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Culture clash - middle eastern coworker


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#1 of 103 Mark Dill

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Posted January 28 2006 - 02:28 PM

Just wondering if anyone could shed some light on this situation with a coworker. She is Pakistani and a Muslim, but not sure if that matters.

Anyway, we normally get along pretty well, but she has strange opinions about certain things. One of these things is astrology. Another is my son, Ryan. (not his real name) One time I was showing her his baby pictures and she was oo-ing and ah-ing over them in a normal fashion and then I said, "None of these pictures are very recent, let me find a more recent one for you." I found the most recent one I had, which was him at 14 months. When she saw it she immediately said, "Oh what happened, he looks weaker!" I thought... ok... this is just one of those things where she does not realize exactly what she is saying - maybe she means "thinner" or something. I said, "Haha, no, he is just turning into a toddler, losing his baby fat, that's what happens as they get older." So I didn't think too much of it then.

I should pause here to mention that my son is the most normal of all normal kids. He has blond hair and hazel eyes - he is in the 90th percentile for height and 60th percentile for weight - so I guess you could say he is tall for his age but other than that he is totally an average american little kid.

Just yesterday, I was showing her pictures of my friend's son who is the same age as mine (19 months now) and I mentioned "He's really tall, I think he is even a little taller than Ryan." She immediately said, "Well, I'm not surprised, Ryan is a weak kid." I said, "Huh? What do you mean?" She said, "He's weaker, you know, he's small, he's not a strong kid." I sat there dumbfounded for a second and then I said, "That's not very nice, you know. You're telling me my son is weak. And you have no idea what you're talking about - he is above average for both weight and height." She was shocked that I was offended. And I was shocked that she was surprised that her comment bothered me.

So what the heck??? Is it common in the Muslim world for someone to say, "Your kid is weak" to a friend? I don't care if my friend's kid had cerebral palsy and was under 2 pounds, I would NEVER say that to a friend. Seems unbelievably rude to me. But she seemed to think nothing of it. Any ideas here? Or any insight at all would be appreciated. I'm wondering if maybe she is just not used to seeing "tall" American kids? Maybe short little middle eastern kids keep their baby fat longer? And even if that was the case, why would you SAY that? I dunno, I am at a loss.

#2 of 103 Holadem

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Posted January 28 2006 - 02:59 PM

Your coworker is a dumbass. Every culture has those.

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#3 of 103 Peter Kim

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Posted January 28 2006 - 05:37 PM

Your coworker is thoughtless & insensitive & especially tactless.

Every workplace has those.
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#4 of 103 Patrick_S

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Posted January 28 2006 - 06:13 PM

Gees instead of flying off the handle did you ever stop to simply ask her why she thought your kid was weak?

Who knows perhaps you could have gotten your answer instead of wasting time fishing for one on the internet.

#5 of 103 Alex-C

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Posted January 28 2006 - 06:56 PM

You know what you're problem is...you totally don't respect a person's right to be a jackass. I swear...some people....sheesh !
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#6 of 103 Lynda-Marie

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Posted January 28 2006 - 07:27 PM

How good is your co-worker's English? She might mean something completely different, and the language barrier is interfering.

Or, maybe as our other members point out, she's just an insensitive twit.

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#7 of 103 Mark Dill

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Posted January 28 2006 - 11:49 PM

She speaks English absolutely perfectly - she grew up speaking both English and Hindi.

I thought I did ask for clarification, and she just kept going on about how weak he is - but I have no idea where this opinion comes from, unless she just really doesn't understand that kids lose baby fat as they get older. But she has nieces and nephews who she's seen grow up so I don't get that one either. Do parents in that culture tend to keep the babies on formula longer? I know if you keep a kid on formula until they are two, they will look like a little sumo wrestler the whole time... maybe that was what she was expecting?

I also said something like "I don't think you realize all the connotations of the word 'weak' - you think he's weak?" And she just continued to look at me in a puzzled fashion.

Really, I did not feel I "flew off the handle" at all. I remained calm while I told her "That's not very nice."

#8 of 103 Mark Dill

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Posted January 28 2006 - 11:50 PM

I am leaning towards insensitive twit, by the way, but I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt and find out if there was some cultural explanation for her bizarre comments.

#9 of 103 James Edward

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Posted January 29 2006 - 12:29 AM

Why don't you post the pictures here and we can all decide if he is really weak... Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image
Napoleon, don't be jealous that I've been chatting online with babes all day. Besides, we both know that I'm training to be a cage fighter.

#10 of 103 Mike Voigt

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Posted January 29 2006 - 01:33 AM

In some cultures it is considered a sign of "weakness" if a kid loses any of his bulk. The same societies generally also consider it a good idea if kids grow up a little bit fat... which helps when they shoot up. Think "muscle tone" and alternatives.

Plus, you're right, there are probably some other connotations to weak in other cultures...

Mike

#11 of 103 MarkHastings

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Posted January 29 2006 - 02:54 AM

Quote:
Your coworker is a dumbass. Every culture has those.
LOL - SO true!

We are SO afraid of being politically incorrect that we tend to forget that most people are just stupid. Color and race have no prejudices against idiots.

#12 of 103 Girish

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Posted January 29 2006 - 05:35 AM

BTW Pakistan is not middle east(Dumbass who!!)
My grandma always says "You look so weak". Its her way of showing affection.
If you don't like her comment don't show her the pics.

#13 of 103 MarkHastings

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Posted January 29 2006 - 06:38 AM

Girish, I'd be careful about calling the OP a dumbass.
Quote:
The Middle East is a political and cultural subregion of Asia, or of Africa-Eurasia. The core of the region comprises the lands between the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf along with the Anatolian, Arabian and Sinai peninsulas. Sometimes, it is used in a broader sense which can include areas stretching from North Africa in the west to Pakistan in the east and the Caucasus and/or Central Asia in the north.
Posted Image

#14 of 103 Mark Dill

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Posted January 29 2006 - 06:56 AM

Regardless of where it is geographically, she is definitely of the Middle Eastern culture - part of the Muslim world is what it really boils down to.

#15 of 103 Holadem

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Posted January 29 2006 - 08:46 AM

Quote:
Sometimes, it is used in a broader sense which can include areas stretching from North Africa in the west to Pakistan in the east and the Caucasus and/or Central Asia in the north.
By that definition, Lybia, Tunisia, Algeria(!), Morocco(!!), Western Sahara(!!!), Mauritania(!!!!) are middle eastern countries Posted Image. They are most certainly not.

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#16 of 103 MarkHastings

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Posted January 29 2006 - 09:17 AM

Quote:
By that definition...snip...They are most certainly not.
I assume you read the "broader sense" part of the definition.

Sure, if you're trying to pinpoint an exact location, saying the "middle east" may be a bit broad, but on a global scale (as the definition implies), the term is acceptable as a non-specific location.

#17 of 103 Garrett Lundy

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Posted January 29 2006 - 10:25 AM

Quote:
By that definition, Lybia, Tunisia, Algeria(!), Morocco(!!), Western Sahara(!!!), Mauritania(!!!!) are middle eastern countries . They are most certainly not.

You must understand that an average American highschool graduate cannot find America on an unlabeled globe. So if we have grossly inaccurate geographical placements.....eh, at least we're trying.
Posted Image
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#18 of 103 Mike Heenan

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Posted January 29 2006 - 10:30 AM

I'll bet somewhere on a Middle Eastern chat board, someone is asking something about Americans in the same way. I suspect that this is just a matter of the person being an insensitive dumbass, rather than being a cultural issue.

#19 of 103 Richard Travale

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Posted January 29 2006 - 11:17 AM

Getting back on topic...

Do you have any other friends or workmates that are middle eastern and/or Muslim?
Maybe you could ask them what she meant.

 "Cock your hat - angles are attitudes. "
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#20 of 103 Holadem

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Posted January 29 2006 - 11:34 AM

Quote:
Sure, if you're trying to pinpoint an exact location, saying the "middle east" may be a bit broad, but on a global scale (as the definition implies), the term is acceptable as a non-specific location.
What the hell is a "non-specific location"? "Middle East" [i]does[i] refer to a specific location of the globe. I just hate when the term is lazily in incorrectly used to refer to areas outside of it's scope, like North Africa, or the Mahgreb and god knows what else.

Middle East is not synonymous with "Arab Countries".

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H


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