So it’s still technically November (albeit not for much longer) and I’ve already begun my Christmas shopping. This would be all time record for me. As in a momentous, most-unlike-me type of record.
Especially considering that just a few short years ago, I was one of those last minute Christmas Eve shoppers scrambling to find the perfect gift in a microscopic timeframe, wearing that frantic expression that all last minute Christmas Eve shoppers seem to wear, the one akin to a kangaroo staring into dangerously close headlights (or a deer, if you don’t live in Australia).
But this self-congratulatory feeling of having graduated from the Christmas Eve chaos has been somewhat short-lived with the discovery that despite being a few steps higher on my personal organisational ladder, I haven’t exactly missed the pre-Christmas rush. In fact, I think I may have unwittingly stepped right onto the landmine of real pre-Christmas madness, and now that I’ve ventured into this terrifying terrain, there’s no turning back.
Although for a moment, I thought I’d found some welcome respite to the merry and not so merry madness. But alas, it was but an illusion.
During a rather ambitious gift shopping spree, I had found myself in possibly the only empty shop in the whole shopping centre with nothing but silent clothes racks for company.
Or so I thought.
No sooner had I breathed a sigh of relief at finding this respite, the sales assistant (I hadn’t spotted her before now) had all but latched onto me and preceded to talk at a rate more rapid than the rushing footsteps that sounded from outside of the shop.
The poor girl was probably lonely or bored or both, and within a few minutes I knew all about the weekend getaway aka girls weekend she was about to embark on with her mother, sisters, cousins and nieces, her plan on how she was going to tackle her own Christmas shopping, along with a detailed report on the shop’s business (or lack thereof) of that day.
In light of this, I can rather understand the bafflement that Chinese friends have in the past expressed to me over the effusive friendliness of Australian sales workers. Of course not all Aussies in the retail industry are all friendly but in general, if you’re not met with a “Hello, how are you today?” and “How can I help you?” type of greeting, it’s likely that the customer service will be less than par. And it’s probably time to look somewhere else.
While the Chinese in the retail or hospitality industry generally prescribe to the “customer is king” mentality, you don’t get the same type of greeting when entering a store in China. Rather, the first question (and perhaps the only question depending on the customer’s reply) is this: “Ni yao shemne?” Which literally means: “What do you want?”
Now, if I were met with this question upon entering an Australian store, I would promptly turn around and leave, never to return. But this standard question in Chinese shops is completely acceptable.
Of course these are just cultural differences. But around about the time when the shop assistant began detailing her shortlist of present options to buy her ex-boyfriend’s mother’s friend (or was it the ex-boyfriend’s sister’s friend?) I couldn’t help thinking that a standard “What do you want?” question would have sufficed nicely.