CHARLOTTE – Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland One of my favorite quotes from “Alice in Wonderland” is this: “It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.” Whether you are trying to understand international news, the culture and etiquette of a local place, office dynamics, the ways in which business is done abroad or a particular foreign language, just when you think you are beginning to understand, something happens.

I meet many expatriates who share with me how they find it hard to make the best use of their time. Here are a couple of excerpts of letters from Today’s Zaman readers that we can probably all relate to in some way.

“Dear Charlotte, the other day we decided to drive through and order some food at a fast food place. I placed a simple order which took longer than expected.

The person taking the order was nice but could not understand me when I spoke Turkish. I’m sure my Turkish was understandable even though when I asked for ketchup, she even gave me a blank look.

” From Martin (Istanbul). Dear Martin, Your experience reminds me of something I read in the book “Dave Berry Does Japan.

” The author relates a similar incident in which he is trying to ask for ketchup. The young person behind the counter was polite but could not understand what he wanted.

The waiter even brought two more people over to try to figure out what Dave wanted. By this time, Dave was using the gesture for “ketchup,” which is to pound the bottom of an imaginary upside-down bottle while repeating the word ketchup many times.

At least you did not have to resort to that! You are right that the simplest things can take longer Another possibility is that they were enjoying listening to the foreigner Let me just share a funny story here from my piece, “Get out of the rut of daily doldrums” (Oct. 17, 2009) that happened to my British friend visiting in America “A British friend went to America with me for a couple of weeks.

One day we had a long road ahead of us and needed to keep driving but felt hungry. We drove through a fast food place to get a quick bite.

As my friend gave our order to the speaker on the post she ended each sentence with the words ‘Thank you’ or ‘Please.’ The person taking the order seemed to be asking her a lot of questions about our order It was taking a lot longer than it should have to take an order My friend kept replying graciously with replies such as ‘Yes, please’ and ‘No, thank you.

‘ Finally, I clued in to what was going on. By this time the young girl inside had told us to drive around to the window and pay.

When we drove up to the window, three of the members of staff were crowded around the window to greet us and the first words out of one girl’s mouth were, ‘You are not from around here!’ What gave it away? Clearly most people who drove through the fast food lane were not so polite and did not express their gratitude for their assistance, and the other reason was obvious — the London accent.” “Dear Charlotte, Dealing with repairmen can be so time consuming.

They never seem to come with the tools, etc., they need.

Don’t get me wrong I love living in Turkey, but I find that it takes a lot longer to get anything done. I don’t think it is because of a language barrier, etc.

When I watch Turks in a situation I observe the same — nothing happens quickly! Watching the electrician and carpenter go about their work looked as though they worked against each other” From Amanda (Levent). Dear Amanda: I can sense your frustration.

It is not easy to motivate ourselves and it certainly is not easy to motivate others, especially if they are people from different backgrounds, who have different approaches to how to do things and different worliews on time, etc. Let me share another wonderful quote from “Alice in Wonderland,” which goes like this.

“‘Well, in our country,’ said Alice, still panting a little, ‘you’d generally get to somewhere else – if you ran very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.'” “‘A slow sort of country!’ said the Queen.

‘Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!’.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman