English style

Friday, April 13th, 2012

  • I’ve come to Melaka (Malacca) in Malaysia for the weekend and while wandering around I came across a sales exhibition promoting new property developments in the area. On sale was a kind of fetishised English lifestyle complete with green lawns and large ‘English style’ homes. The cultural differences between England and Malaysia are huge so I suspect that the finished development will look very different from any England I know.

    As if to remind me of that difference, I had an amusing exchange with a store clerk today. I was purchasing an internet SIM card and the process seemed to be taking a very long time. The helpful girl serving me told me she spoke English, which was a relive as the transaction seemed to be unduly complex. My lack of sleep was catching up with me and as she was activating the SIM card I put my hand over my mouth and yawned.

    “You want a tissue?” She asked, or at least that’s what I thought she asked. So I smiled and replied “No thanks.”

    My response was met with a puzzled expression and hesitation to hand over the SIM card. Clearly there had been a misunderstanding, so I clarified my answer to her question. “No, I do not need a tissue, thank you.”

    She now looked utterly perplexed, then repeated herself a little slower than before. “You want I teach you?” she said, holding up the SIM card and broadband instructions.

    We both laughed, and while it was a funny moment of confusion, I truly appreciate the fact that so many people around the world are able to overcome my linguistic ignorance with their own knowledge of English, even if it is just ‘English style.’