Thank you, Sir! Sorry, Sir!

Oh, okay – so we don’t really sound like that in London, well… not with the ‘Sir’ added anyway, but the following scenarios do take place.

In the supermarket queue

You bump your trolley into someone else’s.

You: Oh, sorry!
Other person: Oh, I’m so sorry!

You take your change from the cashier in a shop

You: Thanks.
Cashier: Thank you.

As you can see, it’s politeness overload, and I simply love it!

It’s been 8 days since I’ve been here in good ol’ Landan (no, not a typing error – try saying that outloud to hear how it sounds) and it has become overwhelmingly clear how profusely polite us Brits are. I may have lived here for 24 years of my life (no, I’m not 24 years old!), but it took going to the land of madness (aka Egypt) and coming back on a holiday to the UK that made me realise just how much we use our pleases, thank yous and even apologise.

Don’t get me wrong, Egyptians aren’t necessarily rude… well… not necessarily, it’s just that us Brits like to show appreciation – a lot – and so if someone doesn’t say please or thank you they are deemed as being rude.

My Britishness rubbed off on me so much when I first came to Egypt, that ‘shukran’ and ‘ana asifa’ were my most-used phrases, and because I wanted to be super-polite, I even came out with ‘shukran geddan’, which I was later told should be ‘shukran jazeelan’, which I was later told to be just ‘shukran’ because no one actually said ‘shukran jazeelan’ as it was too formal. That boggled my mind since I couldn’t understand how saying ‘thank you very much/ a lot’ was considered formal – it was just my way of saying ‘hey, you rock!’.

The above scenarios would not play out like that in Egypt, and honestly, people have looked at me a little funny when I’ve been at a restaurant and said ‘shukran’ every time the waiter brings something to the table, be it a menu, a napkin or even the bill (check). And because people are so shocked, the normal response of ‘afwan’ becomes ‘al-afw’ with so much enthusiasm that it leaves me wondering why they’re so eager to say ‘you’re welcome’.

And now having visited London for just a short while, I’ll probably go back to saying ‘shukran jazeelan’ no matter how formal it sounds, because saying ‘thank you, sir’ and ‘sorry, sir’ is much more formal, I think.

– The Londoner


Posted on December 30, 2010, in Ramblings, Snippet of Moi and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. us ‘brits’ are infamous for our over-politeness…(it works ere-but, egypt nah lav) …you know the saying ‘when in rome..’

  2. I am the same, always saying shukran, ana asfa, even ‘sorry’ since people understand it here. There are a few who will say sorry when they bump into me, some will say thank you if something happens, so it’s not all bad here, there are a few gems in the middle of this huge haystack lol

  3. I can’t believe that you actually wrote this.. “overwhelmingly clear how profusely polite us Brits are “.. ;P) .. well … Egyptians tend to help strangers and smile more to them than Brits do… (regardless their real intentions beyond this) … and Egyptians use other words like Eshta, Basha, sabah elfol, sabah el gamaal, howa dah, awia ya pop, ya me3allem, habeeb harti, eshta 3aleek, el king, motshakker, el boss, ..etc to show their appreciation… it’s a different culture .. it is a rich one…unbreakable and coded with mess… needs a lot of time to grasp its real values… adorable isn’t it!

    • Ya Tamra! We may be a little ‘cold’ but we are still polite. We may not be smiley and want to be best friends with strangers when we meet them, but when we bump into someone in the shopping mall, we don’t just walk past… we stop and apologise. This hasn’t happened yet in Egypt. 🙂

      Hey! You’re defending Egyptians? *gasp* I understand what you mean though, but those phrases you mentioned are phrases of affection or endearment, I think. Isn’t that the case?

      • Too frequent bumps in here.. Too many people around.. Too much stress… Too harsh life styles…Too pessimistic points of views around.. Too risky work environments… Too messy streets… sounds logic not to stop for apologies… I guess !!.. about those phrases…it depends on the way you say it.. the same word can be used to transmit many different and even opposite meanings or feelings.. it depends. …

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