It was dark. Suddenly, as I scurried about my apartment cleaning and folding laundry in shorts and a tee, I realized my blinds were open.
I live on the first floor near the entrance of a busy privacy.. Directly outside my bedroom window is a sidewalk lined by grass and trees. Across the street is a pool and fitness center. A nice location, for sure, but not when one considers a little thing called
Here in the West, privacy is held in high esteem. Close the blinds, Johnny! Someone might see! Even when I lived on the second floor of a large home on several acres—when a person would have had to climb a tree to see in my window—still, as soon as night fell, Close the blinds, Jess. Someone might see!
People in the States don’t like it when their neighbors throw loud parties. They plant large, bushy trees to block the view of their backyards. They pull window shades down whenever possible, and heaven forbid they’re ever caught undressed in front of a window.
Not so in.
When I moved to Taiwan, I was shocked by people’s lack of concern for privacy. Many families live at the rear of or above their businesses. At night, when the store is closed for the day, they shut their glass doors but often “forget” to pull down their metal screens. Thus, walking along the street at night, you are likely to see “Bà Ba” (pinyin for 爸爸, or “father”) lounging shirtless, brown belly protruding, on his couch watching
An awkward sight for a Westerner like me.
Isn’t he embarrassed? Doesn’t he care that I can see?
Nope. He sure doesn’t.
People in Asia tend to talk loudly in their homes. In my apartment in Sanjhih, I often heard entire conversations (in Mandarin, alas) from several floors above or below my own.
The same went for Hong Kong. Only in Hong Kong, it was worse.
In Hong Kong, there was a snack shop near the entrance of the school where I worked. The shop—a squarish building with a garage door for an opening—doubled as the owners’ home and family room. Inside, a tornado was usually in progress. Chairs; a table; a small burner; rough-hewn shelves topped with bags of chips, ramen, and a TV; a refrigerator; and numerous other odds and ends lay scattered. The family’s laundry, underwear and all, hung on a line just outside to dry. Walking by, I could see their kitchen sink.
In the evenings, this family often held barbecues. These gatherings spilled gaily from the store front to a barbecue pit in the middle of the path. Walking by—or, rather, through—on my way to the bus stop, I felt as though I should have been a guest at the party. Otherwise, what on earth was I doing here?!
They, on the other hand, paid me no heed.
It was an interesting phenomenon, and one that I never quite got used to. Didn’t these people care? Didn’t they feel weird that I could see?
It was refreshing, though, too, in a way. This family wasn’t concerned with me—what I thought or what they looked like. They were just . . . living their lives. And while it would have been nice if sometimes my neighbors would have learned to use “inside voices” (okay, more than sometimes), it was also a good reminder to me to relax. Who cares what people think? What’s the big deal if someone sees?
That is, of course, unless I’ve just gotten out of the shower.
What about you? What’s your take on privacy? Is it important to you? Why?
- Alone in an Igloo (jesscy.wordpress.com)
- This Contradictory Life (jesscy.wordpress.com)
- Weekly Photo Challenge: Beyond (ameramor.com)
- Pod beds come to Hong Kong (time4sleep.co.uk)