There goes the saying…
If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.
I started to hear about this expression since few years ago, when I got better acquainted with British TV programmes. And the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of it. I would love to live in a place where people would rather embrace the awkward silence than saying anything offensive.
But in our culture, that’s not the case, isn’t it?
While I have been embracing this one British golden wisdom, and trying to apply this in my life, I was bombarded with all the negativity coming from the eastern side of my life. While I was trying to understand the importance of rapport building, and tact management, there are cretinous dimwits that would just trample down everything that I believe is good.
Oh yes, our culture does not recognise tact and rapport building. They would just say it, and say it in your face things that is not theirs to say. For example: a long lost friend just learned how to use facebook found your profile photo amusing. Obviously it is just natural for them to click and comment something about how you have gained/lost so much weight since the last time they’ve seen you — about a decade ago.
Or, you haven’t talked to this mysterious auntie from your grandmother’s brother’s wife since you were born. Probably the first and the last time you talked to her is to say, “fuck off you old hag” in baby language, and then you forgot because you were milk-drunk. But this particular lady thought it is perfectly acceptable to ask you why you haven’t got married while your younger cousins have already got their second pregnancy on the way. And just an icing on the top, they would tell you to stop doing that freelance job because there’s no money in it.
When the first time I invited my husband (then my boyfriend) to Indonesia, I warned him that Indonesian, especially Chinese Indonesian is not known for their tactful behaviour. Not only that our language composition sounds crass, but also that we don’t understand the concept of personal boundaries either. One of the elders would start making gestures of babies and shit, and not even language barrier would stop them from being offensive. I am quite aware of that.
Maybe, it is one of the reason why I am not too keen on the Indonesian Society gatherings. Or bringing my husband to that place, to meet my fellow Indonesians in Norwich. I know in fact that some of them would come across, not only incredibly rude, but also… a little bit twat-ish.
It is embarrassing.
Wait… I am not embarrass with my origin, my culture, or my friends. But I am embarrassed that we are so ignorant, that we as a culture don’t understand how offensive we are to other people. We are so blind to the cultural discrepancies, and forgot that we are no longer surrounded by the forgiving Asians who believe that rapport is just a myth.
I thought the younger generation is not as embarrassing as the older ones. I thought as we are going global, more exposed to different cultures and societies, we learned something about it. No we don’t.
It is not only rooted deep and strong, it is mutated with either North American (I don’t mean USA. Honest!) style bravado and arrogance (“BABE, you have to go to my gym, they’re fab and you can lose that flab”) , or religious bigotry and arrogance (“*gibberish chant from an exotic oiled desert* Man, you are so going to hell if you keep denying the existence of MY god *more gibberish chants*”).
If you are not coming from this particular culture, you would ask, “why can’t they just keep it to themselves? Why do they have to meddle in someone else’s business?”
The answer is they cannot. They physically cannot restrain themselves from being a dick/bitch, and blurt out their mind. It’s like a brain disorder, where they cannot just not say things, no matter how offensive or stupid it would sound. It’s an urge. Like when you are having diarrhoea, and you would have to go… that’s exactly what happens to them. They blurted out shit.
Oh dear, I sounded angry there, didn’t I?
Anyway, anyway… I know that some people found it okay to be commented about their weight, or their marital status, or whatever, by a stranger. I don’t.
So, see you again next time.