Culturally-tailored Conversation

1. As a student in the West, once upon a time, I had to learn some body language and non-verbal utterance of the Western people. Western people dislike verbal behavior the linguist called Hedging. However, in the Eastern culture, this is acceptable.

2. In the West, these utterances are exactly equivalent to wearing a big sign that says, “please kick me off”. In the East, they indicate politeness, as one keeps oneself lower than his subject masters.

3. Look carefully at these conversations; they should be avoided in the West as they indicate weakness and low self-confidence.

– “I know this is probably a stupid question, but…”

-“I am sure everybody else knows the answer to this question except me but…”

-“I know I am wasting your time asking this question, but..”

-“I know this is against the rules and there’s no point in even asking for an exception, but..”

4. Another advice is, don’t behave like a foolish doormat when dealing with Mat Salleh. You expect to be stepped on and don’t complain about it. Look at these conversations.

Lecturer: How many pages of assignment do you think would be reasonable for your project, Mister?

Student: Oh, I don’t know anything about that! You are the expert! Whatever you say is fine with me!

Lecturer: I think 200 pages should about to cover it, then.

5. asked for it. If you expect timbang rasa, perhaps think carefully. My students may expect that from me. Eastern people perhaps acquire a higher Theory of the mind – the emphatic feeling for others.

6. If you forget to read whatever it was that you were supposed to read, never let people find out. In fact, you should cover your deficiency by asking questions and ask for more clarification, explain that you’re not sure you understand. Westerners like discussion. Don’t mention if you failed to read something which your lecturer asked you to do so. Being honest in this case, in the West, means you bring yourself down to the gutter.

7. Honesty is appreciated in the East. Most lecturers will respect students who are honest.

8. The universal conversation that I find neutral in both East and West is when students approach me at every new posting: “I am here to introduce myself” and I will reply, “Welcome to the department”.

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