The Art of the ‘No Thank You’
During the course of our seven weeks in Southeast Asia, we have accumulated various levels of proficiency at numerous essential travel skills. These include the stuffing of belongings into an oversize backpack (unpaid professionals), shrewd bargaining (hopeless novices), fortitude during laughably horrendous bus rides (advanced intermediates), and street crossing in motorbike-infested cities (newly minted experts). But one thing we have truly excelled at in the last few weeks is the Art of the No Thank You, and we are here to share our vast wisdom. Here is an example scenario:
It is 11:30 p.m. in Saigon, and you (the no-thank-you-er) are attempting to get drunk off tasteless 5 percent beer at a streetside table. A woman (the no-thank-you-ee) approaches with plastic bags full of small, speckled eggs, and looks expectantly in your direction. It appears they are for sale, and you feel obliged to decline.
First, pause, squint your eyes, and give a tilt of the head which says, “I have duly considered your offer of small speckled eggs and all of the possible joys and detriments they may afford, and am now fully qualified to make a decision that will bring me, the unsuspecting customer, the most satisfaction.” A moment of eye contact follows and goes a long way in solidifying each other’s understanding of the situation. A slight smile is, of course, polite, and always appreciated.
Then comes the big moment. The “no, thank you” must be firm, but also convey kindness and a slight tinge of regret, as if to say: “These small, speckled eggs are a fine commodity, but alas, I must decline. The hour is late, and they may not mix cordially with the four or five beers currently residing in my stomach should I choose to consume them. Of utmost concern is their manner of cooking preparation, and for this reason I am unable to move forward with the procurement of these eggs. But do not be discouraged. There is undoubtedly someone else nearby with a taste for such things.” Of course, during the delivery a left to right shaking of the head helps bridge language barriers, and, again, a smile helps to keep the tone genial in nature.
This method may be used for any number of offered goods, including, but not limited to: shoe shines, assorted fresh fruit varieties, dinnertime massages, cigarettes, live, cooked, and uncooked poultry, rides via two, three, and four wheeled vehicles, unidentifiable foodstuffs, endless knickknacks, dried cephalopods, dinner solicitations, soft drinks of ranging temperatures, all manner of meat of sticks, etc., etc…
Be warned, though, after several days of constant no-thank-you-ing, you may find yourself automatically turning down services and goods that you are actually in desperate need of!