Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Zealanders and manners

Today, at the risk of appearing to be a bit fuddy duddy, I'm going to vent my spleen on a particularly annoying trait of my fellow countrymen - their appalling lack of manners.

New Zealand men in particular appear completely incapable of showing any level of common courtesy. I belong to a city gym. Like most city gyms it gets pretty crowded in the changing rooms at peak hours. A couple of years ago I began to notice that other men in the changing room were incapable of saying the simple words "excuse me" when they needed to get past you to get into their locker. Often they will simply push past without saying anything. Sometimes they will grunt, expecting you to interpret that as "I need to get past you and into my locker." If they say anything at all, is usually "sorry". I'm not sure what they are apologising for -- perhaps they are saying sorry on behalf of the gym owners or the architects or whoever else was responsible for the cramped design of the changing rooms. But they never, ever, say "excuse me". New Zealand men, and many New Zealand woman, appear not to have the words "excuse me" in their vocabulary.

The same behaviour happens on city footpaths, in restaurants and cafes, at sports events and at any other location where large numbers of New Zealanders congregate.

I have heard people say that the French are rude. However, on my last trip to Paris I noticed that whenever French people are in a crowded place, you always hear a continual chorus of "excusez-moi" as they move past. I began noticing the lack of similar courtesy from New Zealanders upon my return home.

We are known as friendly people but I have also heard foreigners describe New Zealanders as 'standoffish'. Perhaps that is a polite way for foreigners to say we are rude.

I do not know what it is that makes New Zealanders so resistant to saying "excuse me". It may be that New Zealand men regard the expression as effete and unmasculine, and perhaps New Zealand women think they are exempt from displaying courtesy because they are women.

It is time New Zealanders adopted the manners the rest of the world takes for granted. Our lack of common courtesy is not an attractive trait.


Philbee - said...

Agreed! Agreed! Totally agreed!
And if they DO say "Excuse me...", it's at the point where they're already committed to a push-past action. If you actually stand your ground and said "No" it would be too late, and you'd be steamrollered!
I learnt my manners at home. They were reinforced at school and underlined in the workplace.
I suspect manners these days are so far down the priority scale that your stance (and mine!) would be regarded by many as completely outdated...god help us!

Kiwiwit said...

You're right Philbee. Although it appears to be particularly bad in NZ. Americans tend to be very polite as a rule, Brits perhaps less so, but even the ever-casual Aussies aren't afraid to say "excuse me".