What’s the magic word?

Part of travelling is to learn about other cultures and be a richer person as a result.

Truth is people watching and reading decent articles is just as much fun. The problem with people watching is that judgements are made that ruin an otherwise tranquil sit on the grass at my one’s farmer’s market for example.

Let’s take a scenario that may not have happened last month.

I was sitting on the grass at my local farmer’s market. I had just made my purchases and decide to have breakfast and a hot drink before I headed back home. It was a beautiful Autumn day. Sunny but not too hot or too cold. It had not rained for a few days so the grass was not damp. Not one seagull nor pigeon in sight begging insisting that I give them food. (RUDE! Or is it?) I sat and for about 5 minutes, I munched and sipped and may have engaged in a conversation with my fellow sitters and people watcherers, until… A family sat next to me. Not only were they loud but the son was seemingly demanding as not once did he utter a please for a request or a thank you when it was granted. I started getting huffy (why was it my business?) and had to leave a short while later.

Why did it upset me so? I left thinking “over-indulged, rich brat”. I would never have gotten away with that as a child with any of the “older than me people” in my life especially my sisters. Even if my tone was such that a please was implied, I had to say it. Even if my tone was less than thankful, I still said thank you and it was accepted.

Later that week, I happened to be reading an article on manners and was astounded to find out that there are some cultures for which saying Please and Thank you is offensive because OF COURSE! I would do such and such for you or give you such and such.

I want to go back in time now and sit on the grass and watch the family with new eyes, mind my own business (paddle my own canoe, if you know, you know!), keep people watching and enjoy the Autumn day. Maybe even have another hot drink.

So, I will be more mindful of asking “what is the magic word” in response to children’s demands, and less eager to throw out Please, thank yous and whatever else I think shows the height of good manners. Well, I never! 

It makes me wonder if words are as important as the whole demeanour, gesture… Or is it the intention? It is like the greeting “Morning” annoys me but “Good Morning” magically transforms my day. Hardly anyone expects an answer to How are you and its variants – owrya? howzitgoing? yarright? orrogiht? what’s up? Words, words, words. They still thrill and excite me. 

What have you learnt recently that has changed your world view? 


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