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Nov 20, 2007

Chicken, Dirty Feet and Assumptions

. Nov 20, 2007


In the midst of Thanksgiving grocery shopping, I took a break at a favorite Mediterranean restaurant for lunch. The fragrant aroma of chicken marinated with cinnamon and other exotic spices hangs in the air. The place is casual, with self seating. After the staff brings your plate, you're left to yourself and the condiment bar. It's moderately crowded with a mix of ethnicities, but mostly white people munch their lunch. I sit at a small table on the periphery and settle in.

There is a middle-aged white couple to my left halfway through their whole chicken special. The table to my right is empty. A few seats down, sit two dark-skinned young men with black hair and big, deep brown eyes. They speak loudly in their native language, which sounds like Malay or a Southeast Asian dialect to me. They wave their hands around as they speak and laugh, enjoying lunch. Both rip into their chickens with their hands and teeth. They wear flip-flops and soon each has kicked them off. They sit with one bare foot resting on the other knee, exposing soles dark with dirt towards me. The couple on my left notices them, also:

Female: Ugh. Look at those two. They eat like pigs.
Male: Yeah. I wouldn't even sit like that at the table.
Female: You bet you wouldn't! Look at those dirty feet. Ugh. Do their wives just put up with it?
Male: Their wives got nothin' to say about it. They probably have to eat the leftovers alone in the kitchen!
Female: Bullshit! I'd never...just look at how they eat. They're so filthy.
Male: Dirty Arabs. I hope we blast 'em all.

The boys, lost in their conversation, suddenly erupt with laughter. One of them burps and they laugh harder. Other diners now stare at them, but they hardly notice.

7 Whispers:

The Writing Nag said...

Great post Vienne. I own a Mediterranean restaurant so unfortunately I hear ignorance like this too often.

Vienne said...

Thanks, W.N. It was interesting to watch the other peoples' expressions changing as they took in the language, the feet and the boisterous behavior. Disdain all the way around. I wonder how many others thought they were Arabs.

deathsweep said...

It's a shame that people can't look at other people as just that; people. Why is it that we have to put a label on everything and sadly everyone?


I myself wouldn't care much about what people say when I am eating, but I try to be considerate not to bother others appetite...

clairec23 said...

I wouldn't be keen on the whole dirty feet thing but if I saw a couple of people enjoying their food and obviously enjoying each other's company, I'd smile and think it was nice. We'd probably exchange glances with a smirk at people taking their shoes off in public but it wouldn't be in a mean way or anything to do with their ethnicity. I wish people would stop letting things like where someone is from cloud their judgement and just see people as's not like they were actually disturbing anyone or interrupting anyone or intentionally being rude. Ok, maybe sometimes people don't like people being loud while they're eating but there's no need to bring anything else into it.

Zazsis jewelry toe rings said...

Where I come from, Malays and Indians eat with bare hands and flip-flops is an accepted mode of attire due to the warm weather so the behaviour of those two men would have only been slightly alarming.

Culture plays a big part in such situations and it helps if we can all be a little more sensitive towards foreign cultures. This applies to the two men as well, of course.

Vienne said...

Hi Zazsis, excellent insight. Most of my relatives live overseas and I've traveled beyond my own culture. I've felt both sides of the coin - taken offense and been offensive simply by placing myself in a foreign environment.


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