Sunday, 11 April 2010

Look at me, I've got more money than you, you stupid poor person!

Right, I just have to ask you. Is it wrong that I get excited by the Syed and Christian romance in Eastenders? Friday night, Christian (the fit gay lover boy) said to Syed’s Muslim mother:
” I want Syed back. And I am gonna get him. “

Have been thinking, after the posting on the lack of smiles for expat+harem , that there is another quite interesting issue that emerges from the whole non-smiling topic.

You see, I said that Azeri girls did not smile to waiters and taxi drivers because they were supposed to act all shy and aloof with men in general. But then I thought actually, no. It is not just that.

You see, they could also be ignoring waiters and taxi drivers because to them, those guys are servants.

There is one major difference between the UK and back home. It is in how our rich people present themselves.

It is in every little detail.

When I had a baby, friends gave us gifts, flowers and cards. One of my friends, originally from Kazakhstan, brought a very generous gift. She was clearly very pleased with it. It was a beautiful little dress of a perfect shade of light pink.

There was just one small problem with it. The exquisite material had BABY DIOR carved into it. All over.

It was like that little dress was shouting into your face: “Look at me! I am a BABY DIOR dress! BABY DIOR! In case you have missed it all over my front, there are more letters on the back, too!”

There was simply no way I could put that dress on my child.

The worst part was that I knew my friend had probably spent a lot of money on that dress. She probably thought she was being generous and fashionable. Of course, it was a designer item!!

You might ask how is that story connected to the servants issue. Let me explain.

You see, the main driving force behind both the Baby Dior dress and ignoring the waiters is this overwhelming desire to show everybody just how rich you are. So you buy flashy clothes, presents with designer names all over them and drive fancy cars. But also, you act arrogantly towards all those that you consider servants, and therefore, below you.

Arrogance often comes in a package with money back home. You might think fine, that’s just some nouveau riche bastards. Yet, there is another, more pathetic category. People who are not rich but would really like for everyone else to think they are. Treating taxi drives, waiters and shop assistants like servants who don’t deserve a smile or a thank you is just an ex-Soviet, chushka attempt to appear rich and powerful.

Acting difficult to please would come straight after being rude.

Just what is this place, a McDonald's? Oh, this waiter has not got a clue, has he? Oh, please, you call THIS sushi?

And back in my Baku days, I, myself, might have not smiled to waiters. I don’t even remember. I probably would have never even noticed just how rude some of my friends acted in restaurants or shops. It is only these days, having lived in the UK for a long time, and having got used to everyone being obsessive about manners that I notice the difference. And it becomes painful to watch. I sit next to a wealthy friend of mine from back home in a restaurant, and I want to whisper to her: “Say “thank you!” please!” like I would to my four-year old. I wish I could explain to her just how arrogant and chushka she looks, despite all her effort to act cool. But I know there is no point. Who am I to teach her, an important rich lady, how to speak to servants?


  1. You've just described the way some Limean people act: like there were superior, which they think is the same as better, than waiters, taxi drivers or clerks.
    As if we'd be "better" just for having a brand new car (an SUV, of course), travelling abroad (US and Europe) or speaking a foreign language.
    I try to keep myself away from this kind of people. Just for mental sake... my mental sake.

  2. Hmmmm....this characteristic is somehow uniquely Azeri? Don't think so! Have seen this just about everywhere. In the US, we just call them a**holes!

  3. @Gabriela and Anonymous: Of course, I realize they are not unique characteristics of Azeries. I actually did say in a few places that I think all ex-Soviet countries probably suffer from it, and I guess a part of the problem is that the money is new. so they can afford nice clothes, but still have to work on manners. And still have to get used to the idea, somehow. :)
    But yes,of course there are people like that all over the world. I just can't speak for the whole world! :) I have not lived everywhere yet.

  4. It's kind of you to excuse the Brits, Scary, but I'm afraid we're as bad as everyone else. Some suggest it's a generational thing but it's not - rudeness is endemic in all age groups. As for equating wealth with superiority, we're worse because we also add hypocrisy to the mix by pretending we care about others. All part of the Thatcher/Blair revolution.

  5. @Bill: I know it happens here. As I said before, there are chushkas everywhere in the world.
    But believe me, if you went out with a kind of person I was talking about from the ex-Soviet country, you would know the difference. I know there are exceptions. I also realize there is a huge lot of hypocrisy. However, I would still maintain that overall, majority of people I have met and been hanging out with in the UK are extremely well brought up and mannered and are always nice to waiters. :) always.

  6. I would prefer hypocrisy to rudeness. I am honest.

  7. In my life I have met lot of rich people,although I am not.Most of them wear face mask,impression,like:"Do I know you?" and look through you,avoiding any contacts with your eyes,pretend not to notice your present.Arrogance of rich people is international,not only in Azerbaijan,but if honestly,compare with UK,English rich people more polite,friendly and hospitable..and very nice to waiters :-)

  8. I use to work with British guy, very intelligent, good-looking, big boss, reach and many other…
    He's badly pretending the smile on his face, and very often hardly says hello.
    He only talks to me and to others when he needs something.
    I understand that he is highflyer, but the arrogant bastard at the same time.
    And I don't se the difference between our local reach chushkas and same sort of foreigners

  9. I think we have to keep in mind that until about 20 years ago, people in the Soviet Union did not talk to waiters at all. A waiter in a restaurant was the boss and he could choose whether to serve a customer or not. Besides there were no rich people (or at least not openly rich). Everyone was the same and equal. It takes time to develop a culture of decent communication in a capitalist society.

  10. @Kashkamr: Come on, of course there are chushkas and douchebags everywhere, dont I know that! :)))

    But our chushkas are the best!...of the best of the best! :)

    @ Natalia: I dont remember waiters being bosses.... I do agree that shop assistants definitely were, especially in Moscow. Gosh...when I remember those women I start shivering even now. :) But hey, waiters still can do whatever they want- they can spit in your pizza and you will not even know. :)

  11. Not-so ScaryAzeri, thanks for this. As an expat newly transferred to Baku, I have been chastising myself for smiling or being eager to smile since I got here—I know it “marks” me as a foreigner, per your earlier posting on the subject. But I also realized last week that I carry so many other markers of being foreign, so I might as well embrace it all, and get over myself, and yes, if I want to smile, I’ll smile, dammit. And this post reminds me too that it’s okay if I smile at my waiter or at the girl in the grocery—in fact, I should, because you know what, I mean it! I may be perusing the “expat” stores and paying for the markup and the service, but I choose these establishments sometimes just because they let me shop and dine in a way that’s familiar and comforting, and I appreciate the patience of the checkout girl as I count out my manat, and the kindness of the waiter who doesn’t glare at me when I order a beer, so I will smile at them, my foreignness be damned! --CH

  12. @CH: Thank you for this heart-warming comment. Beautifully put, really. I loved your little details, like counting the manats. :)
    Azeries are, in majority, very hospitable and love visitors. Yes, you will always be charged the expat price, especially in taxis and at local markets. But there is no point trying to hide you are foreign, because as I said before, it is in every gesture you make. So you might as well be yourself, and people will accept you for that. :) Also, a lot of Azeries get pretty smiley once the initial contact is established, as I am sure you have already realized.

  13. That post and comments made me smile a lot! Have to admit – we have many arrogant people here, mostly because they are rich and/or posh. Just remembered how two receptionists (both English) in my office were complaining to me about a consultant who was visiting my team on the regularly basis – a very refined, and well-mannered (or so I believed) Englishman in his 70s. Apparently, he was always very rude, arrogant and…. don’t remember now what else they’ve called him … They were not happy and they have officially complained!!!! - R

  14. Hi Scary Azeri! A fellow Azeri here...

    As much as I agree with you that the arrogance of certain Philistines in Azerbaijan who woke up filthy rich after the fall of the Soviet Union is beyond scandalous, I must admit that it is often the waiters and the salespeople in Baku who provoke people (not necessarily the rich) to act in this manner. See, in Western countries, we are subconsciously prompted to smile because normally we deal with salespeople who are well-versed in the basics of good customer service. Unfortunately the ability of some salespeople in Baku to serve the needs of customers still leaves a lot to be desired. And of course, I don't mean those posh boutiques where they wear their nicest smiles from the moment you walk in till the moment you leave and which ironically 90% of Azerbaijanis cannot afford to shop at anyway. Salespeople at relatively affordable stores, often glammed up fifochkas with nominal post-secondary education, may assess your appearance and demeanour and mentally conclude that you're not good enough to shop there (recall the Rodeo Drive boutique scene in Pretty Woman) and act accordingly, or can tell you off if you inquire about a product in greater detail. Or if you're a guy, like in my case, an innocent question about an ongoing sale can lead such a fifochka to believe that you're out to get her number, and she will make sure to strike back with an attitude. And these are just a few examples. I mean, a casual smile is not a blessing when it becomes a norm, but when you deal with CSRs like these, you begin to believe some people don't deserve even that petty sign of appreciation.