Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Friday, 30 April 2010
Friday, 30 April 2010 15:03

Noblesse oblige

Travelling is a wonderful thing, but once in a while one must check himself. Culture shock is a very real thing and every traveller has to deal with it. One of the more general rules says that one should be polite and reserved. Delete all the characteristics of your personality and really try to appear as a general representation of a human being. But when you go back to the places that you came from you are off the hook...Or are you?

My recent trip to old mother Europe proved rather enlightening. The Taiwanese are in general very polite and helpful, always trying to do their best and to appear as well-mannered as possible. But all these things are relative. Other nationalities may see such helpfulness as being noisy and annoying and so the polite thing to do might be just leaving them alone. On the other hand if you want to be a part of the global community maybe you should look around and try to adapt, even if  only a little.

I’ve heard many things during my stay in the Czech Republic. Apparently I was being too proper, too polite, even snobby. I would not dare to ask for shop assistants that would smile at me, but am I asking for too much if I want them to say “hello” to me? Even with all the hard labour these people are doing every single day I don’t think it is overwhelmingly exhausting to say a word even if it is a hundred times that day. The French can do that, the English are managing and the Taiwanese even manage to do it with a smile on their faces almost every single time.

It would not be fair however not to present the argument I have heard more than once from my fellow countrymen. That wishing “a nice weekend” for instance to somebody you don’t know and who is only a customer is just fake and insincere. It robs you of your precious time for nothing but a plain lie. And I have to say that being a member of that splendid nation, I can’t say the Czechs are overly voracious. It seems like it is too much work to be nice to other people, very well strangers. But I’m sure there is an argument for assuming that all strangers are potential hostiles. Is that your kind of society?

The Communism regime sure did some work on us. Maybe that’s what led to inventing a kind of humour that not many foreigners understand, as well as all the bad anticipations.

They say that good manners are a gateway to success and bad manners are a gateway to a good hiding. Unfortunately it appears that success is something that won’t be forgiven if you live in the Czech Republic. Needless to say, in the past, regime success usually came hand in hand with some wonderful Party activity. So that is where the heartburn stems from. But can the Communists be blamed for everything? It has been more than twenty years since the Velvet Revolution. Of course the opposition will say that the Communism regime was present for more than forty years. Who wants to wait another twenty years?

Maybe it can start with that simple “hello” and “good day to you.” Good manners are not a duty, but a privilege. How else can we change things? Improve things? We start from ourselves, we show our good side, our civilised side. Can we be a little pleasant and a bit forgiving? Does it matter that the other person does not want you to have a nice day? It shouldn’t because one can be better than that. Things will not get better by themselves, simply because people want them to. Noblesse oblige. If we want all that is around us to improve, it should probably come from the centre.

So be a better man. Say “Hello.”

(Photo courtesy of B. Girardot



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