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