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help me to understand

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gabrino
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help me to understand

Postby gabrino » Sat, 09 Jul 2016 9:33 am

I am a 34 female living in Singapore . And in general, I love living here but some customs I find baffling and difficult to understand.

Wherever I go to the bank and I am with my husband if clerk is male he keeps avoiding looking me in the eyes. Even if I am the person that asks the questions, clerk would answer it without looking at me.

My husband also noticed this and he says it makes him feel uncomfortable. He feels like the clerk ignores me.

I was wondering if anyone else had similar experiences? Maybe someone can help me to understand where it comes from? Is it a religious thing?

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x9200
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Re: help me to understand

Postby x9200 » Sat, 09 Jul 2016 10:13 am

Yes, it's common. It drives my wife crazy. Often it actually adopts forms of clear ignoring. It happens in the restaurants, cabs, practically any places. I used to see it as some sort of twisted courtesy (so they would not bother a woman with things like payments for services etc.) but I am not convinced any longer this is the case.

It's a regional thing. The most extreme case we encountered in Bali, Hilton or Hyatt hotel, where my wife was talking to the front desk guy and he was responding to me until I stopped him.

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Re: help me to understand

Postby BBCWatcher » Sat, 09 Jul 2016 10:26 am

It's hard to say without understanding more about the context. However, based on your description I would interpret it as the clerk exhibiting modesty and showing respect for your marriage. He's (probably) in no way trying to offend; quite the opposite. If that still bothers you or your husband, there are simple solutions. Your husband can politely excuse himself, head to a neighboring shop (just to kill time), then meet you there when you've concluded your business with the clerk. Bonus points may be awarded if he says something like, "My wife is the financial expert in our household, so please don't pay any attention to me," just before heading over to the neighboring shop, "takes a call," or whatever. Perfectly polite, and it should work. Or choose another clerk (or branch) -- and there are polite ways to do that, such as asking for a particular clerk you like, by name.

If your husband appears more stereotypically "Singaporean" than you do then there might be some mild racial bias in the clerk's behavior. However, sometimes (or even often) that bias is based on a guess that the husband has better language skills for the interaction. That's not to excuse the problem, but we humans too often prejudge.

What you've observed, in this particular episode, is not unique to Singapore. To pick a random overseas example, married couples shopping for cars in the United States often experience substantially the same phenomenon (according to some research I've heard about). There's still a cultural bias, deeply ingrained, that a husband makes the major car buying decisions even if there's every indication that the wife is in charge of those decisions. The same solutions apply in those situations. Car dealers are getting wise to the problem, but it still exists.

In Japan banks probably pay more attention to wives, so husbands sometimes get the cold shoulder. There's a tradition there that wives are the "CFOs" of their households. Again, the same solutions apply.

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Re: RE: help me to understand

Postby ecureilx » Sat, 09 Jul 2016 12:52 pm

gabrino wrote:I was wondering if anyone else had similar experiences? Maybe someone can help me to understand where it comes from? Is it a religious thing?


Religious what ?

Are you and your husband of the same race ?

Mostly if it's mixed, that's where some front line people get confused as to who is the boss ... long explanation for why but it won't make sense to you anyway ;)
Last edited by ecureilx on Sat, 09 Jul 2016 12:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: help me to understand

Postby Strong Eagle » Sat, 09 Jul 2016 12:52 pm

BBCW forgets that in this part of the world, it's the man, the dog, and then the wife. No eye contact because if eye contact actually happened, then it would be necessary to recognize the female as an equal... and Asian societies (and males) are still a million miles away from that society.

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Re: RE: help me to understand

Postby gabrino » Sat, 09 Jul 2016 1:16 pm

ecureilx wrote:Are you and your husband of the same race ?

Mostly if it's mixed, that's where some front line people get confused as to who is the boss ... long explanation for why but it won't make sense to you anyway ;)
[/quote]

We are both white europeans. Please, ecurelix , do explain. I would like to know what you have to say

ecureilx wrote:Religious what ?
[/quote]

I dont know, maybe Muslim men are forbidden to look at women they don't know. I don't know much about this religion . But one thing I know: the way they treat women is very peculiar to me.
Last edited by gabrino on Sat, 09 Jul 2016 1:31 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: help me to understand

Postby gabrino » Sat, 09 Jul 2016 1:18 pm

x9200 wrote:Yes, it's common. It drives my wife crazy.


Thanks for your reply x9200. It drives me crazy too but I am trying to understand this culture. However, I am happy that there is someone else that feels the same way too :)

This is actually a reason why I can't see myself living here for long. Once my contract is finished I am not going to extend. Going back to Europe :)
Last edited by gabrino on Sat, 09 Jul 2016 1:39 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: help me to understand

Postby gabrino » Sat, 09 Jul 2016 1:19 pm

Strong Eagle wrote:BBCW forgets that in this part of the world, it's the man, the dog, and then the wife. No eye contact because if eye contact actually happened, then it would be necessary to recognize the female as an equal... and Asian societies (and males) are still a million miles away from that society.



Thanks for explanation Strong Eagle. This would make a lot of sense. I was hoping that it might be some kind of twisted sign of respect though :)
Last edited by gabrino on Sat, 09 Jul 2016 1:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: help me to understand

Postby gabrino » Sat, 09 Jul 2016 1:24 pm

BBCWatcher wrote:If your husband appears more stereotypically "Singaporean" than you do then there might be some mild racial bias in the clerk's behavior. However, sometimes (or even often) that bias is based on a guess that the husband has better language skills for the interaction. That's not to excuse the problem, but we humans too often prejudge.
.


We 're both white European and native English speakers so i dont think it is the case

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Re: help me to understand

Postby BBCWatcher » Sat, 09 Jul 2016 6:21 pm

Strong Eagle wrote:BBCW forgets that in this part of the world....

I didn't forget anything. We're in agreement, with two possible exceptions: (a) it's not only "in this part of the world," (b) one must give the benefit of any doubt to the other person. Clerks do not always (or even very often) intentionally commit acts with animus at heart. Some of them genuinely think they're acting respectfully in their cultural understanding. It really is considered offensive to stare at somebody else's wife in certain cultural contexts, including some cultural contexts present here in Singapore (an extremely multicultural country).

Don't assume. Don't prejudge. I've given some advice on how to handle such situations. Give it a try, and see how it goes. Trying building some bridges instead of burning them, or at least before burning them.

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Re: help me to understand

Postby x9200 » Sat, 09 Jul 2016 6:58 pm

There is a whole gradation between offensive staring and avoiding eye contact. As I wrote earlier, I thought at first it was something courtesy based, but the problem is, it seems to happen across so many social groups. It looks the SE theory just fits better in. Besides, nobody says it is an act of animosity. For the guys in question, it's most likely completely transparent. They are brought up in a culture like this. Not that it makes for the Western women any easier.

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Re: help me to understand

Postby PNGMK » Sat, 09 Jul 2016 7:15 pm

At least I don't have to put with clerks looking at my wife's T or A as I do in Australia. The only time I ever seen it happen in Singapore was when we were wandering through HV and a bule had a good look.
I have gay, black, Asian friends and then JR8.

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Re: help me to understand

Postby x9200 » Sat, 09 Jul 2016 7:41 pm

Clerks not, but how about Indian/Bangladeshi/[..] WP guys?

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Re: help me to understand

Postby PNGMK » Sat, 09 Jul 2016 7:58 pm

x9200 wrote:Clerks not, but how about Indian/Bangladeshi/[..] WP guys?


Nope but they stare at everything...
I have gay, black, Asian friends and then JR8.

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Re: help me to understand

Postby BBCWatcher » Sat, 09 Jul 2016 8:09 pm

x9200 wrote:As I wrote earlier, I thought at first it was something courtesy based, but the problem is, it seems to happen across so many social groups.

I am quite sure there are overt, conscious expressions of sexism, in Singapore and elsewhere. However, in a particular incident involving a new individual one must give the benefit of the doubt to the other individual. In his/her cultural context the behavior really could be an expression of modesty and respect. That is not only possible, it's common. Not universal -- no body is arguing that -- but just grant the other individual the most generous interpretation of his/her behavior. If he/she is prejudiced in some way, OK, but that doesn't mean you should be. Keep an open mind.

If you're bothered by that other person's behavior, that's perfectly understandable. Nobody here is suggesting you shouldn't be bothered. I'm certainly not suggesting that. But I've found that, to be happy and successful when crossing cultural, religious, and national borders, it's a good idea to (a) smile a lot; (b) engage in some polite, "coaching" feedback in your interactions.

I wasn't there, to experience that particular bank clerk interaction, but here's another idea. Your husband says something like, "I notice you're focusing on me very well. Now please maintain eye contact with me as I move, OK?" And then he slowly walks behind you (and ducks down a bit if he's taller) until the bank clerk has no choice but to look at you, perhaps bobbing to the side once or twice, then back behind you. Then your husband says something like, "Thank you for maintaining eye contact with me. However, my wife is your customer, not me. I want you to maintain eye contact with her, your customer. I'll remain here just in case you're uncomfortable serving my wife and attending to her needs, but I want you to listen to her, treat her as your only client, with at least as much respect and attention as you have given me. Thanks for your help." With a laugh and a smile, and point made. Have some fun with it, or try to.

If you have a follow-up report on how that goes, I'm sure it would be well received here.

By the way, I stare at (I'm guessing) South Asian men who (not guessing) hold hands in Singapore. It's just so alien to me, and I can't help myself. With absolutely no negative sentiments -- I think it's fantastic! -- but I stare too often, still. (Getting better, over time.) I hope I'm not offending anybody.


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