Thursday, November 13, 2008



I was reminded of this acronym after reading a blog post from a young Cambodian woman who follows my blog. Knila is 20 years old and a student of Communications/Media. This is what she wrote on her blog
I met a ridiculous man!
The ridiculous man I mentioned used to be my teacher of English writing for communication. He is such a kind of 'difficult' man, a word Cambodians call a person who has difficulties thinking well. What you can be very annoyed about this man is that he always speaks highly of himself, gets you to appear so stupid and pathetic and beats you in every conversation without giving solutions to any matter he raises during the conversation.
He said he wanted to live in Cambodia forever, well, without telling us why he wanted to live in Cambodia. He tried to shoot you all the critical comments about Cambodia but at last he whispered," I love living in Cambodia", smiling at us.
I don't wanna sound so critical in this situation but I want to question how many foreigners in Cambodia behave like him. How many are taking advantage of this country mired by poverty and corruption? I think the matter should now be taken into Cambodians' hands.

This is the comment I left her:
"As an Asian I do know what you are talking about. These Westerners are found everywhere in Asia, not just in poor Cambodia. The Hong Kongers call them F.I.L.T.H (Failed in London, Try Hong Kong).

Don't worry too much about these idiots. Study hard and have a good education which will allow you opportunities. As they say, living well is the best revenge. Your loser teacher will never amount to anything, which is why he is here teaching in the first place--he can stand out in a place where there is no competition. You're different--you'll contribute to your society and be a somebody one day."

It used to drive me crazy listening to Western expats in Singapore brag about how they get good service by shouting and intimidating local staff. I have also met Westerners who say they don't give a toss about Singapore or Singaporeans; they are just in the country to make money for their retirement homes and nest eggs.

I also remember a time when air stewardesses from our national airlines, Singapore Airlines, got some flack for supposedly providing better service to Westerners than their own people. The argument provided by the SIA stewardesses was that Westerners are friendlier to begin with, so it inspires the stewardesses to be friendly back. Westerners, it seems, also say "please" and "thank you" more frequently. I don't want to get into an argument about this because obviously there are friendly and rude people from every nationality and generalisations like this will not get us nearer the truth.

Discrimination happens everywhere for all sorts of reasons, and it is not going to go away. I have a theory that Asians who kowtow to Westerners do it because they respect money. Money talks, no, money rules in this world. All you have to do is act like you are wealthy and you'll get respect. In the case of Westerners, they don't even have to act, just skin colour is signal enough (even though, clearly, there are also poor Westerners).

I have a common-law husband who is white (he's a Scot) so I do know that discrimination works both ways. We get "white man price" for everything in Cambodia whenever I am with Alan. So people who appear to adore Westerners and give them the rock-star treatment in this country are, at the same time, on the lookout to rip them off. (So if you think Cambodians adore you, be aware the adoration may last only as long as your money. In fact, Khmers have a saying: "There is no point loving a barang (foreigner), because will a barang come to your funeral?")

This is why at Bloom, we sell things at fixed prices. I do not care where you come from or what you look like. Everyone pays the same, fixed prices at our shop.


Tanya said...

Tis true negative discrimination does not discriminate. I have often been discriminated against for being young with obviously older children...teenage mother, uneducated, no money, solo mum....none of which are true (I just scraped past the teenage part before having number one son)In Singapore I often felt the 'shes lesser than me' vibe from expats...I dont wear the right clothes, I dont fit in, I dont have a maid and house staff, I dont look monied, I dont drink a lot etc and of course it is assumed by Singaporeans that I am just like 'all the other expats' so they look down on me too. Those Singaporeans in their designer wear look right past as if I am not there at all, even on the bus.I am kiwi so in the heavily dominated Aussie world of my partners work we are the poor cousin and discriminated against as such...we dont get the same benefits, we are treated differently both personally and professionally often quite blatently. It is a fact of life I am afraid and something I dont dwell on. I can however control how I behave and I can and have taught my kids to look past gender, age, sex, religion, clothes, looks, race and nationality and see the person as I believe we are all teachers and students of eachother.

Diana Saw said...

What a great attitude Tanya. I'm afraid you are right, discrimination and prejudice will always be with us, because people are stupid, ignorant, insecure or fearful. I am sorry about those Singaporeans you mention. Actually, it is funny, the other day three middle-aged Singaporean women with their Louis Vuitton bags came into the shop and one literally screwed up her nose as if Bloom was a bad smell! Our recycled bags were clearly not up her (nasal) alley! Hahahaha!


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