“Shh, keep your voice down”
“Vhy? I am not speaking loud”
“Yes you are, and its making me embarrassed”
“Vell, dey inzulted me”
“I don’t think it was meant as an insult”
“Vatever, I am the guest, so I deserve respect”
Yeni was trying to keep her voice low, and to encourage her husband to do the same, aware that the other people at the table could hear them. They both sat back in their chairs, facing away from each other. Yeni looked noticeably uncomfortable, while her husband also seemed a bit flustered. He was clearly the kind of man that is used to being treated well, and getting his own way. The young waiters had inadvertently upset him, and there was no calming him down. Despite his age, he was like a petulant child that was not getting what he wanted. He seemed unnerved, and this feeling increased as he watched his wife converse freely in her native tongue with the English woman next to her.
“Vat are you talking about?”
“Nothing much, just girl talk”
” Vel, you should be talking to me”
So she turned back to him, but their conversation was forced, and as soon as she got the chance Yeni turned back to me
“this is exactly why I don’t like to come to these events!”
“Well, its also why I didn’t bring my husband here!” I reply conspiratorially
Seeing the interaction between this German man and his Balinese wife, made me think about the various differences that exist between East and West. This behavior in public is one of the many conflicts that arise in a mixed relationship. Westerners are taught to speak up, demand respect and stand up for yourself. We are very individualistic, and come across very forceful, and almost brash. The Balinese on the other hand are all about harmony, keeping the peace, and avoiding confrontation.
When I arrived here twenty years ago, I was a stubborn, outspoken young woman, and it went against every bone in my body to be calm and pliant. I clashed with my husband on a daily basis, but bit by bit he has managed to calm the wild child that I was! Sometimes I mourn the loss of the person I was, but mostly, I appreciate the person I have become.
When East meets West, there can be bumps, but both sides can definitely benefit from the alliance. I like to think I have taught my husband a few things as well as learning from him.