Tim's Blog

Common courtesy
As you know, tomorrow I shall have to fly back to Malaysia.

Despite what you may have heard, Asia places very little emphasis on courtesy or respect for others. Ah, yes. I see how you might be confused. Asians in Asia place a great deal of emphasis on rituals and social hierarchy, but don't get that mixed up with courtesy.

They don't use the casual please or thank you, although there are expressions for them in every Asian language (and here I am thinking specifically of the Chinese dialects). However, those expressions often have connotations with formal rituals and casual use of them, although not frowned upon, is simply not taken up. There are usually no replacements for them in most Asian societies.

Ironically, Asians tend to expect politeness in the service that they receive. Although they offer none to the people who provide the service. With each generation, this expectation wanes. The result is that as less politeness is expected, none is practiced whatsoever.

During my sojourn to Australia several years ago (where I met Robert), I came to realise how much I enjoyed politeness. And how much the expectation of politeness plays a part in your return of it. Although I had little practice of it, having lived in Asia for all of my childhood, I quickly picked it up. And sadly when I had to return to Singapore, I quickly lost the use of it.

I do not expect that I will be able to keep up the practice in a society that relegates it to the point of meniality. But I hope I shall never forget it. (Like they say, you have no idea what you take for granted until you don't have it any more.)

posted at 02:48:27 AM on 06/22/2001 by timyang - Category: General


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