Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Ugandan Tooth Rat

One of the things I love about living in a different culture is the really random (and let’s say it—WEIRD) things about other cultures’ traditions. So yesterday I was riding in a special hire (that’s “taxi” to all you Mer-cans) and a commercial came on with a small child talking about how much she wanted to grow up and be a dentist. When questioned by an adult if this was because she loved promoting oral hygiene, she laughed and responded that no, she wanted to be a dentist because she would have so many teeth available to her that she could get rich off the tooth rat.

Um, the tooth rat? I—insensitive as always—immediately asked my driver what the heck a tooth rat was. He then explained to me that when Ugandan children lose their teeth they place them in their rooms (sometimes under their pillows) and wait for the tooth rat to visit and leave them a small amount of money or a treat. So apparently instead of a lovely, happy little fairy leaving treats for lost teeth, Ugandans celebrate a dirty, stinky rat rooting around in their rooms (and under their pillows—GROSS!) trading teeth for treats. Awesome. So obviously I find this exchange ridiculously amusing and am sharing my story later at dinner with some expat friends of mine and a Colombian friend says yes, of course, in Colombia they have the tooth mouse!

So I got home and did a quick google search and it turns out we are the weird ones! Countries all over the world (from my search I got Argentina, Mexico, France, Scotland, and Australia) have a tooth rat (or mouse when they want it to sound ever-so-slightly less scary). Apparently the idea is for parents to encourage their children to emulate creatures with strong teeth. I guess this makes sense, I mean who ever heard of Tinkerbell and her nightly flossing? But I—like a good American—am going to go with my way over the rest of the world and stick with the tooth fairy. Rats under my pillow will just never sound like a good idea…