A conversation recently took place in our local expat* Facebook group here in our little city in Asia-Pacific. A newbie family introduced a question along these lines: “Are we the only foreign family that constantly deals with local people wanting to take selfies with us? If you have experienced this, how do you deal with it?” This question triggered a gazillion replies on the Facebook group, since all of us (especially those of us who stand out with extra-light skin and blue eyes) deal with this phenomenon almost daily. Babies and children spark additional interest, and sometimes all it takes is one person brave enough to request a selfie…before you know it there’s a line that makes you feel like the ticket taker for the most popular ride at an amusement park.
A year and a half ago, when everything in this culture was brand-new to us, posing for selfies didn’t really bother us. But as time went on and we felt more and more at home in Asia-Pacific, we began to get a little irritated with the constant request for pictures. Admittedly, I (Carol) am much less patient than Jared with this inconvenience. The first time I felt truly frustrated by a selfie-hunter was when we went on our first weekend getaway to a nearby city and visited a zoo with the boys. Within two minutes of entering the park, we were accosted by a woman who wanted her picture taken with our family. I set my lips in a firm line, shook my head, and walked away, while Jared and Gabriel stayed patiently behind to pose with the woman. I remember thinking, I’m on vacation. Nobody’s getting me in a selfie today. No way. No how.
A few weeks ago another expat inspired me to jokingly ask for money if approached for a selfie. Just smile, hold out your hand, and say, “Kalau bayar dulu” (If you pay first). It invites a laugh, but in my limited experience of trying this line, it hasn’t stopped anyone from following through with the selfie. In fact, one group of teenage girls actually replied, “How much do you want?” If I hadn’t set them straight I think they were actually going to check their purses and see if they could pool enough change!
So how do we deal with selfie hunters? Honestly, we haven’t come to a solid conclusion on that yet. Sometimes it just depends on the day and whether we’re relaxed or stressed, moseying along or in a hurry. But this honest question from a new-in-town foreigner made me pause for thought, especially after reading the variety of responses from other expats.
It made me question if I am truly valuing the people around me, regardless of whether I am occasionally inconvenienced or made into a spectacle. Have I determined in my heart to consistently show love and respect to others, even if I need to say “no” to a pushy person?
Cultural “rights” are a difficult thing to let go of. My American culture tells me that if someone is bothering me, I have the right to ignore them, scowl at them, or tell them exactly what I think. When a situation is stressful or frustrating, I want to claim my right to respond in such a way, then blame my own behavior on the other person’s inconsiderate request. Can’t you see my kids want to play? We came to see the animals at the zoo, not to be treated like curiosities ourselves. I don’t even know you, why should you ask me for a picture?
As the Lord continues to refine us for His purposes, He is not just working on the “big” areas; He’s also concerned with little things like our responses to small inconveniences. It’s those everyday irritations that can bring to light the true quality of our hearts.
Lord, may I be found faithful in the small things.
*Expat=expatriate: a person living outside their native country; foreigner