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Showing posts from October 28, 2010

Why Singapore courtesy trumps Indonesia's 'santun'

by Mario Rustan THE JAKARTA POST Some years ago, an old British headmaster, frustrated at the behaviour of local students, said to me that "Indonesian does not have a word for 'courtesy'." I would translate courtesy as "santun", a borrowed Javanese word implying its culture's most admirable behaviour - speaking and acting politely. Courtesy, however, covers other aspects not covered by the concept of "santun" - respect and consideration. Indonesians love to think of themselves as a nation of polite and friendly people. We have helpful people who offer service with a smile. We speak politely and address all strangers as "sir", "madam", and "big brother/sister". Schoolchildren are told that tourists love Indonesia because of its friendliness and politeness. Early this month, I travelled to Singapore, an unsmiling nation. Singaporeans grunt, yell and speak fast in incomprehensible English. If you