Stef (firecat) wrote,

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Cross Cultural Anecdote

I was standing in line for my prescriptions, and in front of me was a woman who looked Asian and was carrying a $20 bill and a scrap of paper and wearing a nurse's outfit. She said to the cashier with a slight accent, "I am picking up a prescription on behalf of a patient." The pharmacy cashier said "Last name?" and she said "Harriet." [names changed to protect privacy] The cashier looked around and said "There is no prescription for Harriet. First name?" The woman said "Lawson." The cashier looked around some more and said "No, no prescription for that name."

I was thinking, "I think I know what the problem is -- I know that in some Asian countries, the family name comes first and the personal name last, and she might have confused which was which. And she might not have a sense for what is a typical first name and last name for a European. But if I intervene, I will probably embarrass her. On the other hand, I will also potentially save her embarrassment at work and a second trip to the pharmacy."

So I said to her, "Excuse me, but I was wondering, are you sure the *last* name is Harriet and the *first* name is Lawson? Because to me, 'Harriet' sounds like a first name." She said "Yes, I'm sure." But then she thought about it a few seconds and asked the cashier to check under the name Lawson. Sure enough, the prescription was there.

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