learning to live with geckos

Some people think geckos are cute. Cute? A four-legged reptile who climbs walls and never blinks is cute? I fervently disagree, and I blame GEICO.

GEICO is a car insurance sales company in the States. In 2000, GEICO created Martin the GEICO Gecko®, a new mascot whose Cockney accent (voiced by English comedian and actor Jake Wood) and catchy quips stole America’s heart and left children begging, “I want one!”

And I’ve got to hand it to them: Martin is pretty adorable. With his sunny disposition and humorous clips, the GEICO Gecko® engages viewers and employs advertising strategies that best most of its competitors. “Fifteen minutes could save you 15 percent or more on car insurance,” says the gecko . . . Well, who wouldn’t want that?

But I’m not here to sell car insurance.

I’m here to tell you that the GEICO Gecko’s® cuteness is a LIE.

Geckos are a common sight throughout Asia. In Taiwan and Hong Kong, where I spent most of the last three years, the most common species is the “house gecko.” House geckos live in homes and other buildings and are actually quite helpful—they eat bugs, including cockroaches. Most of the geckos I saw were small, but in some places they can grow to larger than one foot (36 centimeters)!

a gecko in my home in hong kong

Now, perhaps you think sharing your home with a gecko would be no big deal. They kill cockroaches, right? That’s a good thing! But, tell me, the next time you’re brushing your teeth and suddenly realize you’re not alone, and the next time you see a four-inch gecko staring at you, well . . . Tell me how you feel. ‘Cause it made me jump!

But, actually . . . You’re right.

It’s a lesson I learned the hard way. The first time I saw a gecko in Taiwan, I threw shoes at it. “Get out of my house!” I yelled. My apartment was incredibly clean, and I wasn’t accustomed to sharing my living quarters with lizards, or any other creatures, for that matter. I’d spent weeks getting rid of cockroaches and mosquitoes (with poison baits and plug-ins); the spiders were easier (tissue paper and a broom); and I was praying I would never see a snake (thankfully, I lived on the fourth floor). But, now . . . What was I supposed to do with this?

It was only later that I learned about the benefits of geckos, and, eventually, I—almost? sort of? kind of?—got used to having them around.

And I realized . . . Maybe I’d been overreacting?

Maybe I’d been overreacting about a lot of things?

Could worrying less about the little things help me focus better on the big things?

I still don’t think geckos are cute, though.

Check out one of the GEICO Gecko’s®  latest ads (below):

8 thoughts

  1. shoes thrown at a gecko? over-reacting? maybe. still… another good reason to live here. and with your words i have another insight into what daily life was like in Hong Kong. thanks Jessica!

    • I now fervently disagree with your comment, Dad. Geckos are NOT another good reason to live here. There are good reasons to live everywhere. People live in amazing places and adapt to wherever they are. Some people far prefer stinky tofu and chickens’ feet to the cuisine we have here, and don’t get me started on transportation issues. Even you were complaining about gas prices the other day.

      My point is: You’ve adapted to living in northern California. Other people have adapted to life elsewhere. And that diversity is what makes this world wonderful. The world would be a terribly boring place if everywhere was just like California.

  2. We have them in our home, too. In India, we’re sort of used to being around them. They live in corners, up in the roof, eat up bugs, mind their own business. I also remember see house lizard’s eggs while cleaning the house. I often wonder where they come from. You move in to a new house, which is on the second floor, and one day, all of a sudden you spot a house lizard! Seriously, where do they come from?

    • They have them in certain places in the U.S., too. Just not where I grew up. It was an adjustment for me to have to share my living space with them! Luckily, most of the ones I saw were pretty small. I’ve heard about really big ones in Malaysia and the Philippines! :P

  3. We’ve got leetle geckos all over our house in Waco. I think they’re cute as buttons.:op

    However, I’ll give you this: Having one run up your leg in a dark shower is NOT a good way to start the morning…

  4. I thought the little guys who walked across my ceiling in my Tainan house were cute. I had families I d watch come out each night. They had large heads and large feet and small bodies. Cute and harmless.

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