Excuse me, do you work for the Embassy?
"Could you show us your cordless phones please?"
The salesmen proceeded to usher us into the innermost isle and showed us a selection of phone. These phone are cheap and tacky. I am not interested in those.
"But we want cordless phones, don't you have any cordless phones?"
He showed us some handsets which were large and unattractive.
"Don't you have the Siemens ones?" I asked.
"Oh Siemens. They are a lot of money," he replied.
"Well show them to us anyways," we replied. Did we say that money was a problem? Did we even mention to him what our budget was?
"Where are you from," he asked.
Aha the inevitable question. He probably thought that we were either Indonesian or Filipino labor workers.
"Ah Malaysia, a lot of money! Mahathir is very good! Do you work for the embassy?"
We didn't want to break the man's heart to tell him that we are professionals working for a reputable financial institution. He might find it very hard to swallow, that people from the South East Asia are capable of being anything else than maids, drivers, salesmen and laborers.
"Yes we work for the Embassy."
What I find most distasteful is that these people don't bother to hide their ignorance and their racism. The minute they see my face they decide that I am probably a maid and my other half is perhaps a driver. Because it was unimaginable to them that the 4x4 could be ours.
But even the Asians themselves think the same way here which is rather sad.
At the Ferragamo boutique, I was served by a Filipino man.
"Where are you from Madam?" he asked.
"Malaysia," I answered.
"Do they have Ferragamo boutique in Malaysia?"
"Yes they do."
Should I have told him that I already have a considerable collection of Ferragamo shoes? (Even if I bought most of them from Bicester!) But that might confused him too much you see. Because it was hard for him to believe that I could even afford a pair.
And of course the one million dollar question, "Do you work for the embassy Madam?"
And its not just him.
At a household shop, we bought some Arabic tea and coffee sets. Thankfully for us there was an Indonesian salesperson working for the shop. So I could ask him questions and prices without having to refer to the calculator.
But I noticed everytime I asked the price of something dear and nice, he sounded very apologetic and continued to mention that the prices are rather high because the items came from Europe and he was more than willing to offer me alternative items from China which he says were much cheaper.
After selecting a set of Italian Murano tea and coffee cups, he had to ask us once again.
"Bapak dan ibu dari mana? Brunei?" ("Where are you from? Brunei?)
"Ooo dari Malaysia, kerja di kedutaan?" (Oh from Malaysia, do you work at the Embassy.)
Perhaps to them, only the Malaysians with money here are the officials from the Embassy. But we are at fault because we let them reinforce those prejudice. But we are private people who don't necessarily like telling people unknown to us where we live, what we do and who we are. By saying yes, we are just saying MYOB.