I couldn’t help nodding my head in complete agreement while reading Dzof Azmi’s Contradictheory piece in The Star newspaper today. I suffered a culture shock of sorts when I first arrived on American soil for my tertiary studies.
Total strangers I walk past on the street would greet me with “Hi, how are you doing?” or “Nice day, isn’t it?” As I soon learnt, exchanging such pleasantries is commonplace. People going through the door before me would hold it open. When done eating at campus cafeterias or fastfood joints, people empty the contents of their trays into the trash bins then neatly stack the trays in the space on top of the bins. And yes, customers and cashiers would usually thank each other upon completion of transactions and even follow with a “Have a nice day.” What initially surprised me quickly became the expected norm. It’s something so pleasant which I swiftly and willingly adopted and became my way of life the 2 years I was there.
Then I came home and suddenly the difference became so glaring. Hardly or no such pleasantries here. My nose almost got flattened several times by doors swinging at me after the person before me had gone through. It’s true strangers hardly say hi to each other. In fact, I personally would be wary if someone, especially suspicious-looking males (sorry, but being female, I’m sure it’s understandable I need to view the opposite sex with some caution) were to pass me by with anything more than a cursory glance.
Disappointed at first, I regretfully had to accept this is how it is here. What I choose to do now – encouraged by my sis who resides in US and hubby who’s lived Down Under for many years – is to initiate greetings when appropriate. Smile at others in the hope they don’t think I’m trying to get fresh with them. Hold doors open for others behind me. And the list goes on. My hubby and I are determined to teach our son good manners. I feel those of us who realize it should emulate such simple common courtesies and educate the younger generation. Hopefully it’ll be contagious, just like a smile.