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I'm a client paying for my take-out at a small authentic restaurant and quite pregnant. The female asian clerk is laying it on thick with:

"Are you sure there is just one in there?

= Yup! Just one!

Really?!?! That can't be!

= I tend to get big, it was the same for my first, I got a lot of comments."

"When are you due? It must be soon?"

= Sometime in mid-November...still quite a way to go!"

staring at my belly with wide surprised eyes ...and more.

The place is pretty small, it sits maybe 20 people at most. It's mostly a counter with a little grocery. The lady was about my age and quite loud.

I'm assuming she may not be native to the culture because she had a pretty thick accent, possibly Japanese.

I could tell she wasn't ill-intentioned but a bit clueless of local etiquette. I've had a lot of similar comments from other local workers but they're not typically as loud or expressive and a bit more careful.

I wasn't angry and played along to an extent as to not make her uncomfortable (and I'm getting used to this). It got me wondering however, that if it were me, I would want to know if I was doing something rude in a culture that isn't my own.

I don't go there very often but often enough to recognize workers' faces. She seemed to be a new employee.

How could you let someone from a different culture know that they are doing something rude without putting them on the spot in the workplace?

  • Asking "are you sure there's just one in there?" sounds like it could be simply more rude than culturally insensitive. Have the others made that joke too, or do they just ask about the pregnancy? – user8671 Sep 19 '18 at 14:51
  • @Kozaky It was more than just that one question, there was a loudness to the interaction, like a lack of filter or an enthusiasm that made me feel like there was something else going on compared to my typical interactions in other contexts with locals – curious Sep 19 '18 at 15:05
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Interesting question. But is this really a cultural difference, or your personal preference? I'm assuming you are from a Western culture, and although I can see why you find the persistent questions about your baby bump to be rude, I don't believe everybody from your culture would feel that way. Even if the questions aren't phrased the politest way, I further believe that many people would make allowances for the other person's cultural background and their speaking in a second language. After all, I'm sure they don't think they are being rude - quite the opposite, they surely want your custom and are just trying to make general chit-chat.

From my own experience of expecting kids (and we're expecting one as I write this), it isn't always the questions you get asked that are rude, but the fact you get asked them over and over by different people that make them tiresome and unpleasant to answer after a while. And the reason I believe the same people ask the same questions over and over is because the information is way less important to them than it is to you, so they have no intention of retaining your answers when it is just friendly chatter. So next time they see you, they just ask again.

So, all that said, I don't feel I should be suggesting a way for you to say to her that what she is saying is rude in your culture. I think it would be better for you to say that you find it uncomfortable to talk about. Which is what I think the real problem is. And that is fine! Interpersonal skills is all about communicating, and we all have different feelings and different things to say.

Perhaps you could say, with a smile:

Everywhere I go at the moment people want to talk about my baby bump! I'd love to talk about something else for a change.

To really show that you're not being rude yourself, maybe raise a subject you would like to talk about. As the lady seems so interested in your baby why not ask her if she has kids?

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    Actually I'm getting used to the comments. I wasn't that annoyed by it though it is getting tiresome but there seemed to be something going on beyond my typical interactions that I'm having trouble pinpointing! – curious Sep 19 '18 at 15:20
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    I'm going to edit my question because I think I wasn't quite clear enough about the interaction - they weren't just persistent questions. – curious Sep 20 '18 at 0:03
  • And I wasn't that uncomfortable with her if I compare with the other typical comments I guess. There was a naive aspect to the interaction that clearly struck me as simply misguided. I was more puzzled than anything! – curious Sep 20 '18 at 0:16

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