"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Monday, April 23, 2012


I'm a firm believer that all of the world's problems can be solved by one big hug.

Everyone thinks it's so strange that my idea of 'making things up to me' is 'you owe me a big hug, okay?' But it's true. Sometimes you don't need a solution, or an answer, or compensation or payment or anything. Sometimes all you need is something symbolic.

I hate airports. They're full of grumpy security people that make everyone needlessly edgy, confusing language and cultural barriers, airplane germs and babies staring grumpily out of baby carriers. I'm always tired, sick, bare-faced and grumpy in airports. We all are. It's a huge congregation of people quite at the end of their tether.

In one of the many times queuing up for something or other in one airport or another, I kept getting shoved into people, into poles, into everything. It's amazing how something petty like that can really get you pissed when you're tired and jetlagged. I didn't get a single apology, or acknowledgement that I was getting shoved around. I got shoved again, and I whirled around, ready to throw a full-blown tantrum right in the middle of the airport.

The guy behind me clasped his hands together in front of him and bowed. And then, just like that, my anger vanished. It wasn't a move of fear, or sarcasm, or 'please don't hit me, psycho Asian teenager'. It was something selfless; it was an apology offered with no other expectations. His sincerity was humbling. It was one of the most sincere apologies I can remember.

Apologies can transcend culture, language, time and place. Nothing can stop us from being humbly and sincerely apologetic, about anything. And nothing can make you angry, nothing can stop you from being forgiving, when you're presented with such powerful sincerity.

In Asia, girls hold hands and link arms all the time. Sisters, cousins, friends; physical contact isn't nearly the big deal it is over here. My baby cousins demand cuddles and piggybacks and kisses, whenever I see them, and I love it. It's so sweet.  Even when the jabber away in Chinese, or Korean, or random baby talk, I know when they throw their arms in the air demanding a cuddle, or kiss me on the cheek, that we're all family and we love each other dearly, even if we have no words to express that.

In Korea, everyone bows to everyone. It is a greeting, a goodbye, an apology and an acknowledgement all in one. It isn't something showy or theatrical - just a brief nod to someone of equal or lower rank, or a short bow from the waist to someone higher than you. Whenever we go to Korea, on the way back from sightseeing or some restaurant or something, my aunt would stop the car and my sister and I would tumble out, race up the steps of my grandfather's house, bow in the doorway, and then run back into the car. Sometimes I think people in Western societies talk too much. Sometimes sincerity carries in things unspoken.

Which is why I love hugs. I love all the unspoken things in a hug. It's the nicest way to say anything; 'just friends', 'I'm sorry', 'everything's going to be okay'. Everything cheesy and corny and cliched, everything you want to do but can't, everything you could say that could be misunderstood to mean something else, translates perfectly when you don't say them at all. If I could hug the world, I would.

1 comment:

Adelaide Dupont said...


Wow, the symbolic and unspoken things in a hug.

Covered so well the cross-cultural aspects.