Cross Cultural Misperceptions

Writing about Linda earlier, reminded me of something else worth mentioning.

On her first night here, I explained some house rules, including to turn off electrical appliances (lights, air conditioning) when she wasn’t using them, because it costs money.  Later in the evening, she brought up the electricity issue with me, shyly saying “you gotta pay for electricity here?”. Yes. “But you got no power card?”. (The pay-as-you-go system used in most town camp / remote communities, whereby a little card that you buy at the shop slots into the meter and credits the house with so many $ worth of power).

I explained that I don’t have a power card, but every three months the man comes and looks at the box out there, and then they send me a bill. I got my last few bills out to show her. She was visibly surprised, and said “What about the other people along ‘ere , they gotta pay for power too?”. Yes, everyone does, noone gets free power. “Even the rich people?”. Yes, everyone! Did you think we got free power? “Yeah, coz you don’t have power cards, so we all think you got free power…… You pay rent too?”. No, I pay a mortgage, so that means this is my house, but the bank gave me a loan for it, and every pay day I have to pay the bank, and I’ll be paying them until I’m about 65 years old. If I stop paying them, then they might take my house away and sell it to someone else, so every pay day I have to pay them. Again, a big surprised look on her face, and again “What about along ‘ere?”. Well, some of them are paying the bank for loans, and some are paying rent. “And the rich people too?”. Yes, everyone is paying something, either rent or a bank loan, why, did you think we get free houses? “Yeah, we think these nice houses are for free for whitefellas”!

On her last night here, Grandad turned up from around the corner, having shuffled along with his walking frame.  When I answered the door I was greeted with “You never bring that baby to see me!”.  Yes I did, but you weren’t there! “Oh, yeah! Is ‘e ‘ere now?” Yes, come in and see him.

Kinship-wise, this little baby is the old man, and his wife’s, “uncle”. They call him “that little uncle baby”.

Later in the night grandma rang my landline from the community to ask me to call her daughter’s mobile, so I had grandma in one ear on the landline and aunty in the other ear on the mobile, conversing via me. Grandma wanted daughter to call her, so once I got it sorted out I said to grandma okay, she’s ringing you now. “Okay, I’m closing it off now”.

Grandad, Linda and I went out in my car that evening to visit Marcia, who was back in town and had called asking to see the baby before he went home the following day.  We piled into my car, and en route to Marcia’s accommodation, we stopped at the shop as Grandad wanted some cigarettes.

I got out to go in and buy them for him, and as I was paying, Linda appeared, to tell me that Grandad wanted me to buy him a lemon.  There was quite a queue and I’d already paid, so I said no, and we left the shop.

On our way out of the shop, a drunk woman approached Linda and was clearly harrassing her for money.  I interrupted and told her to leave Linda alone, which made her aggressive towards me.  I walked to my car and she followed me, apparently threatening me (in language).  I got into my car and reversed, then waved at Linda, who was being held back by this woman, to jump in the car quickly.  She did, and the woman reached through her open window and punched her!!

The security guard at the shop witnessed this, and we drove off before I rang the police.  They asked us to stay nearby, and within about forty minutes they turned up.  The drunk woman had hung around all this time, continuing to harrass the security guard, who took a photograph of her with his mobile phone, and as soon as the police arrived, she wandered off.  They made no effort to chase her, but seemed to think they’d find her – we were able to show them where she was walking.


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