Saturday, January 17, 2004

Polite conversation

Nan and I went out yesterday to her cousin’s place along with my great grandma’s sister, Aunty Ol.

Aunty Ol told us some fantastic stories. My favourites were tales of rat plagues, her numerous boyfriends and the illegal betting shop run by Uncle Norman.

I was fascinated to learn that talking about wages was completely taboo when she was younger. It wasn’t even usual for husbands to tell their wives how much they earnt! Aunty Ol did happen to find out once by accident. It was a lot more than she expected and someone was in big trouble after that.

During my uni prac last year, I had to teach a lesson on polite conversation to people who had migrated to Australia. One of the objectives of the lesson was to teach that some topics are inappropriate for a conversation with someone you don’t know well. These included salary, religion and marital status, all appropriate ‘get to know you’ conversation in some places. It's fascinating how the concept of what is private varies across cultures.