Having read Ecky‘s post, I too have to reveal something that both mr.mck and I have found since the day we set our foot here in Perth. Everywhere we go, everybody who serves us, from the baker, the florist, the staffs at the shops and supermarkets, delivery people, guys at ticket box, the call centre staffs – basically, well, everybody! – is incredibly friendly.
I must say I find it extraordinary because having lived in UK and traveled a bit around Europe, smiles can be as rare as the sunshine. Some shops have friendly and helpful staffs, but the friendliness would stop at ‘hello, how are you?‘ or several other bits of conversations. Most of of the time the staff would mutter a ‘hiya‘ under his breath, followed by forced smile sometimes, before getting busy with the order. There is no necessity to engage a deeper conversation with the customers, unless asked. Both parties feel the need to rush out, to finish the buying-selling process, and to go back for being moody again.
In Indonesia, or Asia in general, on the other hand, the staffs constantly smile up to the point it is either scary or you’d think you have spinach in between your teeth and they try to tell you something. These are smiles without meaning: genuine, but don’t reflect what they think or feel and the staffs don’t engage in any conversation rather than answering the questions about the products they sell, and unfortunately many of them don’t have vast knowledge about them, or have no idea how to handle customers. In many occasions customer would enter a shop to find staffs following them on every step and offering products they sell, or sitting down at the end of the room staring back at customers blankly and only move when someone ask for assistance.
Of course it is not always the case. There are places both in Europe and in Asia which have impeccable service. I recently flew with Garuda Indonesia and noticed the cabin crew and the ground staffs have new way of greetings, with both hands put in front of the chest, accompanied by smiles. Individual shops in Europe tend to be looked after by the owners who normally put extra effort to be friendly with their customers. Back in Aberdeen there was an electrician who spent 5 minutes checking up on our cables and another 45 minutes telling a story about his holiday in Thailand.
However, Perth is somewhat different. It feels like everybody is happy. Maybe it’s the sun that shines all year around. Maybe it’s the beautiful beaches and warm temperature. Maybe it’s the ground, awful taste, tap water. I don’t know.
Upon receiving my new ATM card two months a go, I had to call the bank to activate it. The guy on the phone was not just politely asked how I was, but he also chatted a little bit about – no, not about the weather like a standard conversation in Europe – but what brings me to Perth. He sounded interested in my answers, followed by enthusiastic questions about Scotland and Indonesia. All while typing all information I gave him, and suddenly the process was done. He thanked me and wished me good luck and hoped that I would enjoy Perth. I didn’t want to end the conversation because I actually enjoyed it!
The lady at the telephone company where we signed our contract up was another example. Smile never leaves her face and she was sincerely passionate about everything. And it is not only that, she even left me her mobile number, which was totally unnecessary, so I could call her just in case something went terribly wrong. Her bright mood is contagious I always left the shop feeling happy. And it is more than enough to forgive her when she put the wrong date on the column of application that results in a delay in our cable installation, and when I have to go back again to the shop as she has forgotten to ask me to sign the bundle contract. In other words, I – the feisty, impatient girl who wants everything to be correctly done and it has to be done now – didn’t mind at all, just because a friendly treatment.
Another girl at the furniture shop also was very helpful and friendly, she alone was responsible for our extra spending. We came just to have a look, and ended up having a huge bill. Staffs at some luxury shop – who are famous for being quite snotty – are also nice. I once ended up chatting with a sales person about his past jobs back in Europe and how we both enjoyed the city of Bath, something that would never happen, say, in London.
Even the bus driver is very friendly. On once occasion a driver stepped down to help a senior citizen finding the right bus to go home and to escort her back to the bus stop. In Aberdeen, on the other hand, a bus driver closed his door and drove off just because the queue was moving too slow!
Of course not all Perthians are happy and cheerful. There is always a person who think he or she is better than anyone else and treats others like dirt. There is always a person who think he or she is more important than others and has to get his or her way, no matter what. But so far our experience in Perth has been very positive. And hopefully it stays like this until the next 3 years.
Matilda Bay picture is courtesy of Ryan Epstein Galleries.