Hello – by Tabitha

3 Apr

“Hello”, or rather, “Hellohellohellohellohello!” is something I hear often in Vietnam. In order of most helloness, I hear it from:

1. Small children

2. Grandparents making their grandchildren look at me

3. Male teenage motorbike parking attendants

4. Old motorbike taxi drivers

5. Construction site workers

I do not hear it from other Tays, due to the Unwritten Rule Regarding Tays Who See Other Tays, whereby Tays suss each other out a distance with great intensity but steadfastly refuse to acknowledge each others’ presence up close.

Because I am the recipient of so many “hellos”, it’s very confusing that the Vietnamese way of answering the phone is “a lô”, which sounds an awful lot like “hello”. The Vietnamese are a phone-loving people, and therefore say “a lô” a lot, often in traffic. And there I am, cheerfully saying “hello!” back at them when all they’re trying to do is take a phone call.

This reminds me of the sad, sad fact that English is one of the few languages in the world that doesn’t have a distinct greeting for answering the phone. If only we could be like the Japanese and pick up the phone with “Moshi moshi”. I can’t think of any better way to start a conversation.


8 Responses to “Hello – by Tabitha”

  1. Justyna April 3, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    In Poland they answer the phone “yes, I’m listening”. Bit off.

    • Tabitha April 4, 2012 at 1:44 am #

      Hahahaha, they should just say “SPEAK”.

  2. Beth April 3, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    Ha! My Pa (Mum’s Dad) used to say goodbye on the phone “yes, well” [hang up phone]. Very discombobulating and very ‘him’.

    • Tabitha April 4, 2012 at 1:46 am #

      Oh yes, the telephone goodbye! A whole other kettle of fish. I personally think your Pa’s method is the way to go: swiftly.

      • Karen April 4, 2012 at 4:22 am #

        LOLing Beth, that is an awesome way to hang up. Oh, I love that!

  3. Karen April 4, 2012 at 12:54 am #

    Hahah, I LOVE the Polish answer.

    If you ever live in Hong Kong, you will become traumatised by the word, “wei?” Hong Kongers like to shout it repeatedly on buses. The louder you say it, the more likely your phone reception will improve.

    • Tabitha April 4, 2012 at 1:47 am #

      I am in a state of constant awe at the volume in which Vietnamese people speak on the phone. Especially in the cinema.

  4. Karen April 4, 2012 at 4:25 am #

    I’m going to expand this lil discussion of phone etiquette further. I have noticed a trend here in Singapore and I’m wondering if it’s popped up elsewhere in the world.

    Sometimes I pick up the phone and the person is already talking before I have said hello or even got the phone all the way to my ear. This is usually someone in a commercial context, like confirming a dentist appointment. They just launch into their spiel on hearing the phone ring change to a connected sound! It’s awe-inspiring in its efficiency but totally rude.

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