Friday, December 15, 2006

My multicultural world

I have been acutely aware this week of my cross cultural experiences. It began at the park, where we were joined by three elderly Chinese people, two (presumably) grandchildren, and their Filipino maid. The maid was speaking Mandarin with them. Then, a western looking woman appeared with four children whose father obviously was Asian. I assumed two wrong things about her - first, that she was English speaking, second, that her children would speak Chinese. Instead, I heard her speak German to her children. Later, when the youngest child was careening down a rocky hill, one of the old people tried to tell the oldest child in Chinese. The kid stared at the woman until the woman said in Chinese, "She doesn't understand. " I responded in kind, "You're right, she doesn't understand," which made the woman start talking to me in Chinese about the baby. I thought, "This is really wild."

This morning I had an experience that reminded me of the language gap between Singaporeans and westerners. I was browsing a kiosk, looking at one shirt in particular, and the shopkeeper hurried up to tell me, "I have size." It was so on the tip of my tongue to say, "You mean you have different sizes?" I refrained. I tend to let the Singlish slide, but that's just too bad.

Yesterday, it wasn't a language gap but a usage gap I encountered at Mustafa. I was there, believe it or not, at 5:30 a.m. (long story) to change money and pick up a few things before Erik left on a trip. One of my purchases was a large bottle of lemon juice, the ReaLemon brand. The check out girl asked, (now imagine this with an Indian accent) "Would you like to drink this now?" before putting it in the bag. I just smiled and said, "No thank you." I can't imagine they drink it straight like that - more likely that she just doesn't have the faintest idea what I would do with it.

And I just spent time with a woman I've been getting to know at church. Originally from Denmark, she grew up in Africa but speaks English like she's from Minnesota, and here she is in Singapore. Life is interesting.

1 comment:

Sherri said...

That is so cool! The world is so much bigger than most kids realize. Yours is lucky to see so many different cultures in their every day life!