Sunday, November 9, 2008

HOLA, ALOHA, HEY etc etc

How does one greet another? A simple gesture of waving, an Hola or Aloha, or even a Hello. I went to a local grocery store and a middle-aged Anglo woman greets me with an "Hola". I try not to take offense to anyone who mistakens me for a Hispanic, native American, Samoan, Chinese, or etc etc. There aren't many Filipinas in these parts. Here's a little information on the Philippines: For the purpose of this story I shall refer to white persons as Anglo(s). If it offends anyone, please accept my apologies. People get confused about my ethnicity all the time.

All I think I really want is for people to be more culturally aware and politically correct in their choices.

When I was in college, I went to a local Wal-Mart and one of their greeters stopped me. She wanted to know how to say Aloha in Hawai'i. So, without thinking, I said Aloha. Then, she started asking about the weather and culture. After 10 minutes or so of trying to explain that I was not a native Hawaiian, she still didn't hear me. I don't remember how I "got away".

Another example, about a year or so ago, I was in Pets Mart and a I noticed a (Anglo) lady was following me around the store. After 10 minutes of this, I became a little paranoid, so I just stopped. I stare at her and she starts talking in Spanish, so I reply to her in Spanish. (In college, I minored in Spanish, so I understood her.) She was looking for a Mexican dress maker. She could have easily been a Spanish-speaker with blonde hair or so I thought. She started talking louder like I was deaf. So I just said "do you speak English", and she replied "yes". The end of the story is not completely important.

So the whole reason for this blog rant was the Hola Anglo lady at the grocery store. I have to give her credit for being somewhat enthusiastic about saying Hola, but it was funny that I just replied Good afternoon and she did this double-take look of confusion. I had let her down; I wasn't a native Spanish-speaker.

These types of situations happen to all of us. Even non-English speakers think because I look like them, I can speak their language. Well, they're wrong. My Spanish-speaking skills are not stellar; my Tagalog-speaking skills are a little better but not by much. Frankly, I feel that my English-speaking skills are not clear to some. does this relate to the library world?

Ok- the first lesson is to ask "Do you speak English?" The second lesson to remember is that non-English speakers are not deaf. The third lesson is that gestures help in most situations, but be careful if you choose to communicate in this method. Fourth, non-English speakers are people. Fifth, be aware that non-English speakers come in all shapes, sizes, hair and skin colors. Finally, being culturally aware and politically correct are things everyone should try to remember. Step out of your world, see people as who they are not who you want them to be. It's difficult to do, but all we can do is~ TRY.


Biker Librarian said...

People ask me all the time if I'm from Sweden. I just say "Ja" and move on. Seriously though, the greeting I taught the kindergartners this morning was "Howdi Do Sir Doodle Do". I think that covers everyone you meet, so they should be good to go now.

Mara said...

Hmm...I should become Swedish...that's kind of cool...JAAAA...a Swedish Filipina would be kind of awesome.

Biker Librarian said...

Ja! You should! A hairdresser could make you blonde and you'd totally look Swedish.