Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Just go with the flow, in Rabaul, PNG

The problem with growing older is that I become less and less tolerant with silly comments and patronising people. I just can’t stand them, and it is getting worse.
I am not talking about the little white lies we all have to make in order to avoid hurting anyone’s feeling. No, I am talking about all the silly things that I have to listen to or endure everyday. Is there such a thing as a carapace to protect yourself from stupidity, prejudgments and incompetence?


It can happen anywhere. Today, it happened at the post office. I had organised to have a parcel delivered there and had received a message that it had finally arrived. After a long queue, the guy told me that parcels usually take 2 or 3 additional days to be delivered, despite the confirmation message. Basically, he didn’t want to get his bottom off his chair to check whether it had arrived. I had to plead, explain and charm to get him to give me my parcel, which eventually happened but took more time than expected. The parcel had of course arrived.

Sometimes, it comes from a friend or someone close, and it is not nice to be taken for a fool by someone you are supposed to trust. I especially dislike it when so-called friends try to impress me with sweeping statements about ‘the French’, such as ‘all French women smoke’. Unfortunately, it happens.

The thing is, I don’t like confrontation. I don’t want to score points with silly people, French or English. What is the point of telling them that they should know better, they haven’t done a good job or are not behaving well? There is none. Why would I want to educate them? It is not my responsibility and I simply don’t want to spend time and energy on someone who wouldn’t understand anyway.

The French way to deal with such behaviour is to give a lecture or shout. It is all about naming and shaming. I don’t really like it. The British way is subtler. You try to charm and thank profusely (and even a little bit too much). It is all about over killing the whole thing with politeness. You complain afterwards. I like it more.

Sometimes, the best way is to do nothing. I can’t fight every possible battle. I remember queuing at a post office in Brazil to get some important work-related documents. The lady in front of me started talking about her whole life. I am sure that she didn’t mean any harm. It lasted more than half an hour. There was nothing to do, really. So I waited up.

What about you? Do you speak up or do you wait up?


Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London
  • SarahHague

    I don’t like confrontation either. I do what I can to get what I want without it. Pointless confrontation takes up energy, raises my stress levels and doesn’t get you anywhere most of the time anyway. You just get, here, ‘C’est comme ça’ and a shrug.

  • If it means getting someone off her/his arse and do their job- I’ll speak up. Should it involve someone doing a little bit extra, then I recognize that most parents have failed to instill that quality in their children and lament (inwardly) the failure of our society to grow as I had hoped.

  • Penelope J

    Like you, I try to avoid confrontation but sometimes it’s inevitable and I’ll speak up. Usually it concerns prejudice, bigotry and loud-mouths. Sometimes you have to speak up even when you’d rather be a mouse in the corner.

  • Joy

    Like you, I choose my battles and almost always never speak up. Same thing, same reasoning. What for? Can I change it? Do I really want to? Unless of course some real injustice is done or it’s something worth standing up for, I generally just do keep quiet and complain later. Isn’t it great we have blogs as venting venues? 😉

  • MuMuGB

    It is indeed very nice to use our blogs as a ranting platform…I need to do it more often!

  • MuMuGB

    You do indeed. Sometimes I can’t help it. I have to make a point and try to educate the other person. But most of the time I regret having done it. Have you noticed that you always regret to have spoken up, and never to have shut up. It is the problem of my life!

  • MuMuGB

    That’s very true. I think that it is about work ethic and does come indeed from the parents. I am far from being perfect but I do believe in hard work and perseverance!

  • MuMuGB

    How very British of you to avoid confrontation! I am the same…As for France, I just don’t know how to handle them sometimes…

  • jenny woolf

    I get peeved at rudeness and indifference. It’s a long time since I have been so deliberately ignored as I was in West Hampstead post office recently. Even when the guy was speaking to me he was looking past me at other people, and acted like I was the most boring thing he had ever encountered. Maybe he thought it made him look cool and he was too good to work in a post office or something. Who knows? I wouldn’t even bother to try and charm someone like that to be honest – they are working on a different agenda from me and I simply cannot be bothered to find out what it is!

  • Ooh! I teeter between both. =P But when I speak up, I often get myself into trouble and regret it. Maybe I should learn from my mistakes. =P

  • As I get older I am more prone to speaking up…such as when seated with some very annoying Americans at the dinner table during a cruise in China. Probably should have waited till i had disembarked the boat, but they were condescending and the husband thought he was above everyone at the table – so I taught him one. Maybe I shouldn’t have – but these days I’ve taken to defending the ‘weak’ or those that don’t speak up for themselves. I’m so gonna get myself in trouble one day.

  • Always speak up, but as I get older I learn to be a bit more diplomatic in doing so…most of the time!

  • MuMuGB

    It is tiring, isn’t it? I wonder how people manage sometimes.

  • MuMuGB

    Same here. Maybe, after all, we are just getting wiser?

  • MuMuGB

    I choose my battles now. Some people can say whatever they like, I just don’t care. I admire your courage! Where do you find the energy?

  • MuMuGB

    Same here. I have never regretted to have shut up. I still regret a few times when I opened my mouth…