Comment: Manners and animals

“They are like animals…”

These were the words I overheard a few feet away from me, as I stood outside the Hulhumale’ ferry terminal. The voice sounded of an elderly foreign woman. I turned my head to see who that was, judging by my initial glance it was an elderly European woman, possibly in her 40’s, and judging by her accent, Dutch. There was an elderly European man and a younger female, possibly their daughter.

As I listened to a few more words from her, I realised they were talking about the encounter they just experienced while boarding the ferry from Male’ to get to Hulhumale’. I was also on the same ferry.

I must admit, somehow, I wasn’t surprised by those remarks. I could relate to exactly what she was talking about. For a moment, as I stood there I had a flashback of having a similar experience, and making similar remarks (of course not out loud).

I had my first experience boarding the ferry to get to Hulhumale’ about two years back. Having been abroad in Europe for quite a few years, I became accustomed to some of their generally accepted social etiquettes and good manners. For example in the UK, they are well known for their orderly queuing, staying in line among other similar social etiquettes to abide by in public situations, which are considered to be in the best interest of all citizens. Breaking a line in queue, raising your voice to be heard while you are being spoken to, pushing another, taking someone’s seat, rushing your way to the counter when there is some else in front etc would be considered a cardinal sin of good social etiquettes and norms.

I tried to recall what actually may have happened about half an hour ago that led her to make this remark. As I entered the Hulhumale’ terminal in Male’, I noticed these three foreign visitors sitting in the back of the seating area inside the terminal. I glanced around and saw an empty seat in the front row. I made my way over to the seat, put the bag of passionfruits and papaya I was carrying with me on the floor and sat down. As I sat and watched the news from the TV in the seating area, I could also see in the reflection from the glass window in front of me, the growing crowd in the seating area. A minutes before 7:30 there were a lot people standing up in the aisle, even when there were enough seats for all the people to sit down.

Just before the terminal attendant could open the door, suddenly, in no particular order, almost everyone rushed towards the door. Since I was in the front seats, I waited until the door was opened. As I walked to board the ferry in the crowd, I was not very gently pushed by a couple of people, perhaps not purposefully. And yet I was mildly irritated by it, but I didn’t allow myself to ponder any feelings of anger, perhaps I was accustomed to such norms after being a regular ferry commuter for nearly two years.

As I found myself a seat on the ferry and sat down, I noticed the three foreigners were almost the last to board the ferry. And as we neared to Hulhumale’ terminal, even before the ferry closed to the harbour, again all of a sudden in no particular order everyone rushed to get off the ferry.

I imagined, perhaps this was their first time boarding the ferry, and as I related to my first experience two years back, I knew exactly what she meant when she made that remark and possibly how she felt. I assume these visitors are not going to stay here for long, but because of that incident, she was quick to make generalisation about Maldivians. Possibly an experience that will stay with her for a while and possibly an experience she will share with her friends.

At this point, I would like to ask you this question: is this sort of image we want portray to the foreign visitors who visit the Maldives? Particularly away from the polished resort life to the everyday unpolished Maldivian city life?

I wonder if there are others like me, who share a similar view; that we have a lot to learn and work on to improve our social etiquettes and good manners. Possibly we could try to emulate and practice some of the good manners and social etiquettes from developed countries.

We can start off with simple social etiquettes. Let me suggest seven simple things to practice for now:

  1. Always make queues and stand in line, if anyone cuts you off, kindly tell them “Sir/madam, there is a queue here” (moral persuasion is better than pointing fingers)
  2. For heaven’s sake, SMILE, even just a little bit when someone makes eye contact with you, the last thing you want to do is stare back at them with an evil eye. Guys, smile to others guys as well, it’s completely OK (there is nothing gay about it!).
  3. Say ‘thank you’ to whoever serves you, where ever that maybe.
  4. Sit in orderly fashion when there are chairs, if you arrive first to the ferry terminal or board the ferry, sit in front and away from the aisle making it easy for others to find their seats. And when getting off, let the ferry come to a stop at the harbour and let the people in the front seats get off first.
  5. When the ferry terminal door opens, allow the people in the front seats to board first.
  6. Raising your voice and breaking the conversation just to be heard, not only makes you sound dumb, it makes you look immature and proves you lack the communication skills to persuade the other person(s) with good reason.
  7. Even if your relative or close friends say ‘drop in anytime’, don’t take it literally. Let them know in advance you will be coming over and check whether it’s convenient for them. And guys/girls always keep to the time you agree, if you are going to be late or running let give a ring or sms and let them know.

As the overused saying goes: “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. Sometimes this might be true. I like to think I am a realist. Some people will just brush it off when they hear about things like what I talked about and just go about their life the usual way.

Since you are still reading this, I know a part of you is saying “Ok, Mr Perfect! This is all very nice, but most of the people are not going to bother practice this anyway, why waste my energy on doing it differently, I’d rather go with the flow.”

I hear you buddy, so let me tell you the rest of the story, how it ended, hopefully you will rethink and take some action. Read on.

After I overhead these remarks and as I turned my head to see them, I made eye contact with her and smiled. There was no reaction from her; perhaps she didn’t see me clearly as it was a bit dark outside the terminal. I took a few steps forward, made eye contact with her again and smiled. There was a partial smile and I said “Hi! You guys waiting for a taxi?” (I took the cue as they were waiting near the taxi stop).

She said “Ya, is this the correct stop?”, I replied “Yes, this is the stop, but there aren’t too many taxis on this island, so it may take a while for one to arrive, but let me help you, I’ve got a taxi number I can try.”

She said “that’s very nice of you, thank you”. I said “sure thing, you are very welcome”. I took my phone dialled and asked if the taxi was available to come over the terminal. In about a minute, the taxi arrived; they thanked me again and left.

My only hope is they would share this story with their friends and loved ones instead of their ferry experience. But, I don’t know if that will happen, maybe they will tell both stories, but even then, it is better than having just a single bad experience. So, it is up to us, you and your friends, to practice good social etiquettes and set an example. If not all, hopefully even a few will recognise and try to emulate you.

Ahmed Lilal is involved in the LAL Consulting Group, established to improve the wellbeing of the Maldivian society through informal education.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


27 thoughts on “Comment: Manners and animals”

  1. “They are like animals…”

    The general level of social etiquette is very low here, indeed. I still recall an incident that happened years ago. Some of my friends and I were studying in a Western European country. My friends were guests of a local family. One day, when I came to visit them, the family wanted to have a word with me. They told me that my friends were very different to me. They never smile and never say "Thank you!". I laughed and explained that it's a natural Maldivian character and that the Maldivian language doesn't even have a native word for "Thank you!". But they pointed out that I was different. I explained that too: I'm from Suvadheeb 🙂

    You story does end on a good note and I think that's the lesson to be taught to every school kid in the country. We can't make adults change their die hard ways. However, good etiquette can start with the young. It's not just at school either and it has to include home too.

    I just can't help pointing out that we have over 3000 foreign low skilled labourers entering the country every single month. They are not only diluting our society but are bringing in new levels of anti-social behaviour with them. This has already taken root at many levels.

    As the place gets more and overcrowded, anti-social behaviour will increase. You don't have to look far to see how a future Maldives will look like. Take a look at Bangaldesh or parts of India. We're approaching that...

  2. Very true. I know the difference since I'm living in Australia at the moment, and believe me, people here have manners. From the bus stop, to every single cafe, people form lines. They don't barge in, and everyone tends to smile. But in Male', this rarely happens. Taxi drivers are rude, people in cafe's have a murderous look on their faces (even some bangladeshi workers know better than this!), and boarding ferries is a real pain in the ass. That's why I always am the last one to get out of the ferry, to avoid the impending stampede.

    But apart from this, there are very nice exceptional people, and I wish most people did the same. Maybe our schools can play a better role in teaching life-skills rather than focusing solely on making sure everyone passes and the school gets some random award. Anyways, thanks a lot for this article, it was very inspiring.

  3. If you are serious about promoting manners, it will be, possibly the most difficult thing to achieve ever.

    I experienced a deep seated moral cynicism in my stay in your paradise. If one tried to be caring or mannered, or promote caring or manners, they were very quickly provoked into doing something really uncaring, and were very quickly exposed as hypocrites. They would be shamed and trampled into silence. The victims of this I saw would come to believe that it was impossible to be moral, and that morality was a political game only. Hurt, in despair, feeling deeply naïve, amorality set in.

    I was hurt, and the despair, the pain and the deeply bitter rage lead me to experience, for a few months, a hedonistic, lusty, angry, power rush. I was fuelled with explosive, nuclear like powerful rage and lust, but it was also a sweet, blissful anger, because it was so pleasurable, the feeling of invincibility and fearlessness. The feeling of self righteous anger overwhelmed me. I believed, because I was a victim, I had the right to treat ppl how I pleased. I saw the victim mentality, the passive, sigh of moral despair in the faces, the helpless, yet angry faces on many. THIS sense of self righteous anger was impossible to overcome. This is the reason behind ppl being rude. Secretly, though the original reason for having the rage was bitter, extremely bitter, they, as I did, came to enjoy having that rage. It is like a drug, like, ecstasy, cocaine.

    I fed this thing by reading about Jihad and spending hours in the Mosques, but in the end, it turned out a massive disaster. Because in my feeling that I had the right to do anything, which came about due to the destruction of my sense of need to be humble and to see that I was also just a selfish brat, I did something really really stupid, and ended up in a massive state of panic and anxiety.

    This is the pattern. A Maldivian into this politics heavily goes from extreme narcissistic power hunger to a state of panic.

    The only way to overcome this rudeness is through cultivation of the gentle compassion which can only be learned through a combination of humiliation of one’s self righteousness COMBINED with compassion.

    Kindness is repaid with jealousy and rage. Don’t expect anything but pain and rejection when you are kind. One has to have the endurance of the world’s greatest warrior to remain kind. People take advantage of kindness, if you try to be kind, you will be victimized. The easiest reaction is to become self protective by putting up a shield of hate, but then, you will not be able to prevent yourself from being hateful to those who don’t deserve it. The victim will become the tyrant.

    So, take the pain, become the world’s greatest master at taking the pain, show that you will not lose your heart of kindness, no hatred in the world should steal it from you.

    Of course, you have to take up either a vigorous exercise routine to deal with the rage you will naturally repress, and if you can’t do that, then, learn to transform your pain into creativity, channel it that way.

    If you are going to embrace the struggle to spread caring in Maldives, embrace yourself for humiliation, pain, never set yourself up as an example through words, always admit you are also selfish but trying to express a few touches of kindness in another wise selfish existence as a way to make meaning. Always stress you are only human and will sometimes be rude yourself and evil yourself, but that will not stop you from enduring. Always know you will fall at times, you will be pushed to fall, and continue to fall, but don’t drop the struggle to be kind. Keep getting back up.
    Also, don’t do it for the reward, the respect of human’s, no human will reward your efforts. Do it for a deeper motives than how you appear, or how you are received. Expect lies, false accusations against you, expect hate, but endure with your efforts, and a few ppl will be touched by your kindness and learn manners. I can’t stress this enough. If you are genuine, you will be punished by jealousy for your efforts to spread kindness on this earth, but rewarded in a deeper inner sense.
    A moral revolution must be had, but it will be a victory won through many, many lonely years of heartache, loneliness, tears and pain.

  4. Humans are animals. We adapt to the particular environment we find ourselves in. maybe this is wrong, but i think less developed countries have people who cannot afford to have the (same) manners that people in developed ones do. people take on whichever set of manners that work in that particular environment or situation. maybe i'm wrong. i don't think they're doing it to be rude, it's just that in this culture it isn't considered rude.

  5. Lolz

    These infidel Dutch Colonizers pretending to be tourists have the NERVE to call US animals!

    This is MY country - I'll get on a ferry however damn well I please. Go colonize somewhere else with your imperialist Western Etiquette! Kekekeke

    Absolouetely Disgusting! Kekekeke

  6. Came here for Mr. Ben Plewright's wisdom and new-age visionary outpouring.

    And I leave a happy man.

    "The only way to overcome this rudeness is through cultivation of the gentle compassion which can only be learned through a combination of humiliation of one’s self righteousness COMBINED with compassion."

    Move over Dale Carnegie!

    I cannot wait for Ben to write a book on this stuff. "Ben's book of wise and hypnotically vague comments".

  7. "These infidel Dutch Colonizers pretending to be tourists have the NERVE to call US animals!"

    Yeah, how dare they. I have this picture in my head and I just can't get it out. It goes something like this:

    I see lots of ferries travelling between Male, Hulhumale and so on, and they are extremely over crowded. I am talking "over crowded" like you see on the buses and trains on the Indian subcontinent; where you see people hanging on the sides and so on.

    Anyway, in the picture I have, there are guys hanging on the outside of the boats, with their feet literall dragging in the water! Occasionally, some of them lose their hold on the boat, and end up in the ocean. They scream, but no one cares; the ferries just go about their way.

    It's also very noisy. Can't quite make what anyone is saying. There's a mixture of Bengali, Dhivehi, Tamil and Hindi strewn about...

    Hmm, maybe this is the future!

  8. Firstly, I detest using the word 'animal' to any humanbeing be it a lowly Maldivian. On manners, let me ask you to clean up your headline as a start. At least the readers deserve some respect.

    Ofcourse the British are methodical people, who are famous for blidly following queing, but that is a hardly an indicator of manners. That is a culture there. So is football hooliganism.

    But I would not challenge your seemingly refined tastes of and professed admiration of the English. However if you go to Germany, people do not have such a fetish with queing.. Point here is that, it is more a cultural thing rather than the manners.

  9. it will take time.. we need to start at primary books! currently we have foolhudhigu handi style of stories which doesn't seem to have the required moral content.. then we shall overhaul the entertainment segment. films and soaps shall try to put more moral lessons input into the story-line for the society to become refined. west had many years of experience with interaction from different civilizations to refine their skills. we are just coming out of the shell..

  10. They are like animals... This is not an impression we risk being portrayed to the rest of the world. This is the reality. Trying to give another impression is misleading. They are like animals...

  11. @Markaz
    Why attack the messenger? Even if the devil spoke some wisdom, shouldn't one pay heed! If someone lacked any sense of socially accepatable etiquette and behaved like animals, they cannot blame but themselves for being labelled what they truly are.

  12. @Ahmed Bin Addu Bin Suvadheeb

    You cannot predict the future. It is Kufr to even try.

    Also, Hindus are not Muslims. This is a well established fact. Why should they be overcrowding our boats?

    It is not the Muslims that are misbehaving.


    Guess what? This is MY Country, I decide what "etiquette", is or, is not, acceptable - I, being a decent Sunni Muslim. This country is not meant for Jews, Rafidhi heretic Shi'ites, or the Dutch. The Dutch belong in the Netherlands - or preferably at the bottom of the Ocean with their disgusting pirate ancestors; where they are more than free to practice their repulsive mannerisms and etiquette.

    Those are the people that let their women dress however they want; in tight jeans, and miniskirts and frocks if they so choose. Idiot Dutch men don't even know how to dress their women properly; why should they be lecturing us on something as superficial as mannerisms and etiquette?

    @Civilized Western Guy

    "Western"? Fortunately for you, I doubt it. Go back to Mongolia you hunnic infidel (which is better than being Western) - and stop trying to create divisions in our society.

  13. "Let me suggest seven simple things to practice for now" writes Ahmed Lilal.
    Reading the article, it is clear that the three foreigners he refers to were not Russians. If they had been, they would have forced their way on to the ferry before any Maldivians! I see Russian tourists behaviour every day in Prague, and I know what I am talking about. There is no need to single out Maldivians as having bad manners!

  14. 2Avatar, you just need to a big hug...

    guys give avatar a hug, he's a wittle bit unhappy.
    poor wittle gooji gooji gooo there we are

  15. I think as well, civilization is as thin as your finger nail, it is a mask in some respects, we could all become murderous animals in the wrong environment.

    The most decenttly trained can become a savage, it happens in war all the time.

    I think, Maldivians are highly intelligent ppl who have been reduced to this through overcorwding and lack of resources, and tyranny and also, the reality of religious hypocrisy (as religion is meant to teach manners)which is MOST evident when religion state become fused.

  16. Dude, IF you actually lived in the UK, have you tried boarding a train at London Euston on a Friday evening? You will find the same kind of animal behaviour.

  17. Maldives is a paradise welcoming hundreds of guests from all over the world. In order to play perfect hosts we need to make our guests feel at home with all universal etiquettes. The maldivians are still perfect hosts except for few people who have developed antisocial attitudes because of various influences stemming from a transitory socioeconomic conditions.

    Sudden wealth of the nation has overwhelmed the system of governance. The failure of politicians to respond to the needs of the nation in transformation led to evolve a society which accepted corruption, deceptions and breaking law. For this reason our nation has to work hard to clean up and heal itself to avoid sinking into a criminal world of unimaginable proportions.

  18. I agree with Lilal. The behaviour is disgusting to say the least. But unfortunately it is the norm everywhere not only in Maldives but in a lot of South Asian countries. There is never a queue but a rushing mob. The man or woman who can push forward is the most successful.
    You get this even in shops. I always tell them that there is a queue and to go back to the end of the queue. For us to eradicate this, everyone has to be involved. You see this on the aircraft too. The first people to stand up long before the aircraft has come to a stop are the Maldivians or other south asians.
    Then of course the notorious glum or angry looking face. We see it everyday at most service counters be it at shops, at the airport or at the pharmacies. Not a smile nor a greeting. No word of thanks at the end.
    I really wonder why we are so rude.

  19. im sure she has no idea what so ever about what goes down in a developing country. people of a country only shows the state its in. Dont go running around comparing this shit hole to any other western shit hole just because you spend a coupla years away from home and cos they Que up and say sir/madam or what ever shit it is you want to hear.
    if it is uk that you compare to in this article why'd you leave the rest of asia out of this? try boarding a ferry in india or china.
    what im trying to say is dissing your country on a global scale isnt going to do any help or improve this situation. because from the comments here you can tell half of the people who even bother to read this article are completly hopeless.

  20. Like Ahmed Bin Addu Bin Suvadheeb noticed, the low cost foreign labor drives the Maldives social etiquette to new lows , the other day i was at the Bank of Maldives...the lady at the counter addressed me in broken dhivehi like that she used to speak to bangladehsis...she rarely made eye contact..The counters of Bank of Maldives are staffed by "animals"..but the responsibility lies with the employers to train the staff in etiquette.

  21. @Manik

    "We see it everyday at most service counters be it at shops, at the airport or at the pharmacies. Not a smile nor a greeting. No word of thanks at the end.
    I really wonder why we are so rude."

    Ever wondered why Dhivehi doesn't even have a native word for "thank you", or "sorry"? Because we're a bloody rude lot!

    Quite possibly why so many foreigners have to be employed in the tourism sector, since we don't even have genetic disposition to contract our facial muscles to form a smile!

  22. @Ahmed Lilal,

    I am one of the ferry passengers who has traveling sick. I need to be seated in middle of boat to travel comfortably. I feed up in explaining the co-passengers to get seat who do not bother really. So i will be the first passenger run in to the ferry and catch the place i want. I have social manners "not to pollute ferry with my through outs".

    Same way, i get more sick when the ferry is anchored, so just rush near the door for the same reason to get relief. How this manners represent animals?

    When few minutes matter...... for an employee, a late check-in passenger to airport, a passenger can not catch bus at Hulhulmale'. How its wrong?

  23. Yes this is very true I had to travel onse to hullumale with my 1& half years old boy it was 1 st time I'm traviling to hullumale while go and come back I feel like a cry coz of pple running not care about anothers there 2 boys push behind me I almost fel to the sea so sad situation was as I was caring baby very dengeruos how pple walk & 2th thing is I was waiting till they put extra chair for me & there was empty chairs but Maldivians sitting making busy 2 seats for them alone when farry go after few min man keep chair for me so sad really pple don't care about anothers in male even my country is not best but still they respect who's with child, oor old age , or invalid , sick ...etc I feel happy to see yr Comment last have some one in the Maldives who cares about another pple

  24. Manners & animals this very true & good comment for a Maldivians who's arguing here one of those people who don't respect anothers why u r arguing if u r dissent & human this only for that ..... Animals in human body !!!

  25. A very good and well written article..this is a very serious issue in the maldives, we are lacking the discipline and the manners to treat others (which we used to be good at before). We need more people like Lilal to come up with these issues and act on to improve the level of discipline. Things he mentioned on the article are simple things that one can practice and would not harm him or cost any...hope this would be a stepping stone for a better future

    Lila: keep on working on it, there is a group of people trying to run a campaign to address these issues and they are planning to kick off on this Friday (10th June 2011).

  26. Ok let's face it,this article says it all-it's NAKED TRUTH-ANIMALS.Go to the bank,they look at you with tired looking eyes-Meet them in the streets-they look at you like they want to undress you,and if it's their Maldivian women,they won't be ashamed to gossip about you right in front of you.
    Their school children behave like small monkeys and they don't respect anyone-how do they teach their kids anyway?


Comments are closed.