Supermarket politeness

Posted by Marion de Groot on May 24, 2009
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Almost every cashier girl at our supermarket here in Amsterdam is of foreign, non-western descent. I put my groceries on the conveyor belt and as soon as the girl starts scanning my products, she says Hello, while hardly looking at me. When it's time to pay, she softly mentions the amount, as if talking to herself, while her staring eyes tell me it must have been a rough day. As she hands me the receipt, her attention is already at the next groceries to scan. I used to think this all was because these girls were unmotivated teenagers.

Once the general manager of that supermarket must have wanted to improve their service level. Two blond Dutch girls were hired, who were very cheerful and always made eye contact when they said 'Good afternoon' with a smile. I was very surprised, because I wasn't even used to making eye contact with the cashier girls anymore.

Later I was at a Turkish supermarket. There, the people at the counter were an adult Turkish man and woman. But they also made very little eye contact, and only said the 'compulsory' Hello, the amount to pay, Thank you and Bye.

Then I thought, maybe it is a cultural difference. Maybe these people find it correct not to make eye contact. Or is it because I'm not 'one of them'? At the supermarkets in China the cashiers would not even say hello, even to Chinese people. They just do their job. Period.

Is it typical Dutch/western to expect a cashier to make eye contact, smile and say hello? And why should they, if they do their job right…

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Thai thoughts.

Posted by Kasamon Sriburanasorn on October 22, 2008
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Thai people are thought to be very helpful and gentle. However, many tourists who come to Thailand d not understand some thai customs and beliefs.

First of all, we believe that the head is the most sacred part of the body because the head is situated of the spirit of that person. Thus, it is not proper to point the toe on the head.

Then, we give a lot of respects to the olders. Conseqently, every time we speak with the olders, we should talk more gently and properly than usual. Also, we should bend our back when walking across them.

Finally, we give a lot of respects to the king and the royal family. It is inproper to talk about them in the bad sides. We believe that the king is the reincarnation of one of the Hindu gods, Vishnu. So, he is the highest person in the society.

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Finish your plate!

Posted by Marion de Groot on October 20, 2008
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When we're invited for dinner, we usually want to please our host. This seems true for many cultures, but the way to do this can be quite different.

In China, bringing a gift is a must. Gifts are of course always nice, so you better bring one if you're not sure you should. Although, some gifts are not-done in China, because they may mean bad luck.

Anyways, you brought a gift, the host is happy, he serves you dinner, and then… Should you finish your plate, if you want to be polite? In the Netherlands, we say you should, or you're wasting food. In Thailand, you should not, because it will mean that it wasn't enough. In Japan, not finishing your plate means you didn't like it.

So, maybe you thought that being polite is just logical, but all three options above are based on logical reasoning, but the outcome is quite different!

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No means yes

Posted by Jack on September 05, 2008
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In Chinese culture, it is very common to offer food to your visitors. But the visitor will always say "no", even when he's hungry. Why? Often you'll get food anyway if you don't say it loud enough.

At dinner people will ask you if you want more beer. You say no, but they will poor it in anyway. Why??

First, some people don't really want to offer you food. They sometimes offer it as a sign of politeness.

So why will everybody say "no"? It is also politeness! To say "yes" is very rude. That's why you'll get your beer anyway. The correct way to stop them pouring in is to not to drink from your glass, even when it's full…

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