Sunday, March 30, 2008

"Shu Man-Chu"?

When I first started working here in Abu Dhabi, I was quite proud of my work experience in Canada, where everyone at work had great understanding of different cultures, and rules and regulations were in place to ensure a harassment-free work environment. In fact, not only I was proud, I was maybe a little snobbish about it, thinking that I have seen it all.

Well, it didn’t take long before things started to bother me at work. A month ago, an Australian joined our team and we got along fabulously well. Then a few days later he walked into my cubicle calling me “Shu Man-Chu”! Now that did not sit well with me. In Canada, everyone knows how taboo it is to address co-workers by hinting his/her ethnic background. A few days later I jokingly mentioned my annoyance to the Australian colleague, who, to my surprise, was very offended that I didn't like it. You see, his logic is that it was a show of endearment and friendship. This was further confirmed after I confided with another Australian friend – apparently Aussies like to give each other politically-incorrect nicknames. Other examples of Aussie nicks include "Baldie" (for a girl!) and "Little Man". Q also reminded me that the Dutch are also famous for being very un-PC.

So after this and a few other incidents (such as an English colleague giving me fashion critism on my work outfit and calling another girl colleague ‘fat’. *GASP!*), I have come to a better understanding of the work environment here: Not only it is multi-cultural, but also multi-national! As much as confusing, it is also great fun and eye-opening experience. I just have to grow my skin thicker!

To end this blog posting, maybe it is best that I pull a survey and enlist everyone’s input: Do you think Shu Man-Chu makes a cute nickname for work?


Anonymous said...

I think it makes a very cute nickname Shu Man-Shu. That is: as long as it is ment to be positive and not offensive by the one using it.

But then again: that's only me, Peer, talking; expressing my opinion (being male, Dutch, caucasian with some Indonesian blood, 40, liberal, entrepreneur, home owner, car and motorbike driver, childless, reasonably considerate and open-minded (I think)). With the world becoming more global, multi-national and multi-cultural, there is a major point here. I guess the ONLY way to deal with this properly is an open-minded attitude towards each other, respecting each other and each other's values.

But even this open-minded attitude does not take away a fundamental dilemma: should Shu understand and accept the Ozzie and be happy with the well-intended Shu Man-Shu or should the Ozzie understand and accept Shu and just call her Shu?

(P.s.: do you notice how I do it myself without thinking about it: calling the Australian an Ozzie?)

Unfortunately I cannot solve the dilemma on this saturday morning, it does however once again show me a fundamental cause of some the conflicts going about in the world.

Heavy stuff where I thought I was just going to catch up with a nice blog over my first coffee....

My recommendation: enjoy the positive attention Shu Man-Shu !

Anonymous said...

A real nickname is given to you by nice people and can be everything.. also un-PC. When you're offended its about the people saying it, not about the nick-name :). There are many names I know and most are funny and un-PC and for "close connected".

You both may call me anything, by anybody can call me Dennis.