I’m not sure if you can do this sign in the US, but in New Zealand, you can with our sense of humour: it’s at the New Orleans bar (formerly Paris), on Lambton Quay, Wellington. Two of the staff are Frenchmen so we chatted more about the fact that Orléans is a French town. You can even do a President Bush impersonation and say, ‘I see the reconstruction’s ﬁne, and you don’t need my help,’ and not get nasty glances.
This one at Get Funk’d might be more universal though:
We never found out if she did get ﬁred.
However, I did not know what to do with this one at the National Bank on Manners Street, Wellington:
The ﬁrst time I was not sure about this. I thought it was some modern form of segregation. I went to the regular queue with them white and brown folk. When I got to the teller, I asked him if the bank expected Kazakhs, Iranians, Indians and Asiatic Russians to go with the ‘Asian Banking’ sign. He was a bit humourless and it went over his head. But he did tell me that the staff were multilingual or spoke different dialects as I noted I did not speak Mandarin. I was welcome to go there next time.
The second time I put this to the test. I ﬁgured that if the National Bank wanted all Asians—if you are one of the group descended from or related to the 3·7 billion from Asia—to turn right and not left, and segregate us, I would go along with it. Plus the teller from the time before said the staff were multilingual. I went to ask if any of the Chinese staff (I did not see any Japanese, Kazakhs, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis or any others) if they spoke Cantonese. They did not. Therefore, I went to queue up with the regular folk.
The Mandarin-speaking woman working there did come to ask if she could help me. I said I wanted a cheque cashed. She said I was in the right queue. I remarked that I was just following the signs about segregation because I didn’t want to go all Rosa Parks-on-the-bus on them. (And the last time whites pulled this stunt with Chinese we got so pissed off that we brought down the Ching Dynasty in 1911, so bringing down a single bank is not too hard.)
This time, my teller was (probably locally born) Chinese and could appreciate the nuances. She, like me, thought it was inappropriate for Chinese to be grouped with 3·7 billion people on the Asian continent. And we had very little in common with, say, the ﬁctional Borat, who is from Asia. Or Emperor Hirohito. Or Gandhi. Or my friend Merrill Fernando who sells tea on TV.
She said I was the ﬁrst customer to have interpreted the sign as requesting Asians go to a separate part of the bank but she would raise it with the manager. I said that even the Chinese writing said ‘Asian banking’. But I still do not know what the sign means: clearly all ‘Asians’ cannot be assisted because there are only Mandarin-speaking staff in that section of the bank. Clearly there, the services are specialized and regular banking is still with the regular tellers. This was deceptive advertising.
I am so glad I have closed the majority of our ANZ–National–Post Ofﬁce Savings Bank–Countrywide–whatever-else-was-merged accounts. I don’t understand this lack of logic and it shows a poignant lack of cultural awareness. (As a non-customer it is a stupid thing to have a laugh about and I hope they will leave it up as a relic!)
So they want Asians in another part of the bank but they don’t. And they can’t serve any Asians anyway unless you speak Mandarin, which is about 28 per cent of all Asians, but it’s pretty sweeping and arrogant to say all Asians should go that way. I do not know of any Chinese who would not ﬁnd this sign either insulting, humorous, or stupid (count me in for the last two), which are probably three qualities that the National Bank wishes to convey. And I bet every other Asian, say folks from Tajikistan or Azerbaijan or Vietnam or India, are wondering why they can’t get served in that section or why their languages aren’t included on the sign or by the Chinese staff.
The sign should read, in Chinese, ‘Specialized services for Mandarin-speaking customers’ which, believe it or not, would ﬁt into the space they have anyway, and is probably what the bank means.
Congratulations, National Bank, you’re stupid in two languages. Which is better than being stupid in three:
PS.: Since when was Monotype Garamond a permitted typeface based on the National Bank’s corporate identity or graphic standards’ manual? I know I haven’t been a customer for a while, but I remember when it was Plantin and then Foundry Oldstyle. The website is in Foundry Sans. Maybe I missed something along the way. Or the bank has a problem communicating with its signmakers. (It clearly has a problem communicating with Asians.) Posted by Jack Yan, 01:37
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