I am repeatedly amused not only by others miscalculations of me, but on some occasions, of mine on other people. I like to think I read people well, but I am guilty – as are most – of making a once off summation, so to speak – of those after a few seconds of laying eyes on them.
This morning a guy came around to train me on WordPress as I am now responsible for my companies website and its no small task as we represent about 160 radio stations. I have the basics down, but the theme we have bought is new and has a whole lot going on that a self taught newbie like me doesn’t have the time to to spend wading through forums or you tube tutorials.
I was guilty first. He pulled up, and knowing his name I already knew he was Afrikaans. That single judgement wont make sense to anyone unless you understand South African culture. I am very English, and for the most part, our ‘way of going about things’ is quite different. They actually have heritage and cultural norms that involve addressing thier elders in respectful terms, and they are community and family oriented. The English on the other hand don’t share the respectful addressing of their elders sentiment. That’s not to say we are rude, but the Afrikaans have actual words for someone who is senior. I suppose you could say they are more conservative. In many ways. Even the rebel kids will still call an older person by the respectful terms.
Okay, so he pulls up. In a bakkie. Which for you non South African folk is like a small pick up truck. Small two seater with open topped loading space at the rear.
Now in these few seconds I have already decided that he is a PROPER Afrikaaner because he drives a Fiat Bakkie and it sounds like it’s falling apart. Unfair of me, but I did. I also for a moment wondered how good a trainer he was if he wasn’t making enough on training to afford a better vehicle. He had the accent, and the demeanor, but his brain was also full of what I needed to know, so… I would put all my prejudices aside for now.
Now – if you know South African’s you will also know that like in any other country, the accents vary even in regions. You can tell by listening to me that I grew up in the Northern Suburbs (the most affluent and wealthy part of the country) because compared to the rest of the country, I sound ‘posh’.
We start training and all is going well, and every time he tells me to do something, there is a delay between the question and the ‘please’ that follows. After the fourth or so time I laughed, because I found it amusing. Like saying please didn’t come natural to him and he had to mentally add it on at the end of any request. That made him self conscious, because he kept doing it, and I kept laughing.
Although much of what he started off with was basic – we ran through it anyway. Like embedding a YouTube link into a post. He asked me to ‘please’ click on YouTube and pick something. I was for a brief moment tempted to pick something wildly inappropriate but thought the Afrikaans in him may not cope with that so I typed ‘Bach Suite 1′.
The look on his face was priceless. I looked at him blankly, and he said: I never would have pegged you for someone who even knew who Bach was…’
I loved that. Because I had done exactly the same to him. The fact that HE could rattle off the names of other cello players….was mind blowing to me. Because it shows how often we underestimate people based on social stereotyping. Which, I am very guilty of. Let’s face it – those stereotypes exist for a reason, but it is not right to blanket entire groups of people.
I asked him why. he said I looked like a death metal fan. I smoked like a chimney, and because of the tattoo the size of a small country on my calf. (You know, because I have calves that are also the size of small countries).
So, we digressed (depending on how you look at it) to talk of classical music and artists and genres. And he eventually relaxed enough to smoke while training seeing as I was smoking up a storm next to him.
In an email to him before he came, I asked if he had asthma, or if he was allergic to cats – because I didn’t want to have to cart him off in an ambulance… as Marley malts everywhere and both James and I smoke a fair amount.
He said that after that email he was convinced I was a little old lady with 20 cats and that I chain smoked. Only one of those three estimations was accurate. Interesting… to me anyway.
Nice man. Good trainer.
… and I have referred him to a mechanic that my Jame’s works with.
People, and the way we see each other… a deep and wide topic… especially when you realise how fast you are to do it yourself.