With all of the carry on about refugees here’s a tale to brighten your weekend.
Some years ago our refugee agency (half paid for by the United Nations and half by you) was run by a Canadian called Gary, now retired and living in Sydney.
Gary was a funny bugger who’s company I always enjoyed and as we were involved with the refugees, occasionally he would come into our Auckland offices for drinks when I was there, and regale us with amusing tales of what might be described as cultural clashes.
There was one particular story he insisted occurred with new middle east intakes every time without exception. It seemed improbable that it so ritualistically happened so once when I was in Auckland and with a new middle east intake freshly in, to prove its regularity he invited me out to watch.
For reasons that will become clear, this was solely for the men who Gary handpicked in Lebanon after the United Nations’s initial sifting and who all spoke English.
So the next morning out I went to the Mangarere Refuge Centre and with Gary, chanting away at me, “You’ll see, word for word verbatim like I said”, we entered a room with about 50 new arrivals all seated and we sat at the back.
In came a young policeman who greeted the chaps warmly then explained that he was there to outline a particular peculiarity of New Zealand culture they must adapt to. It went like this, to a letter, exactly as Gary had said.
POLICEMAN: “In New Zealand you are not allowed to beat your wives”.
A puzzled murmuring filled the room and with Gary whispering the next line in my ear, one of the refugee chaps rose and asked, “But what about when they’re talking nonsense?”
POLICEMAN: “In New Zealand the law requires us to put up with our wives talking nonsense”.
This time the room erupted into a bewildered angry discussion, then another bloke rose. Gary whispered his line, once again accurately in my ear.
REFUGEE CHAP: “But how will we stop them talking nonsense?”
POLICEMAN: “It’s not possible I’m afraid. The best thing is to leave the room or just don’t listen. That’s what we New Zealand men do”.
This led to an uproar of confused babble so we left, leaving it to the policeman to continue his persuasion efforts to accept our strange ways.