Nailing the Nail Bar Chatter
One of the most important features of language is the ability to feel comfortable and understood. In today's modern age, are we forgetting to have, or simply avoiding, real conversations?
Has the bowed head, constant chatter and soft laughter of the manicurist, often in their native language, ever caused you to pause and wonder “what are they saying” or “why are they laughing at me?”
Or are the technicians oblivious, simply talking about their day to day business in their mother tongue, unintentionally coming off rude, with no idea that your offence reflex is slowly building until you decide you’re not going back there, ever again?
Is accepting a perceived lack of courtesy towards customers being overshadowed these days by a desire to be politically correct, for fear that you’ll come across as racist? Perhaps it’s time, as Elaine unsuccessfully tried in Seinfeld’s “The Understudy,” to speak an unspoken conversation.
There can be friction if a group can’t understand what the other is saying, sometimes unintentionally causing offence to be taken. Etiquette on speaking a foreign language in front of others essentially depends on whether someone is doing so to include others in the conversation, or to deliberately exclude them. While it’s always important to be conscious and considerate of those around you, the question remains: is it rude? During my last visit for a mani-pedi, the customer next to me was keen to share that she was using an App to eavesdrop on our manicurists’ conversation. It struck me that her doing so was, in my view, taking rudeness to a whole new level, but this time deliberately so.
Language, and as such, communication, is one of the pillars of our community ties. Without it, we can’t effectively connect with each other. Most nail bar customers have experienced manicurists speaking to each other in another language and sometimes, some of us feel put off by that and imagine they are saying something about us. And anyone with a teenager knows what it feels like to be physically in the same company, separated by a device that is consuming the other’s life.
For my part, I accept that it can sometimes be unpleasant for others not to understand what is being said in your company. One of the most important features of language is the ability to feel comfortable and understood. As people, we have an evolutionary drive to preserve that which is familiar to us. However, that doesn’t stop me going back in 2 weeks’ time to have my next mani-pedi.
Long story short, it’s essential to consider the emotional and cultural impact of our actions on each other. Generally, it’s impolite to speak another language in front of someone specifically because you don’t want that person to understand what you’re saying. The topic is not that black and white though, and it can be challenging to solve when it is dependent on different cultures and languages getting along with each other. However, if you’re response is to get out your own device and check your emails, or hold a phone call during your manicure, you’re arguably no better.
Interaction can only happen through sharing. So, if you feel it’s rude for someone else to speak another language in front of you, or be glued to their smart phone or device, expressing that feeling by encouraging an actual real time conversation is a good place to start. It’s better than using an App to eavesdrop or living your life on your device.
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