At the elevator

June 14, 2008 at 6:42 pm 15 comments

It was a cold winter morning when I saw Karen Ridd, one of my former supervisors, at the lobby of the building where I work.

“How are you this cold morning?” I said.

“Good. How are you?” she said.

“I’m fine. Thank you,” I replied.

Then from around the corner appeared Ate Ces, holding a cup of coffee.

“Oh, hi Cat,” she said.

“Hello. Early morning coffee, eh?” I said. “I think I’m also gonna need one today.”

The elevator opened and we all went in. And so did another lady I didn’t know. Just before the door closed, Ate Lits came in.

Aba, ang aga mo yatang nagsimula ngayon,” she said. Yes she was talking in Tagalog.

“Oh, I start at 8:00,” I said.

Hindi, siyang kinakausap ko,” she said, pointing to Ate Ces.

And then they started this conversation on how Ate Lits had been decorating her cubicle with Christmas decorations, still in Tagalog.

You have to realize now that there were five of us in the elevator. Three Pinays (female Filipinos) and two whites.

I feel awkward talking in my native language when there are non-Filipinos around. I don’t want them to think that we are talking about them. But then, on the other hand,I don’t have a problem with people of other ethnicity talking in their language if I am around. But I think if you are in a business place, such as the office, or a more confined space, like the elevator, it’s not, I don’t know what word to use, appropriate (?).

I remember one incident a few years ago when there were three of us Pinays in the washroom. Ate Lits was also talking in Tagalog at that time. I pointed out to her that there were other people around. I think she said that she didn’t care. She’s more comfortable talking in Tagalog and we were in the washroom anyway.

There were a bunch of us Pinoys that used to eat together at the cafeteria and we talked in Tagalog. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that because it was just us, all Pinoys.

When Ate Lits is at her workstation and she’s talking to a Pinoy co-worker and there are non-Pinoys around, I think she talks in English.

But the elevator incident, it didn’t look right to me.

What do you think?


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15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Abigail Santos  |  June 14, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    That’s an odd situation. Were you getting any weird looks from the non-Pinays?

  • 2. sesame  |  June 14, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    I feel the same as you. It’s basic courtesy. If we’re around pple we know, I think it’s fair to communicate in the language that all can understand. If others communicate in their language in front of me as a group, I wouldn’t mind as long as it’s just a sentence or two.

  • 3. Kyels  |  June 14, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    I think it is not appropriate b/c there are non-Pinoys around and like you said it is basic courtesy to respect them that they do not understand the native language. Well, I would not mind if I was in the elevator, but others would b/c all of us differ, diba?


  • 4. Abaniko  |  June 14, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    For me, it’s just okay as long as you were not loud. Why do we always adjust to the Whites? When they come over to the Philippines, do they try hard to learn our language so some people who don’t have a good grasp of the English language will understand them? Nah! But it’s a different thing if you are in a company with them. All should speak a common language so everyone understands. 🙂

  • 5. ths59ers  |  June 15, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Hmmm I tend to think the same way as Abaniko does. You might be in a public place, but you’re not socializing. It’s just a brief way up and down the elevator. I guess it’s okay, as long as you’re not loud. Now, if you were dining together, huddled together (as in a party, a meeting, etc.), then that’s different. It would be rude to speak in a language incomprehensible to the others.

  • 6. annamanila  |  June 15, 2008 at 9:35 am

    I think it was alright as long as you didn’t call too much attention to yourselves. You didnt laugh nor banter out loud, did you. But in a social and muli-cultural setting, you don’t do that.

  • 7. niceheart  |  June 15, 2008 at 10:05 am

    Hi Abigail. I was actually watching Karen’s face for any reaction. But she didn’t show any. And the next time I bumped into her, which was probably within a week from that incident, I felt so awkward like I want to apologize for it. But I think she was cool about it. Thanks for dropping by, btw. 🙂

    Sesame, yes, basic courtesy. I think that’s the word I was looking for.

    Kyels, yes, that’s true. We all differ. Different strokes for different folks.

    Abaniko, you make a very good point there. Nothing against them, but that’s true, they don’t try to learn our language, at least not that hard, when they are over there.

    ths59ers, Ate Lits happens to have a loud voice. And I was relieved that I was the first one to get out of the elevator on the 6th floor. Ate Ces would have gotten off on the 7th and Ate Lits on the 8th.

    Annamanila, I just kept mum and let the two talk between themselves. As I’ve said, Ate Lits tends to talk loud, but they didn’t laugh or banter or anything like that.

  • 8. caryn  |  June 15, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    ugh. i know what you mean; it just seems so impolite. i mean i guess that people sort of miss speaking in their native tongue, but its just so awkward for the other people present. i have a co-worker who does that all the time and i make it a point to answer in tagalog only if we are alone in the room, otherwise i answer in english. true, in the end it all boild down to basic courtesy.

  • 9. Daphne  |  June 16, 2008 at 2:46 am

    I think it is impolite to talk in a foreign language when there are other people who don’t understand. But I’m afraid that it is a common practice among Filipinos to simply be tactless without realizing it. hehehe

  • 10. haze  |  June 18, 2008 at 3:43 am

    If I were caught up with here in the elevator , I would have started a conversation with Karen Ridd just to avoid the feeling more like an outcast. :D. I often do it when I am with SOME Filipinos who doesn’t want to make an effort (or they are probably awkward) to speak French when French are around or I just simply tell them if they find it hard to talk in French, English will do where everyone understand it 😀 !

    Totally agree with everyone here, respect and courtesy especially when there are non-Filipinos around. I am married to French and we speak French or English whenever we are with friends (non French and Filipinos). I speak Tagalog with my close friends and translate it to my husband (but he told me he understand the subject). There are SOME Filipinos who are insensitive about what others may feel but then again, these basic values are learned at home.

  • 11. watson  |  June 18, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Well… if the other people in the elevator are complete strangers, then I guess it’s just ok to speak in our local dialect. But if we know them, then it’s common courtesy to speak in a language they will understand…

    I live in a condominium kasi and there are Japanese people here. They talk in Japanese of course inside elevators and it’s ok with me because I don’t know them anyway.

    Just my two cents worth.

  • 12. julie  |  June 20, 2008 at 2:01 am

    There are instances when talking in our own language seem rude, like in a discussion or in a forum, or perhaps in the office setting. But when in a place where there are people you don’t know and you are not engaged in a discussion with them, I guess its ok naman.

    But even then, I feel uncomfortable when my inlaws talk in their language even if we are in the midst of a discussion kasi they thought I don’t understand when in fact I know what they are talking about and sometimes its about my children.

  • 13. bw  |  June 21, 2008 at 8:18 am

    I’m one who feels a little rude when I speak in the language when other nationalities are within hearing distance. But you’re right, other nationalities esp Chinese and Indians don’t seem to give a damn so now I’m really thinking – why should I ? I just feel we Pinoys are a bit more respectful people.

  • 14. pining  |  June 22, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    because I live in a very multi-cultural society, it has become a common thing to hear different languages not only in trains or buses and malls but also in the workplace, so I have got used to it and I don’t find it rude at all. Yes, I agree with bw, I think we Filipinos are very sensitive and respectful.

  • 15. Bernadette Anne  |  July 23, 2008 at 5:42 am

    Hello. I’m new to your site and I stumbled upon your post. I agree with Jason. If I knew the other people in the elevator with me and are included in the conversation, I would make an effort to speak in English. But if I do not know them, nor are they part of the conversation, I would continue speaking in Tagalog.

    Sometimes too, we Filipinos have this terrible habit of speaking Taglish, like it was the “in” thing. I remember once when I visited my parents in the Philippines and was talking to my friends in English, I heard someone comment behind me, “Pa-English-English pa. Pinoy naman silang pareho.” I even get called on this nasty habit by my husband who couldn’t understand why the Filipinos he knew couldn’t and/or wouldn’t communicate in our own language. Which is understandable because whenever he comes across fellow French speakers, they speak in French regardless if people around them couldn’t understand them.

    I tell him, it is not courteous to speak in French when there are people who do not understand French. It is a matter of courtesy. For him, if the majority of the people in a conversation are French speakers, it is not rude but common logic.

    But I think it is all give and take.


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