Saturday, November 11, 2006

Harsh foreign tongue

I was attempting to arrange a change of shift at work with an Indonesian workmate who was not actually there. I had his home phone number and two mobile numbers for him. I wanted to call him on his mobile but I did not know which one was current. Enter another Indonesian workmate. Although she is Chinese Indonesian and he is very native Muslim Indonesian, they know each other well. I asked her which was the current mobile number of my workmate. 'I'll call him', she offered.

She tried his mobile. It was off. She tried his home number and one of his teenage sons answered. Luckily the one who can speak Indonesian, as she spoke to the son in Indonesian and I know the younger one does not really speak Indonesian well.

I could not believe how harshly she spoke on the phone. Of course I could not understand what she was saying but there was no obvious softness in her voice. It was like she was a different person. She was almost spitting words at him.

Now I have no doubt that she would talk to the son of her and my friend with the greatest of courtesy it just it did not sound like that to me.

For the benefit of the tape, it was two in the afternoon and the workmate was still in bed and had to start work two hours later. No doubt up late chatting on the net to his girlfriend in Bali or some other hot chick in Indonesia.

Ever puzzled by race as I am, I will ask him about how he feels about the female workmate and how his son feels about her. To me, she sounded very autocratic and spoke badly to the young lad, who was born here in Oz. Perhaps they are used to this very direct woman. I don't know.......again.

Do we English speakers go on with social niceties before getting to the point, whereas perhaps people from some foreign climes cut straight to the chase?

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Democracy is all very well, but why give it to the people? - Audrey Forbes-Hamilton.