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My 'Laos Girlfriend'

LAOS | Friday, 26 August 2011 | Views [2064] | Comments [2]

Don't get too excited, I didn't have a Laos girlfriend on my travels, but this is the term my german friends and I came up with to describe a certain Laos girl on a public bus.

Somewhere in the Lonely Planet it says that on public buses in Laos, the rules and norms of personal space change and it's common for people to lean on each other, lay on each other's laps etc.

Sitting on a public bus two girls got on. It's often really hard to gauge asian women's ages, but I'm guessing these girls could have been anywhere from 14 to 19. One of the girls takes the seat next to me and the other a plastic stool in the aisle next to her.

The girl next to me is ill and occasionally vomits into a plastic bag. As a sidenote, I was always amazed at just how quietly she did this - asian girls' grace has no bounds it seems.

After a while she glanced at me and placed her head on my shoulder and dozed for a while. About 15 minutes later she also put her arm around mine (presumably more comfortable). About half an hour after that she also held my hand, interlocking her fingers with mine and stroked my hand a little with her thumb.

Now I wasn't quite sure what to make of this, but I knew it felt good and also it didn't feel awkward in the slightest. It seemed unusual to me and didn't fit in with my own sense of what certain gestures meant in my culture, but because she and everyone else on the bus was 110% ok about it, I felt no awkwardness either. So I just sat reading my book and quite enjoyed providing her with the comfort that she needed.

After the bus stopped for a break and we all got back on, she placed her bag on my lap and laid across the seats with her head on my lap. I placed my arm around her and my hand on her shoulder and gave her the occasional comforting stroke with my hand.

At the end of the journey I was half-expecting a thanks from her or her friend or some kind of acknowledgement when we got off the bus, but there was nothing. It was like the whole thing was a completely normal everyday thing for them.

My friends and I got alot of mileage out of this experience, joking about it. She quickly became known as my 'Laos girlfriend'.




Tags: backpacking, laos, personal space, public bus, travelling



At a later date I met a Laos Guide who spoke excellent english. I recounted this experience to him and he was not suprised and said it was a normal thing to happen on Laos public buses!

  andrew_stelmach Aug 26, 2011 6:59 PM


Interesting, I've never heard about these "social norms" you've described and I'm Lao. Let's hope Laos doesn't become a replica of hedonistic Thailand, it would be unfortunate because we have more class than that. And a culture steeped in ancient traditions with a diaspora extending from far-flung Siberia to the Dravidians whose descendants now call this wonderful country home.

Much Thanks to the Germans for their charitable work in Laos to help rebuild the country from its war-torn past. We are very grateful.

  Atoll Nov 22, 2012 2:17 AM



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