Getting compliments

Being in Sweden has changed my attitude towards compliments. In Germany, be it in school or university, I or we were quite used not to hear many compliments; except nerds (forget for a second that I am a nerd, actually I am not; just a wannabe nerd, so keep on) could get some German compliments, like “Gut! Sitz! :). But being in Sweden, has changed everything. Here (not in Italy) everyone is doing bra (good), or more often mycket/jätte bra (very good) and equally often everything one does is bra jobbat (well done/performed). First it seemed strange to me, but with time it felt good, really good and I think it really animates students to do more. Here in Italy people are lazy to say it, but use instead their thumb to show that something is well done. But, whenever I go out with our son, I get a lot of compliments. I do not know why and for what, but it has something to do with our son. I just filter the words complimento, bambino and bellissimo out of a string of Italian words. It feels strange to get compliments for something one can’t control actively (appearance of an infant) and additionally as a Muslim you are supposed to read two prayers from the Quran (looking for the English term of it; German: Schutzsuren; Arabic: Mu’awwidhatayn; Turkish: Muavvezeteyn) each time you are getting excessive compliments; so you can imagine how much we murmur if we are outdoors in Italy.

So after all the years in Sweden I still haven’t learnt how do deal with compliments. Additionally I spend two years of my childhood in a special school were we got lots of compliments, but it all didn’t help much. (Keeping this in mind my old teachers might think that schools in Sweden are generally special schools) Maybe it is because I figured out that they complimented us without having accomplishing something, just to make us feel good or to motivate us. Now, some 20 years later, I still feel that compliments are not distributed with caution. For me it is the same with with food. If you didn’t accomplish your goals for the morning, why should your stomach get an reward? (Try to tell that to an Italian in respect of his coffee breaks; they even drink it if it is hot and the only thing I can see is icecream or cold water) I think, nowadays, many things are just said without reason or meaning, just for the sake of smalltalk.

That is also what I dislike in conversations with especially Turks (as already mentioned here and here) or Arabs (mainly males have this “disorder”). I suppose it is a cultural thing, and not meant to tease me. Imagine you meet a nice Turkish or an Arab guy and you start a conversation. Normally the question “How are you?” comes up. This would happen one time in a “normal” conversation (twice if we consider both parties). But almost all Turks or Arabs I have met (not all of course, but statistically it is the majority of those whom I have met so far) repeat this question or rephrased after 2-5 minutes. Until some years ago I always repeated my (same) answer and kindly asked them as well (like a while loop). But since few years I stoped answering the same question (no matter how smartly they rephrased it) and interestingly they don’t seem to notice or to react to this. But I still felt like loosing time in a conversation or felt even annoyed so I started telling those guys to stop asking me and even to ask me at all, because if I wasn’t in a good health or state they would either see it or I wouldn’t stand in front of them. I told the latter of course only to extreme ones, most others got only the request to stop asking me after the first time; but also those stopped asking me at all. The conversation in time has reduced a lot, much more than I thought. Imagine how much time one looses with repeated phrases, where the answer even doesn’t seem to have an impact. My behaviour wasn’t seen as a attempt to save us from empty talks, but as an insult. So I suppose it is an cultural thing and I have to be careful with things I say. Sometimes it would be useful i in real life to have the internet chat function “busy” or “appear offline”.


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July 2007
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