你笑得很漂亮

*You have a beautiful smile

"你笑得很漂亮",the clerk told me as he examined the documents his colleague had handed him. A second earlier, the confused look on his face had revealed that he wasn’t expecting to see a foreigner when he looked up. The startled look he had had for a fraction of a second had made me smile, and he very spontaneously paid me that compliment after I said hi. It’s the spontaneity of his compliment, the way he blurted it out, that really made my day.

Little things like that easily trump any weird look, any awkward situation I come across, any day. I picture my mood as a scale that goes from ecstatic to suicidal (never went that far though. Probably went as low as “miserable enough to want to stuff my face and actually do it”). Every morning, the cursor starts in a neutral position, at 0. Something positive happens? Someone complimented my Mandarin, an interaction went smoothly? The cursor goes up. Someone stares at me, something makes me feel awkward, i run into a problem, I get molested by a coked-up bald crazy girl? The cursor goes down. The key to being happy in a foreign country is to make sure the cursor stays above zero, so that you end the day on a positive note.

Today, I sure did.

If it’s the little things that matter the most, then I can be very grateful that some people take time to say nice things to individuals they don’t even know. That clerk will probably never know that his nice comment made my day. That lady who laughed with me on the train, that student who always seems happy to see me when we run into each other on campus, the security guards at the entrance of my apartment complex who never fail to say hi, and so many others… They all very selflessly contribute to my happiness. It’s not always easy being a foreigner in such a homogenous country as Taiwan, but some (as in, a lot of) Taiwanese people sure make it easier.

I hope that in France, the Taiwanese person I traded places with (what, isn’t that how traveling works?) feels the same way. I really do. I hope that enough of us are capable of making newcomers feel at home. Yeah… I said I was hoping.

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