People can either get respect or earn it. In Indonesia we are tought to respect older people. What do you do when older people don’t respect you as the young(er) one?
I recall some scenes I experienced at wedding parties in Jakarta. Wedding parties during my time living there were mostly standing receptions with buffet. There would be several stands to choose for, varied from the appetizers, main courses to desserts. At the dessert stand, when queuing for the oh very delicious looking dessert, an older lady cut off the line by saying “please make some room for me, the older one, I’ll get only one portion”. By saying this, she jumped the queu just like that, leaving us who were patiently waiting for our turn, looking at each other in disbelief but nobody said anything.
During my second visit to Jakarta at the year 2000, I experienced the following at the Hero Supermarket at PI-Mall. I was queuing, the third of 5 queuers, for the cashier. A lady (I wonder, why I experienced only ladies on this subject?) went directly to the cashier, neglecting the queuers. She said to the cashier “I only have two items to pay”. I can tell you, I was assertive enough then to firmly tell her to join the queu at the end of it. My little sis who was with me at that time, whispered to me “Kak, don’t make any scene, please”, but I insisted by nodding to the lady to do so. I noticed that the cashier herself was starting to feel awkward about this. Finally, the lady went to join the queu at the back!
Another example: the age difference. I do call people who are older automatically Mas or Mbak (Javanese) or Bang, Uni, Usi, Kakak (it depends where they are from) which shows that I respect them. What I do mind is people who address themself during the very first conversation with me, assuming that I am younger, as Mbak X or Mas Y. It feels as if they forced me to do so. In some cases they are just 2 or 3 years older or even worse, some are younger than me!
The above are examples from Indonesia. Here, I experienced some too. On the phone at the office, by the first conversation, when people start to Tutoyer (it is like loe gw in Bahasa Indonesia) with me instead of Vousvoyer (this is the Anda form in Bahasa Indonesia), I show that I don’t appreciate this by emphasizing their tittle “Ok, so you mean Meneer or Mevrouw…”.
Last example, it happened in the train in Utrecht. It was rush hour in the afternoon. I was sitting in front of a young man who had his baggage (seemed that he came back from travelling, looking at an airline nametag attached his bag..) on the empty seat next to him. A lady came in and immediately sat on this young man’s bag without asking (for the manner’s sake) “May I sit here?”. That young man and I shared a glance of WTF???. A second later he told her politely to relax, she would get this seat anyway. I admired him, cause he managed to react calmly.
You can be respectful to other people not only by the way you address them, but the way you treat them as you would like to be treated.