Friday, August 28, 2009

Ask me no questions

No, I haven't been writing for nearly a month. There's something wrong with the Flash application on my mini laptop and I have been too tamasic to fix it.

Today, an episode at a potential "job" site reminded me of all the stereotypes of Enigmatic Asians. I totally understand how these notions got started.  You can ask a question, but unless you ask it EXACTLY the right way, you don't get an accurate answer.

Is Antonio in?

"Yes." (enigmatic half-smile)

Pause. "May I speak with him?"

"He is in the class right now."

Okay, when will he be free?

"Five o clock."

Yeah, but you close at five, right?


So when can I see him?

"At four pm." (I should add that it was 3.50 pm at the time)

She couldn't just go ahead and say "He's not available now, can you wait ten minutes?" 

I guess it was really my fault. I didn't ask the question exactly the right way. i should have asked, "When will this class end?" and the answer would have been, "At four."

This all took place at a language institute, so it was not (as I can already hear some people saying) a "language problem." 

You can teach language, but you I'm not sure you can teach communication.



Linda-Sama said...

did I ever tell you my "but, madam, you did not ask for electricity" story? (regarding getting a mini-fridge put in my room during my first India trip....AAARGH!)

Sirensongs: Indologist At Large said...


Deepa Krishnan said...

I'm thinking, I'm from the same culture, and what would I have done differently? I think I'd have said, hi, I want to meet Antonio, can you tell me how? And she'd have said, please wait, he's in class. And I'd have appealed apologetically to her and said, do you know how long I have to wait? my daughter is in the car and waiting for me. And she'd have told me, oh dear, in that case, he'll be out in 10 minutes, I'll tell him as soon as he comes out, and you can see him at once. That would have been that. The difference is between asking questions and actually communicating a problem one human being to another. If you offer cut-and-dried behavior, you'll get cut-and-dried responses. This is as true in America (try a small town in Utah!) as it is in India.

- Deepa

Sirensongs: Indologist At Large said...

Hi Deepa: I respectfully disagree, and why should I have to play "emergency/guilt trip" (my daughter's in the car) to get an answer? "How can I find Antonio" is IMPLICIT in the question "Is Antonio here?" You are blaming the victim.

Sirensongs: Indologist At Large said...

Deepa - my point is, people in that region are loathe to volunteer any information - even when it costs them nothing. It's as though they wish to obstruct anyone's progress. Of course, I want to know when Antonio is coming out - and they know that without my saying so.