Sunday, September 21, 2008

Blog post #4 Evaluating intercultural behaviour

This incident was taken from a short clip I saw on TV mobile on a bus. The clip was shown a few years back. Two malay middle-aged women were travelling on a bus when an obese chinese boy wearing a secondary school uniform boarded the bus. As the boy was obese, he was having difficulty trying to squeeze his way to his seat. One of the malay woman was quick mock at the boy to her friend in malay loudly. "Look at that boy, he is so fat he cannot even walk properly. If it was my boy I would have asked him to diet. See... he is even having trouble sitting down."

The chinese boy sat down in the seat directly in front of the 2 malay women after some difficulty squeezing through the narrow aisle of the bus, while the malay women continued meanly in malay, " Wah, he even occupies two seats with his size, why did the bus conductor not ask him to pay double bus fares?" With that, both malay women started to snigger loudly. One of them then came up with an idea to make fun of the obese boy. She purposely dropped her Ez-link card on the floor in front of him, so that the boy will have to pick up the card for her. Given the boy's size, it will definitely be difficult for him to do so. As expected, the boy had much difficulty trying to pick up the Ez-link card for the women. After picking up the card, the boy turned back and spoke in fluent malay,"Aunty, here is your Ez link card. Please be more careful not to drop it the next time."

The malay women were horrified to actually realise that the obese boy can actually understand and speak fluent malay and that even though he knew that they were actually making fun of him, he did not lose his temper at them. They quickly pressed the bell and alighted at the next stop.

It is a cultural norm that all of us tend to sterotype people according to their skin colours. Just because a person look like a chinese, he/she will most likely speak only Mandarin and cannot speak Bahasa Melayu or Tamil. I find that this is a mistake that we should not make in a multi-racial environment like Singapore. In this episode, the two malay women should not have mocked at the secondary school boy, even if he did not understand malay as it is unpolite and mean to make fun of someone. However, the boy displayed excellent EQ skills by controlling his temper and showing the aunties that they should not make fun of him.


Jean Tan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jean Tan said...

The Malay women did not feel embarrassed at first as they think the Chinese boy do not understand them. I think the Malay women have the idea that since he does not know that we are mocking and laughing at him, it is alright. But who knows, the Chinese boy understand Malay language. And it was then the Malay women felt embarrassed.

The Malay women should not have the thought of ‘it is alright as he does not understand what we say’. Even if the Chinese boy does not know Malay language, I believed that the little action (like giggling, staring at him) from the Malay women will make the Chinese boy feel uncomfortable. If they really want to make a joke out of it, they can do it after they have alighted from the bus.

I really admire the tolerance level the Chinese boy has. He did not stop or scold the Malay women who mocked at him. To what you say, he had displayed excellent EQ skills.

Sze Min said...

Hi Xinyu,

I think it was pretty lucky that the situation did not end up in a conflict. Talking behind one's back with regards to the discrimination of one's body size was already a bad comment in the first place. The situation was further aggravated since a language that was assumed to be unable to comprehend by the boy was used. I believe such situations arises as people are not sensitive enough to the racial background of others around them. People often bring with them assumptions that differentiate other racial groups from theirs. However, as the medium for language learning is becoming readily available to anyone in the country, people should be more aware that things that they speak can potentially be understood by anyone around them. Besides that, I believe part of the discrimination can be attributed to society's perception of obese people. These eventually leads to the passing of hurtful comments because the Malay women feel that these individuals are inferior to them. We have a typical chinese saying which describe the situation: Building one's happiness on other's sorrow.

Kudos to the chinese boy for his high tolerance level and EQ even he was on the receiving end of such hurtful criticisms. On any other days, I believe it would end up on a ugly front if the receiving party has a low EQ.

Alicia said...

Hi Xinyu,

It is indeed very magnanimous of that Chinese boy towards those immature aunties, who should start acting their age and give more constructive comments instead. It is also an excellent display of tolerance and wit by the boy.

Besides showing the importance of being tactful with one’s words, this incident has also brought up a social issue; the discrimination towards obese people. I have a friend who took pains to find a job. With high qualifications and two years of working experience, it is hard to imagine that such a talent will face difficulties in her job search. She has related to me that a few companies she has approached have mentioned that their reason for rejecting her was due to her plus size. Often, plus size people are deemed as lazy and inefficient people. But this is not necessarily so. People fail to realize that these women can be equally, or even, more active than any women. Weight which is merely a number should not be the concern but rather the health of an individual. Generally, obese people tend to have a higher chance of contracting heart related disease as well as diabetes. However, anorexically thin women are also prone to heart diseases as well. Thus, it is essential to strike a balance.