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       Volume 10 |Issue 27 | July 15, 2011 |


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Social Disaster Management 101

Anika Hossain

Globalisation has slowly been seeping into the Bangladeshi way of life. We have been exposed to foreign cultures through the media and due to our improved economic condition, some of us have travelled the world. True to our nature, we learned and applied (copied) what we have seen to our everyday lives, including the way we dress, our diet, our language and our education, you name it. Unfortunately, in our hurry to transform ourselves into worldly members of a civilised society, we forgot to change one very important, very basic aspect of our lives--our manners.

Observing social etiquette has never been a strong suit with us Bengalis. Let's prove this by conducting a small experiment. Answer yes or no if either-you, or someone you know does the following: Sneeze without covering your nose, forget to excuse yourself after you sneeze, yawn without covering your mouth, push people while making your way through a crowd, cut in line, stare at people openly, talk loudly in a public place (hospital) not caring if you disturb those around you, cut people off mid-sentence without an apology- this is just the beginning of the never ending list of social blunders we make on a regular basis. If you're honest with yourself, you will have answered 'yes' to all the above.

Now that we have admitted we do have a problem with basic decorum, lets get into specifics of what NOT to do in a social situation. Self-improvement requires certain sacrifices. To begin with, we must give up the one thing we love above anything else- asking people we barely know extremely personal questions. For example, we cannot ask a new colleague (or the random woman we just met at the doctor's waiting room) how much her husband earns or if she owns the apartment she lives in. We must also refrain from expressing our opinions inappropriately, especially when we have nothing nice to say. For example, we must not tell a friend/ acquaintance we are seeing after a long time how fat, dark or bald they have become, or try to show them sympathy because they are “still unmarried.” There's one word for these unnecessary comments, and you may want to add it to your dictionary- rude.

Next on our list of faux pas is our behaviour toward others. Just because someone is younger than us does not mean they do not deserve respect. If someone greets us with a friendly hello, Salam or even a smile, it is polite to acknowledge that, even when we are in a bad mood. It is extremely impolite to dismiss someone when they are trying to be pleasant, be it our child's friend or someone who works under us. This is also true for other situations such as issuing instructions or delegating tasks to someone at work, placing an order to a waiter in a restaurant and talking to one's students in school- being nice never hurts, if anything people will respect us even more for it.

Speaking of workplace etiquette, we have some serious improvements to make in that area. For example, men must avoid giving their female colleagues a once over everytime they talk to them. Also, no matter how difficult it may be for us to control ourselves or how close we think we are to them or how “chilled out” they may be, we must NOT make sexually inappropriate comments or jokes in front of our colleagues in our workplace- you never know when you might end up crossing a line.

Knowing the names of our colleagues and addressing them respectfully is also something we often fail to keep in mind. Calling someone by their name is much better than referring to them as “ai chele” and addressing them as “apne” rather than “tumi” unless they give you permission to do so, is also good practice.

Other things we may want to avoid doing in a work place are- talking loudly across the room (or on our cell phones) or listening to loud music when people are trying to work, raising our voice to a colleague when neutral tones can be more effective, borrowing things without asking (even if it is just stationary), and going through a colleague's desk/ computer/bag in their absence. Most importantly, being late to work, refusing to apologise to the boss if we are late or unable to make it and regularly missing deadlines without a good excuse- are just a few behaviours that are viewed as inconsiderate if not downright unprofessional.

Work may be a formal place but being in a social gathering outside work does not mean we can go back to being our usual uncouth selves. Lets start with table manners-an area that can use considerable improvement. It is rude to clear our throats loudly, pick our nose/ears, make gagging/spitting noises and talk with our mouths full at the dining table (or anywhere else). Bones should be placed on bone plates or on one side of our own plate and NOT on tablemats, because that is really not what they are meant for. Reaching over someone's plate to grab something (saltshaker) and touching serving spoons with our dirty hands is also considered rude. Gargling, burping and blowing our nose, at the table at the end of a meal is also highly inappropriate.

Bragging about how much money we have, and the price and brand of every item of clothing and jewellery we wear is quite needless and may be considered more than just a bit crude.

If we are a guest at someone's house or at a restaurant and are using their lavatories, we must remember not to splash water all over the place when washing up. We must remember to clean up after ourselves and flush the toilet if we have used it. We must also remember not to touch the doorknobs or taps with our dirty hands or after we have applied soap on them. This courtesy should also be extended at home and at our work place facilities.

As guests in someone's home, we must also refrain from walking into their bedrooms and inspecting their personal belongings. We must never ask their domestic help how much they are paid and personal questions about our hosts.

When we are meeting up with someone in a one on one situation, we must remember that it is rude to talk on our cell phones while the other person is waiting, especially if it is not an emergency. Speaking of cell phones, there are certain rules of decorum that go with carrying one. Let's start with turning them off or putting them on silent, when we are at a meeting or a show. When someone does not answer our calls, we must either send them a text message or be patient and let them call us back (which they will do if they know their manners). It is impolite to keep calling people repeatedly, especially at odd hours.

Lastly, if we are striving to be a part of a polite society, we must also observe street decorum. Everyone knows it's hard, but we must try to stop ourselves from spitting on the streets, enjoyable as it might be. While it is true that public bathrooms are disgusting, we must remember that it is even more undesirable to smell, much less walk on excrement, and stop peeing on the sidewalks- if women can hold it till they get to a restroom we have complete faith that men can too.

Not a very long list compared to the one we had to make when we had a superficial lifestyle makeover right? There may be sacrifices involved but the end result really makes it worth not being our real selves. Good luck!

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