Lost in Translation: Did She Really Say That?

Lost in Translation: Did She Really Say That?

Shop assistants in Dubai are very attentive.

It’s a very admirable quality when you consider they are on their feet all day long, often in shops lying empty for most of the day. I can only imagine how demoralising and mind-numbing the boredom must be.

Somehow they manage to stay focused on the customer. They have you in their sights as soon as you walk in to a shop and they follow you around ready to help you choose what you need.

This help can lead to a few comical and/or embarrasing moments!

From India and the Phillipines, the sales assistants have a direct and honest way of speaking. English is not their first language and this sometimes creates a bluntness that is unintended.

A conversation between an assistant and a customer can be as cringing as it is compelling.

A rare afternoon at Dubai Mall:

Cocooned in a happy shopping bubble, browsing for jeans and oblivious to everything around me. I pull out a size 10 from the rack.

A sales assistant pops her head over the rail. Smiling sweetly she expertly delivers the blow, “Oh maam that won’t fit you. You need bigger size.”

*Pop* goes my happy shopping bubble.

People turn to look me up and down and I feel my backside growing to gargantuan proportions before finally collapsing in on itself as even gravity fails to contain its mass.

I have no witty comeback so thanking her for her concern, I take the size 10 jeans (and my collapsed butt) to the counter to pay.

They are my regular brand and size and I know they will fit. They just have to… I’ll make you a deal God, I’ll jog up and down for 2 weeks. Let them fit so I don’t have to bring them back to this woman.

Overheard in a pharmacy between an assistant and a young lady in her twenties:

“You want something for your face maam? I have this cream that will fade your dark circles.”

“No, where are the ear drops?”

“Are you sure? It’s a very good cream, your wrinkles too will…”

“Please I just want the ear drops.”

“Take this cream maam. It’s very good. It make you look beautiful”

Customer starts walking away. Sales assistant chases after her, her voice getting louder. “Maam no not that way, the cream for your face problems, it’s here on that counter.”

I quietly skulk away not daring to find out what flaws she’d find on me.

If it happens to you, remember they’re not deliberately being rude. It’s a cultural or language quirk to be expected in a place with so many different nationalities. I also suspect they have sales targets to reach that may lend an edge of desperation to the way they go about it.

Have you overheard funny conversations?

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