

Yes, well. Perhaps I should have done what I was told. I tried to hand it to the man but he wouldn’t take it. He wanted me to hand it to someone else, and placed goodness knows where. I disagreed. Bad move. Suddenly the guard was no longer arguing with me, he was arguing with a female guard. She was rolling her eyes and shaking her head at me. She was yelled at and then finally gave up (I could see the defeat in her eyes) and I was told to go with her.

I was taken to a small room with a mirror on the floor. Goodness! The frights! Ironically my only real concern at being told to squat over a mirror is the embarrassment of the state of my nether regions. If I knew I would be squatting over a mirror, I would have had a Brazilian wax. Although, perhaps such a thing would be frowned on in a Muslim country?

Thankfully, there was no mirror squatting. If I’m honest, I was a little disappointed. Would have been a nice story. ‘Oh yes, I’ve had to do the mirror squat before.’ I was patted down in quite a lazy manner, really. None of the under and between breast groping that goes on in Western airports. Oh yes. Cannot tell you the number of times I’ve had my boobs separated by some poor security officer. Two things always run through my mind: 1) should I be paying for this? And 2) I hope her fingers do not get stuck.

Turns out I was taken into a room because in Dubai they feel that body searches should be done in private. Quite nice of them, really.

I walked away from the experience (desperately trying to pull my t-shirt up) wondering if I could have been a bit more respectful. Lowered eyes. Abided by the guard’s requests even if it meant my bangle being out of sight. Dangled scarf around my neck to cover cleavage. Hidden Jesus. Or maybe none of that would have mattered. Maybe the guard just didn’t like the cut of my jib.

Cultural respect can be very hard. I just hope they realise I’m at least making an effort.

In your country I’ll try to abide by your rules. And I’m sure, when you’re in my country, you’ll abide by our rules. Won’t you?

19 thoughts on “When I Tried to be Culturally Respectful…

    1. To be honest I wasn’t angry about being searched. I get searched every time I travel, sometimes on several occasions throughout the journey. I just didn’t like that it ‘felt’ there was another reason for the search.

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      1. Well, being well endowed isn’t a crime or a reason to violate a woman like that. In today’s world, everyone is guilty until proven otherwise…

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        1. I know, but unfortunately it’s the reason, I believe, that I am constantly searched. I guess under or between the breasts is a clever area to conceal items. So I think I am targeted for this specific reason. It honestly doesn’t bother me.

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  1. I will most certainly abide by your country’s rule, GT, especially if gin or lagers are involved. I don’t take half-measures. I also don’t take myself too seriously, which I feel would be culturally insensitive Down Under.

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      1. I assume the lagers would ensure I did! Now here is a cultural test for You!! Let’s say you are going to visit that fascinating city on Kentucky’s northwestern border!! How would You pronounce its name (Louisville)? :-p

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    1. I don’t think it’d be that terrible. I guess I’m quite flippant about it because of my medical conditions. I’ve had every man and his dog in and around my downstairs that it has almost become normal.

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  2. I wish everybody was as respectful as you are when it comes to abiding by a certain locations rules. Even when just passing through an airport. Here in the good ol’ Western United States (California to be specific) there are permanent residents that don’t have such common courtesy as to even learn the language well enough to even attempt communication. Let alone try to adapt to our culture. I don’t ask much because I realize their culture is as important to them as mine is to me, but I am a stickler on the communication point. It is just disrespectful the way I see it.

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    1. If you’re moving to a new country, the least you can do is learn the language. It should certainly be a requirement for citizenship.

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  3. Wow okay, now blow me over, but why hide what religion you are believing. I find that very discriminating.

    I do have a slight problem with adapting. I am my own self. With my own cultural disgrace. And I am proud of it. I would not cover that up. For a guy it might be easy. but a lady who accompanies me should not have to hide herself because they want so.
    It is a very delicate matter and a discussion that holds a double edge sword as religion often come into play.
    Respect I get that and would be willing. But Why do i not deserve the same thing for being me.

    damn airports and bet those gates go off all the time as you will always need the iron reinforced braziers. and sure they not padded 😛 They can never be that big you must be hiding something.. Oh yeah the mind of the customs officers.

    As For UK. when it comes to drinking it is always double. ha ha 😀 Bottoms up cheers Missy Thomas And keep on smiling.

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  4. This was funny Giorgie.
    Swearing like a sailor(in front of the kid), a cleavage that people wonder that objects can get lost in, and feisty Italian proud Catholic, all roll into one going to Saudi Arabia. Haha, I wouldn´t go to that country no matter how much money you gave me unless I didn´t have my rifle back and a battalion behind me.

    Plus I swear too much also, probably will hit on every girl I saw which I don´t think it´s very appropriate there,well, not there and in any place really but there I´m sure they chop my head off or send me to prison. I´m quite certain I´d be send to prison the moment I got out the airport.

    It was a fun one to read.

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