Sunday, November 06, 2005

Looks and smiles

Yesterday, I was at Coles doing my weekly grocery shopping. Now Coles is the Australian's equivalent of our NTUC Fairprice, except that that it is a listed company and that it has a big rival in the Australian market in Woolworths (also affectionately called Woolies by Aussies).

A short aside, I always found the name
Woolworths to be quite a tongue twister...

Anyway, as I was saying, I was in
Coles, and was making my way to the ham counter. There wasn't really a queue system for this counter and everyone just stood around waiting on an informal first come first served basis.

There usually is just one
Coles employee serving the counter and that was the case yesterday. A plumb Caucasian young lady (sounded like a local by her accent when I overheard her ordering later) was ahead of me waiting to be served. Ahead of her was a guy who seemed to be buying a month's worth of supplies.

"And I would like 200 grams of that... and 500 grams of that..."

As I queued up behind the lady, she turned around to give me a "Looks-like-it-is-going-to-be-quite-a-wait" look. I replied with a grin and a "I-know,-it-often-happens" look.

Finally, the guy was done and it was the lady's turn. At that moment, a middle-aged chinese guy came along, stood in front of me and started looking. At the same time, another Coles employee came over to help out his colleague. The chinese guy took the opportunity to cut in front of me and made his order (I didn't have the presence of mind to note his accent and guess where he is from) to the new helper.

The young lady immediately turned around and looked half in disapproval, half in surprise at him. She was totally ignored. Then she turned to me and gave me that look of surprise too. I smiled again and gave a "Forget-it,-not-worth-the-trouble" look.

Now, here comes the unexpected part. She directed a "I-don't-believe-it" look of disgust at ME, took her ham and walked away.

One small incident, but it highlights so many differences between Australian and Singaporean culture. To me, that is the "fun" and meaningful part of staying overseas for an extended period of time, as opposed to a fortnight "stop-take-picture-board-bus" kind of whirlwind tour.

145 days to go.


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