Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Culture shock

First day of Emergency rotation at the National Paediatric Hospital, Cambodia. A local doctor walks past and greets us with, "Bonjour!" We barely have time to register before he is out of sight. Bonjour?

People speak to each other in Khmer, and case notes and formal presentations are all in French. Two languages that I am only vaguely familiar with (I haven't studied French since I was 12, and have now been learning Khmer for 12 days).

So I need to work on two languages, as English is only used as third preference here.

Oh, and culture, I need to learn about the culture. Here, loud chewing and slurping is not rude and disgusting as I've been taught. Apparently, making lots of noise when you eat shows that you are appreciating your food. And I have offended my boyfriend's extended family by not bowing low and exclaiming "johm reab sua!" (greeting) every time I see somebody - yes, you need to do it for everybody, every time you see them. It's like a fancy handshake.

Fortunately, with only two patients in the Emergency ward and seemingly no emergency presentations throughout the day, there is time to work on the other things. 

Paeds can wait.


Anonymous said...

A useful french phrase is

"Je ne comprends pas!"

it works for everything.

Pink Stethoscopes said...

There's also the Khmer "saddup oht bahn te!"

Oddly, I never learned "Je ne comprends pas" in French class. My teacher was *that* confident. Sorry, Madame.