Friday, June 23, 2006

Orientalism in the age of globalisation

Being in Paris, which ranked 15th in this survey, I sure can vouch for the fact that the criteria were far too western... saying thank you, holding doors open, etc. Anyway, "Bonjour", "Pardon" and the ilk sound so mechanical on most occasions...

Mumbai disputes 'rudest city' tag

By Monica Chadha BBC News, Mumbai

People in Mumbai are upset - their city has been ranked rudest in the world.

India's financial capital came bottom in a survey by Reader's Digest magazine to find which of 35 cities was most courteous. New York came top.

"This survey is an insult," said one Mumbai resident Ritika Bajaj. "People here are accommodating and polite."

Cities were set three courtesy tests. Many in Mumbai, including the India editor of Reader's Digest, said the criteria were "too Western".

The judges' criteria were whether people opened doors for others in public buildings, whether they helped pick up papers dropped on a busy street and whether a shopkeeper said "thank you" when a purchase - big or small - was made.

Sixty such tests were performed in Mumbai.

Other Asian cities - Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul and Kuala Lumpur - also did badly. Zurich came a close second to New York and Toronto third.

Anshuli Patil, who works at the German consulate in Mumbai, said the results were "very surprising".

"People are very friendly and always helping others. I also find them very approachable," she said.

Mumbai resident George Pereira says there may be rare instances when people are impolite, but that could not be applied to the city as a whole.

Advertising film-maker Prahlad Kakkar says when he first came to Mumbai years ago, he did find people rather rude.

"Coming as I did from the north, I was very surprised with the way in which people spoke to strangers. But you realise this is only on the surface and people here have a heart.

"I think Mumbai and New York are very similar in nature and if the latter ranked number one, then Mumbai is up there too."

Mr Kakkar criticised the survey for using "Western" criteria to assess politeness.

Even the editor of the Indian edition of Reader's Digest, Mohan Sivanand, agreed.

"I think the reason Asian cities have performed badly in the survey is because of cultural differences. People here express their gratitude in other non-verbal ways rather than actually saying the word," he told the BBC.

"There was an instance when we bought something from a shopkeeper in Mumbai and he smiled instead of saying 'thank you'. When asked why he didn't say the words, he replied his smiling at customers means the same thing.

Mr Sivanand adds that at least 19 of the 60 Mumbai respondents were polite to researchers. "If these 19 are to be translated in terms of the city's population, then 32% or more than 4.5 million people are polite in Mumbai.

"That is more than the combined populations of some of the cities that ranked high up in the courtesy list."

1 Comments:

Blogger Paul Ancheta said...

That survey was truly dubious. I would want to see them do a courtesy test based on the number of smiles reciprocated by strangers, and see how the Western cities would rank.

9:27 PM  

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