Thursday, April 03, 2014

Please and Thank You

It is not the first time I have noticed this and I expect it is a cultural difference but Asian people who serve in shops, such as our cheap and of often questionable freshness Asian green grocer, treat other Asian customers.

The more 'Asian' and older they are, the less politely they seem to treat each other. More than once I have seen an Asian check out girl, probably an overseas student working part time, serve an older Asian person and there is not exchange of words between them. No please, thank you, no nod. Nothing.

I have seen this overseas where rich Asian people may treat someone who serves them....well not treat really, more like not notice them. But in the case I am talking about here, the server and the one being served look neither rich nor especially well bred, for lack of a better word.

Am I judging what I see using Australian values?  Am I saying they don't have Australian values? Are Australian values the right ones to have and display in shops? Is it any of my business?


25 comments:

  1. Andrew, every nationality is diffeent but everybody should treat each others in the right and polite way. It's the rule in a civilised country.

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    1. Gosia, the thing is what is polite in one country may not be in another country.

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  2. I suspect that you are judging using Australian values - but what else do you have to use. Whether they are the right values is a different kettle of fish. How did the check out girl treat non Asian customers? And if it was different was she meeting their expectations?

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    1. The check out girl did not speak to the customer or nor her to him. They both seemed quite happy with this.

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  3. My daughter in law is Asian and she says sometimes Asian people are rude and she always does the bargining in shops for me she does it so much better, I got a lamp in a asian shop for half price but the process sounded heated to me as it was in another language I'm not sure what they said but I was happy with the result.
    Merle...........

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    1. Merle, that is a very useful daughter in law. Yes, the bargaining can sound harsh to our ears.

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  4. They are probably trying to act more 'aussie' - which isn't necessarily good. But the asians in Asia seems to like aussie hospitality service people. Not sure why.

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    1. Michael, I often watch how Asian people are served, mainly in cafes or restaurants, by Anglo staff, and it always seems much the same as an Anglo would get served. I am sure there are some exceptions though.

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  5. Andrew

    "Asian" is a big generalisation. I can offer a response based on my knowledge of Chinese language and culture.

    You are right about the Chinese in that in their business transactions they don't really say "please" and "thankyou" in the way that nicely brought up Anglo-Australians are taught to do so. In fact they don't really say those things so much even within the home to each other: requests and responses, if literally translated, are much more direct than we would expect. If the transaction is in a busy shop then I expect this may also be the Chinese notion of what is businesslike: after all, other people are waiting! Things become rather more courtly if you are entering into a more extended interaction and then the Chinese have their own markers for indicating respect and politeness - welcomes, offers of tea, and in more formal situations words which translate into the rather clunky "honourable." Because so clunky this is one which generally falls away if Chinese people communicate in English.

    Almost all conversation in Chinese languages/dialects tends to sound heated to English speakers as the tonal nature of the language sounds very emphatic - particularly the 4th or "falling" tone - and the default volume of conversation is also rather high by our standards.

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    1. Marcellous, while I don't know for sure, I would guess both were Chinese mainlanders.

      Your explanation is much as I thought, thanks.

      I had a crack at Thai tones once. I was hopeless.

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    2. Andrew, in China you could just say (in English) "419." No tones required.

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    3. Google was my friend. ;-)

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  6. Yes, Andrew, you are using Australians' values. Australia checkout people are friendly. I was at Coles, a Brit was being served. The checkout girl greeted,'how are you?' The guy looked behind him, and said to her in surprise,'Are you talking to me?'
    I wasn't surprised because while I was in London, I shopped at the same supermarket everyday for 2 weeks after work, and the same non-Asian guy served me every evening. He never smiled, no 'please', no ' thank you', let alone a greeting.

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    1. MM, interesting. In the north of England where we were staying, there was a very cute check out chap and we deliberately chose him each day. At first he was as you describe, but we went really out to jolly him up and it worked. By the end of our stay the Tescos lad in Hexham would smile and greet us. But generally we found service in England varied from cold to snooty, to at times friendly.

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    2. Oh, I forgot to mention that I tried really hard to 'jolly him up' too, but I failed. I greeted him everyday with a big smile, 'how are you?', left him with 'have a good evening', tried to strike up a conversation - nope, refused to make eye contact what so ever, just told me the amount owed.

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    3. My biggest challenge was the Russian woman in Balaclava where we would buy our ground coffee. It took me three years, but eventually I received an acknowledgement and a faint smile.

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  7. I've not been in an Asian supermarket for quite some time, I do remember buying Asian food in a food hall last year though and the girl there did say have a nice day which is a very American thing to say. Company managers were encouraging us checkout girls to say it too. I didn't, preferring to say either goodbye or see you next time. Possibly the girl you mention was trained by and English person since they seem to be the ones who don't speak while checking your groceries.
    @mm; we are taught to greet customers in a friendly manner and told we must smile and be polite. I remember a day when I was working with a bad headache and back pain, the boss came to my checkout during a quiet moment and told me I need to smile more.

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    1. River, thank you for not saying 'have a nice day'. It irks me. Cheers mate or thanks darls goes a long way with me. At a pinch, enjoy you day.

      I think you boss was wrong to tackle you directly like that. At a staff meeting the emphasis might well be about putting on a cheery face, to which the staff may well reply, when you pay us enough.

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  8. Andrew; I never paid too much attention to the boss anyway, I knew I was doing my job extremely well, my customers knew me well and an occasional "off feeling" day didn't bother anyone but the boss. Who frequently came in 15-20 minutes late while always telling off any of us who dared to be even a minute late. By boss I actually mean my immediate supervisor, who said the directive to smile more had come from the big boss.

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  9. So many questions Andrew! You know when I first came to Australia after living for so long in Africa, many people would say things like 'oh the whites are so bad to the Africans' etc etc. used to make me so mad that people made comment on things they knew absolutely nothing about.. believe me in Central Africa (I never went to South Africa) there was no one who treated the black person more badly than the better off black person, C'est la vie!

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    1. Grace, I think that is the same the world over where a race is not in power and some of that race make good, they treat those left behind quite badly. My knowledge of the situation in Africa is limited to tv, movies and slightly more reliable, books.

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  10. Come here and meet a busdriver, a cashier, or go to the postoffice, they just don't see you, and don't talk to you, what a difference to the UK where the cashier calls me darling and asks how I am today. Here you don't even get a thank you when you pay ! It's just this way. In France and Germany it's the same only in Italy sometimes they are friendly ! The worst are the Greeks !

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    1. Gattina, as an older, fun loving and outgoing person, I am surprised you are treated like that. An acquaintance told me of a bad experience in Italy with a bus driver. We will be in Brussels for one hour. I hope staff will correctly point us to the Eurostar.

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  11. I'm with River - nothing irks more than "have a nice day", or something which does not seem to be the way a salesperson would normally speak. The face and the words too easily seem at war with each other.
    Your question about whether we ought to judge or which values we should use to judge is an interesting one. In Gulliver's Travels, Swift talks about the cultural divide between the Big Endians [who broke their eggs at the larger end] and the Little Endians. Sometimes, worrying about different values can seem truly petty.
    On the other hand, regardless of class, background or rank, what I personally look for from people is a sign that they sincerely show a minimum amount of "respect" others, e.g. a right to be treated decently, acknowledged etc.
    People of immigrant generations often have different "cultural" values, but I wish that the commercial need for good customer service would encourage the wider adoption of some reasonable Australian values - regardless of nationality, age etc of the sales person.

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    1. FC, it isn't unreasonable to expect Australian values to be exercised in Australia. There are certain ways to do things that the majority embrace.

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