At a height of 193 cm, I am at the tall end of the man scale. However, in Sweden, I am rarely reminded of it. While I am taller than the Swedish 182 cm average, I still blend in. It isn’t until I visit another country that I become reminded that I am towering over other people and height becomes a source of attention or in worse case ridicule.
This makes me think of visibility in relation to the intercultural experience. Does the more visible we are affect the authenticity of the experience?
I remember my first time in Asia how people pointed at me and laughed. I remember in Mexico how people wanted to touch me and in China how they wanted to take a photo with me. My physicality was strange to them and, as such, my presence was impossible for them to ignore.
I genuinely think that my experience of other countries is coloured by the fact that I can’t hide. I am seen by everybody wherever I go. Shorter people can more easily disappear in the crowd and, as such, can more neutrally observe their surroundings. Through no choice of my own, I am often influencing mine, which consequently makes my surroundings less authentic.
In Sweden, people don’t notice. Or maybe they just don’t care. Or are too polite to point it out. Whatever the reason, I perceive that my feeling of physical sameness rather than difference is something that helped me adapt quickly to Swedish society and acknowledge it as the place I feel at home.