Thursday

Adapting and Communicating in a Foreign Country

Distant pastures are always greener, this is true in every walk of life. Once, I used to think that living abroad would be a great pleasure. How naive I was! Now after few yrs of being an expat, I have mixed feelings and am trying to gauge my thoughts...

At first, in Kuching (East Malaysia), I enjoyed the pleasant climate and good-natured people. I used to communicate by sign language with a neighbor, because both of us didn't know a common language.

Later in Kuala Lumpur (West Malaysia), even though many spoke English, at first it was difficult to understand their accent and style. Others used to say the same thing about my accent as well. After being there for 5+ years, more or less I started to speak/communicate like locals.
Now, here in UK, for the first few days it was like re-inventing the cycle, in terms of communicating with the locals. At a super market till, the cashier asked me something twice and I couldn't catch it. It sounded like this:

Chu nida bae?
She had to repeat it for the third time and finally I understood that she was asking me:

do you need a bag?
I was a bit embarrassed and lamented about this to a friend. Um, well, her experience gave me more confidence because she told that in her early days, she could never understand anything, even if the same thing was repeated several times! Nowadays, to overcome this situation, whenever I travel in public transport or be in a public area, I try to catch up with the conversation that goes on around me, but the intention is not eavesdropping:)

So far, I have never heard should, must or for that matter they don't even use can you. They are always polite. Let me share an experience to show their politeness or rather use of language. When you travel by bus, besides regular stops, there are several Request Stops. If you happen to wait at this type of bus stop, you need to wave your hand, to signal the driver that you need to get in. Similarly, if you have to get down at these stops you need to press the red buzzer in the bus.

Say, if you were unable to reach the buzzer, you would be requesting someone nearer to help you, right? I would have probably said "excuse me, please press the buzzer". But, I overheard someone's request, which was: Could you please ring the bell for me? That too with a pleasant smile. After that, she was profusely thanking the other person.

Saying thanks and sorry for even very small incidents is a part of the British culture. A friend, jokingly commented that these phrases are too natural and sometimes it looks like automated words without meaning, but so far, I have not had any negative experience in this area.

In public, usually people are lighthearted. Once an old lady was finding difficult to get up from a par bench. Just then, I had an eye contact with her. Immediately she had a beautiful smile and quipped: I need a pair of new legs.

Ruins of Alampara Fort

Exploring new places that too without making any plans, rather like a nomad is the most exciting relaxation. After almost a year in Chennai, we went on a 'wild goose chase', well a rather calculated chase I'd say, because we already had a planned destination, but not the route or stops. Moreover, this was my first off beat experience on Indian roads. ECR (East Coast Road) reminded me of Kampung roads in and around Melaka, Malaysia, where I used to drive along the beach! After few stops for photo shoots, we chanced on an obscure board that directed to 'Amampara Fort'. Curiosity got the better of us and we decided to traverse on the unknown narrow road. And the reward was too good! 


As you can see in the above picture, that place was deserted and I was reminded of the climax chasing/fighting scenes in Indian Movies, where the hero/heroine would end up in desolate places amongst the gangsters. But, the sheer beauty was enough for us to get closer and check out that rusty boards, which might be boasting its glorious past.


Built by the Mughals in the 18th Century CE and gifted to the French. But, the fort was captured by and partially destroyed by the British.    


The most intriguing thing about this fort is that, it was a popular sea port in ancient India and was popularly known as Alamparai port. From here, silk, ghee and other exotic material were exported to distant lands. Come to think of it, the culture at that time was so advanced that this port had its own mint and the money was called as 'Alamparai kaasu/varahan'. Here is yet another view of this fort, which forms a mesmerizing silhouette.


The creaky wretched board at the site claims that this fort is maintained by 'The State Archaeology Department'. Just wondering, if they know the meaning of 'maintain'. It is pathetic to see that these impressions of power and identity of the past are not well preserved.


Wish we take care and cherish our treasures, which might help us to understand our past and probably shed some light on things that would eventually guide us in shaping our future!
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