Drink the Tea….
July 29, 2011
Dear Fellow Expatriate,
When you relocate to a new country, it is especially important that you spend the first few years watching. Just watching to see how things work. Just watching to see how people interact. If you had done this, you might have noticed that here there a few cultural distinctions that are deeper than an accent.
You may have noticed that, Kiwis don’t say “hi” as much or engage in long small talk. Not that this is bad. It just is.
Most importantly, though, you will have noticed, (if you were truly paying any attention) that here, Squeaky wheels do not get the grease.
They are simply placed gently into the very back shed and forgotten about. If you continue to squeak, you will be placed further and further away, until finally you get the point.
If you want to be heard in this place, you must wait. Patiently. And Politely. And if you don’t feel heard, you must wait again, patiently and politely. Still not heard? Than you havent waited patiently and politely enough.
And, when you have a disagreement with a friend, you accept their offer to discuss it over a cup of tea.
Yes, you do this.
You drink a cup of tea (preferably herbal so tempers don’t flair) and you take turns talking. You take this option instead sending demanding emails and then dragging your friend to court mediation. Which you might (Because of where you are from) think that this is some sort of court. It is not. It is simply a cup of tea with a mediator.
Except in this instance, this cup of tea requires, time, money and a legal system.
This Legal approach might make you feel safe, or heard, or comfortable because it is more similar to the system in which you were raised, the system of fine print and complicated legalese. The system that glorifies the ability to manoeuvre legal gibberish to your own financial advantage. You see, in this country, no one idolizes the ability to get something for nothing. They don’t say, hey, if you sue, you can get money, so it’s ok. Hey, you were awarded money, so you must be right and someone else is wrong. That is not how it works here. It is still a small enough country that the person whom you are suing will eventually be related back to your best friends grandmother. Here, an exaggerated sense of entitlement is considered a very bad look.
No one here will tell you this. They are too polite. They will cross the street to the other side if they see you coming, they will glance at their watch when you walk by. They will secretly hope that you eventually get the subtleties or move on.
The only one who would be so bold to tell you this is someone from your former world who cares, both about you as a person and the stereotype that you constantly propagate.
So, dear Expatriate, please, please, next time, accept the offer of tea.
Worn out from watching you.