kindness is relative

When I met my visiting cousin in Paris last december, I was surprised, no flabbergasted (only because it's one of my favorite words) on how she kept telling me that the French are so nice. Even after encountering a store cashier without courtesy, not even a sly grin. Now nice is likewise somewhat relative here. Nice is when there is customer service. As tourists, it is evaluated with services on shopping, dining & lodging. "You should see how it is where I live!" She assuredly told me. Where she lives, a pleasant physical appearance is a personal necessity. "Sometimes they even literally ask you if you stole something," she continued. There is a thin line between bad customer service & plain rudeness. Sometimes you cannot even tell because you can have both. After meeting my cousin in Paris & back in the south, I also was a "suspect" of shoplifting in Castorama. Their grounds? I absolutely have no idea.

Both my husband & I wore decent clothes. We looked around, picked something we thought we might need, countinued looking around & somewhere between my deciding to go out & pay then ending up with my husband handling all the items, there was a suspicion of conduct. I went out of the hardware department, went to the car to get my jacket & on my way to the garden department, the security, like with utmost urgency, ran after me & curtly asked, "Madame, what did you put in your car?" Interrogation came when I'm already out of the store & came back. After 10 years, in all of France's dreadful customer service, I literally freaked out on this rudeness & lost it. My husband couldn't stop me from arguing with the incompetent security team & my tears of rage. I have always been lenient on normal days except this one. In short, we boycott Castorama Antibes. Not that they really care but customer service in Leroy Merlin is such a breath of fresh air & I prefer spending our money with that. Apparently, nice is not only for tourists evaluated on shopping. In this society of consumerism, shouldn't customer service be vital?

But this is our society. All with its prejudice & stereotyping. It's everywhere. Not only in France or where my cousin lives. It is even present in our our personal circle. Apparently, kindness is relative by degrees - comparison of the worse. But in all this, I've encountered many random acts of kindness. It touches me in the deepest way because it is becoming more rare. And I find it so saddening how we get surprised of kindness in our daily routines. It's as if we have to earn it.

"I have never noticed really," my cousin said & she's right. It's nothing personal. It might be waking up on the wrong side of the bed or a hard day. Unhappy with work. Family problems. Health issues. Or just a bad hair day, we forget to be nice. And I am always reminded everytime I receive an act of kindness that kindness will inspire goodness. It is synonymous to respect. Like rudeness begets arrogance. Then sometimes we just don't allow enough people to be kind to us.

I didn't really think that kindness is relative until my cousin showed me.
I should travel more. 


From Manila to Paris, then to Marseille & to the Côte d'Azur, now in Singapore, clinging to a map of three worlds, where everything becomes all relative.


  1. it's different for me here, i like the cold front people give off, i guess i find it a bit of a relief from the jeepney conversations that spring up in the phils over something from the buzz or whatever in-telenobela there is, and people end up talking about their kids, work, what's for dinner, etc... the germans surprise me too, when i actually have the time to bother and stop someone to ask something, the person is always nice and accomodating. earlier when i was struggling with the language, i would ask them to please speak in english, i find it so cute when they apologize for their grammar...
    i also experienced suspicion from a cashier in one of the grocery chains here. the cashier made me open my bag and put out all the items on the counter. my bad that was full of books for the german course, my baby's extra diapers, wet wipes, bottles etc! AND MINE WAS THE ONLY BAG WHOSE CONTENTS SHE WANTED TO SEE! and since i was still horrible with the language, i couldn't bitch back! and these people (cashiers, sales ladies, etc) cannot speak english, all i could do was mutter and roll my eyes... sigh...

    sorry, this comment has no point, i just wanted to share, hihihi :)

  2. I'm glad you shared some little episodes of you there, Dennise!

    It's the same here. Metros & trains are so quiet that it's embarassing to even sneeze. But it's also common for bored people to strike up a conversation - it always starts with the weather (or a complain, most often than not) & I sometimes feel a little comfort in the warmness of strangers.

    And I know! Even after years, I still couldn't bitch in french! My husband always tells me to freak out in tagalog :)

  3. What a eloquently-written post here, Makis. This is very true. I've also noticed here (and hubs always gets annoyed by this) that security is suspicious of everybody, every move, everything! I don't always notice this, but hubs does, that when it's our first time in a shop, security follow us and pretend they are not.

    I also remember one time when I was in a shop buying a magazine, at the counter, the lady asked me, 'Would you like to have some sweets that are on sale?" I did not get it straight away as I am very poor with heavy accent so I asked her and still did not get it. The 3rd time she had to say it, she pronounced every syllable very very slowly, like I was a child and exaggerated it like I was deaf. I ignored it but later on realised it was extremely rude of her to behave like that towards me in front of other people. How rude.

    Oh, well. People being unkind must not stop us from being kind. I love how you said that - kindess inspires goodness.

  4. When a person is a tourist in a certain country they see everything differently. They perceive places inversely to the people who live there, & we who lives here thinks the other way around (like us) :)! There would always be comparison of observations like "in where we live people are snobbish, here it's the contrary people are really warm!" But they haven't seen everything yet. We travel to remind ourselves that we don’t know everything, more strange and much exhilarating than it may come out. Traveling is a regular souvenir of all the stuffs there are to wonder at in this world.

    I have thought about that when I first arrived in Marseille, but now I live here I have another opinion of the locals, the cultures & just about everything.

    Your experience from Castorama is really annoying ! But if we stop & think for a second like A told you, they're just doing their job. I would probably have done the same thing and I would even talk to the Director if I could! B tells me to get angry in Tagalog too, if it would be more effective as an "angry reliever" !!! I say, be kind to people because I feel good that I made someone feel respected. If they don't reciprocate it's their problem they will get the same bad treatment one day. As we say in Tagalog... "Makakakita rin sila ng katapat" !

  5. P.S. Flabbergasted is one of my favorite words to since high school !!!

  6. i just experienced a random act of kindness about 2 days ago. benji and i went to the library for wee reading program. i should've went home right away but instead i browsed books and magazines while benji was running around. anyhow, i was not really giving too much attention to him. i borrowed 3 books. 2 books are really thick and heavy. plus i decided to grab couple of free magazines. okay , my arms were full with books and benji. to make long story short i accidentally locked benji in the car in a freezing temperature because i was not giving attention. the car key was inside the locked car. 2 women stopped and went out of their way to help me. these women are the kind of women i avoided because they looked like "white trash." yes, i am judgmental. these women changed my view of the world. they called for help. they stayed with me. they consoled me and benji until help came. i am humbled by this experience.

    this is not my first time experiencing this kind of act. i experience it over and over again in america. much more here in the us than in the philippines. i admit that there are people who are ignorant and just plain nasty but most common of all, people that i encountered are nice, friendly and approachable. maybe, it is a midwestern thing. i don't know...

  7. Len, sometimes I don't know if it's because we're just paranoid or they really made us one. I guess that's the world today. I agree, we should continue to be kind in the hopes that it'll remind people that kindness still exists & that it's normal.

    Onga, lahat tayo may katapat! Totally agree, Haze! Passing by & residing are two very different ways to see a place. The more we get to know a place, the more we shed or confirm our first impressions & that some places are not so different from each other. Nothing like first hand experience. (Diba, I used to hear the word flabbergast in cartoons as an expression :) Nice to see back in blogging, Haze!

    You must have been so scared,Loraine! I would have panicked big time. It's our stereotyping society & I admit I'm also becoming more & more judgemental. I guess kindness not only inspires goodness but it's also definitely humbling. I've encountered as much kindness here in France as well as in the Philippines. The only difference is that I'm more suprised in France because it doesn't always come with a smile but a sincere kindness nonetheless.

  8. Everything really is relative, Makis -- our view of people, of things; their view of us as well. And since it's relative, it can always change.

    Pero nakakatakot nga. I'm imagining my reaction if ever I'm told to open up my bag for inspection because they think I shoplifted something. I, a relatively peaceful person, will likely comply but will definitely leave a nasty last word saying how dreadful they are and how stupid they can become. Makipag-away ba?

    Bweno I'll remember this story if ever I will venture Paris (unlikely, very unlikely) ☺☺☺.

  9. Nebz, you'll be welcome here down south of Paris too - nothing is unlikely!

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