Saturday, March 1, 2014

Old Fashioned Courtesy

My wife and I like to visit different places and experience other cultures.  On one trip we had a double treat, because after our tour of that new place, we got to spend a few extra days with some people we knew there.  Vic and Melinda had retired back to Vic's homeland.  They lived in the capitol city with about a million other residents, but in an outlying neighborhood.

On our first day the four of us took a walking tour of the nearby market and shops.  Everywhere we went our hosts called the people we met by name, and were also greeted by name themselves.   We stopped at a coffee shop and met the owner, who was the only person working. She brought us menus.  I picked mine up but Vic quietly suggested we would get the best treats if we asked the woman what she recommended.  I later found that this was because every food stuff was brought in fresh daily.

When we walked down by the supermarket Vic greeted a disheveled man by name and received a personal reply.  He introduced us to John, and explained that when you went into the market, John would make sure nothing happened to your car.  People were tipping John small coins.  I smiled and said that in the larger cities in the U.S. this took place too, it was a racket.  If you didn't pay, your car would be scratched.  Vic looked mortified.  Oh, no, he explained, as he tipped John.  It's not like that.  Melinda asked what happened to Steve, the man who used to have this job. Vic told her that Steve had been offered a better job helping a carpenter.  Since Vic had tipped John, even though we'd arrived on foot, I surmised that there was no actual job, only kind hearted  assistance from people who wished to help John while preserving his dignity through the appearance of work.

The next day I struck out to take a walk on my own.  To my surprise, even though they had no idea what my name was, I could not pass anyone on the sidewalk without being greeted, or at least acknowledged by a nod of the head.  One man who passed me from the rear even paused as he overtook me to smile and wish me a good day.

There was one person I saw who was not being greeted.  He was standing in his front lawn shirtless, watering the grass with a garden hose.  As men and women walked past his home they acted as if they saw nothing.  I had read that it was considered impolite here to appear in public shirtless, unless you were at the beach.  But rather than anyone clucking their tongue or giving him nasty looks for violating their social custom, they politely refused to notice at all, and simply went about their  business.

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