Sunday, 12 January 2014

Be Who You Are, Not Whom You're With

I read just now at, but maybe she already deleted that post so none of you guys could find it. Or maybe it’s another blog, but oh well.

There’s a phenomenon in Malaysian youth, where guys and girls conversing among them selves with Arabic words such as ana (me), ente (you), antum (them).

It’s due to “enliving Islamic spirit”, a belief which made these guys/girls to use Arabic words in informal conversations.

I just remembered one incident when I was working in Dubai, UAE sometime around 2006-2007.

Our Malaysian Team at that time has just completed an extension job for District Cooling Project at Ibn Battuta Shopping Mall, unfortunately, the extension job that we did (installing few chillers, cooling tower, and other accessories), were pending for approval for power supply from DEWA (Dubai Electric and Water Authority).

Thus, my Malaysian seniors opted to go back, while I was chosen to standby there waiting for approval for power supply.

And so, I was there with no Malaysian guys to hang around, and I became close to the Filipino staff working there.

I had a talent to pickup words and so, it was natural for me to learn Tagalog and to speak with the fellow Filipinos. I even had a notebook, which I wrote down any new Tagalog words. And of course, the Kebayan Filipino ladies were cute, cuter than normal Malaysian ladies.

By the time I could converse quite well in Tagalog, we finally got the approval from DEWA and my seniors went back to Dubai to commence the Testing & Commissioning (T&C).

I still remembered what my senior told me when he saw me talking half-Tagalog to the Filipino staff.

"Yang kau tergedik sangat cakap filipino ni apahal, kau orang malaysia la bodoh"
(“What the f*** are you talking nonsense, you’re a Malaysian”)

It struck me deep.

The reason none of our Malaysian team learn or pickup any Arabic there in Dubai, is simply because there was no need to. Everything, the technical stuff, drawing, contract document is in English. The day to day job was done in English, conversing in English with the fellow Arabs, Filipinos, Brits, Indians, Pakistans, Bangladeshis, etc.

We gained no additional advantage if we speak Arabic to the Arabs there, no matter what, they will still look at us as foreigners.

In the case of Tagalog, since we are Malaysians and they are Filipinos, my act of “over-speaking Tagalog” caused us to be less respected, simply because there was no need to become over friendly. You can still maintain friendship talking in English, and no matter what, no matter how fluent you are, you are still a foreigner.

Being a foreigner in construction also means that people will always evaluate you, whether to cooperate or to take advantage of.

A year afterwards, I joined a construction company from Mainland China,  still working in Dubai and I still find this point valid.

It’s ok to learn Mandarin but be careful if you want to converse in one with them Chinese, because they knew you are a foreigner like them.

I wrote before, one Malaysian Chinese friend of mine, who pretended not to know Mandarin and talking in English with them, when actually this guy speaks fluent Mandarin as he had a Singaporean wife who speaks fluent Mandarin.

Few years then, I went to Bangladesh for another construction project, but I insist talking in English, even though I did write in my notebook of Bangla words.

And now, as I’m working within Malaysia, but surrounded by Bangladeshis (low cost labors), they always try to be friendly and teach some Bangla words, but I will still talk in Malay / English with them.

I always try not to speak “Chinese-slang Malay” with my Malaysian Chinese friends, simply because if I did, I look stupid. I will never look Chinese no matter how much Chinese-slang I speak.

Therefore, there was no need for me to use “ana” “ente” while conversing with a fellow Muslim, because if I did something shit, no one cares if I look like a Muslim or not, everybody just bother about the shit in me, none about my words.