Strangers and Your Baby

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“Your baby is so ugly!” – and other things to know about going out in public with a baby in Thailand

To say that Thais love children would be an understatement. My husband and I didn’t truly appreciate the many benefits of raising a family in a country like Thailand until we went back ‘west’ for the first time. While the Victorian attitude of ‘seen and not heard’ still prevails to a certain extent back home, in Asia children are adored and welcomed just about anywhere.

Expecting - Expats Strangers and Your Baby

I remember walking to my local grocery store one day with my then 7 week old son in a baby carrier. We were stopped on the street by an elderly Thai woman and her 20-something granddaughter. With her granddaughter translating for her, the older Thai woman made quite a fuss over my son. And one of the things she lovingly said was, “Your baby is so ugly!” Talk about lost in translation! Because like every other mother before me (and after me, for that matter), I knew without a doubt that my baby was the most gorgeous baby to have ever been born. Apparently, or so I was told, this is a common thing to say about newborns. The old adage goes that this will confuse the evil spirits who, apparently, only covet the souls of ‘pretty’ babies.

It was only when I had my first child that I started to notice that you rarely see Thai newborns out and about. This makes your farang newborn even more of a draw for strangers in the street. To be honest, I never minded the attention. I found people to be genuinely excited and enamoured with babies. But I know other moms who found it quite difficult to deal with that near constant level of invasion of personal space. Learning to say “Please don’t touch” with a smile in Thai will go a long way if you, like many others, find this sort of attention intrusive.

Random people going out of their way to come up to you in public to look at/touch your baby is something that, quite frankly, can not be avoided. And it’s not just Thai people either. Visiting Taiwanese, Korean, Japanese etc. fall into this category as well. I’ve experienced grown men, hard looking men, crossing the street to come over to smile at and pinch my baby’s feet! Back home you’d probably report someone like that to the proper authorities; over here it’s commonplace. I quickly learnt to insist that people touch the baby’s feet as opposed to his hands, for sanitary reasons. I learnt that a trip around the mall takes a little longer with a baby on board. I’ve learnt to politely decline the myriad of food, toys and trinkets that your baby will be offered by strangers. And you should see what happens when my husband goes out wearing the baby. This draws a huge amount of attention from both men and women. My husband was once stopped in MBK and given a high-five by a Thai man who then asked to pose for a picture with him.

All this extra attention to babies brings me to my next point: the many many times that we have lost our baby…

Yes, you read that right. We’ve lost count of the number of times that a waitress or fellow diner has come over to our table and asked to hold the baby. This is generally then followed by them taking the baby away to meet all the other waiters/waitresses and fellow diners. I confess to have been a little freaked out by this at first but these little interludes do give Mommy and Daddy a chance to eat with both hands. Moreover, I can honestly claim that, in my experience, the intent behind these encounters has always been innocent and sincere. Camera phones will magically materialize from nowhere and everyone will need to have their picture taken with the baby. Eventually you’ll have finished your meal and will find yourself asking your partner, “Do you know where the baby is?” Again, not something that would ever happen back home for us.

And it doesn’t stop once your baby outgrows their onesies. As the parent of a blond haired blue eyed four year old, I can tell you that it just keeps on going. If only I had 20 baht for every photo taken of him by a stranger on the street!

My name is Jodie. I'm a 38 year old Canadian working and living in Bangkok, Thailand. My husband and I are both international teachers - though I'm taking this year off to be a full-time mom.

When we're not busy with other people's kids, we try our hand at raising our own very curious nearly four year old son and his 9 and half month old brother. When it comes to parenting, like most of us, I’m making a lot of it up as I go along .

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