Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Once of the less bizarre but more annoying Afghan traits is their tendency to interrupt any conversation without warning or polite request. Not even a clearing of the throat or a nervous fidget, just launch right into whatever they want to talk about with no recognition of the ongoing conversation.

At least ten times a day, I will be engaged in discussing something important with The Doctor and one of our supervisors (or The Rug Merchant) will barge in and start talking. Leaving aside the fact that the question they wish to discuss is usually something that a retarded platypus could figure out on their own rather than an acutal important issue, the very fact of the interruption is infuriating in itself. They simply have no concept of the idea of waiting until a conversation is finished, or at least attempting to break in in a polite or proper manner.

More annoying is the fact that other Afghans seem to have no problem with this and take no action to stop it. This indicates to me that it's another of those cultural oddities that makes life here ever-so-slightly more difficult. Some of the younger, better educated Afghans seem at least aware that they are interrupting (not that that acts as a prevention in any way), but the older ones are unbelievably rude when it comes to conversational skills. To be clear, they don't know they're being rude, and by Afghan standards perhaps they're not, but it still makes every meeting or discussion take twice as long as it should and makes it extremely difficult to resolve complex issues with a proper discussion. After the third or fourth interruption, most people give up and settle for whatever resolution was last on the table.

I'm pretty sure the Afghan parliament functions under the same rules, which probably explains why the government here is so disfunctional.


dmouse said...

interesting,How does the doctor feels about interruptions.The same as you?.

PaladinSix said...

I've never directly asked him about it, but I suspect he feels the same as I do. However, that doesn't stop him from tolerating (or even indulging) his subordinates who interrupt him constantly. He's very tuned-in to both Western and Afghan ways of doing things, and skillfully navigates both styles. I wish he wouldn't, but it probably makes him more effective.

Sergio said...


I ran across your blog online and wanted to touch base. I am finishing up my Bachelors Degree at University of Massachusetts and am in the midst of a Media and Community Building Course there. For my final project, I am looking at Community Media efforts in Afghanistan. Hence I wanted to see if you would have a couple of minutes to respond to some questions via email that I could use as a source in my paper. I am interested in how media is being used in Afghanistan, both by the US military, the insurgency (if they are using any media), and other “power brokers” or “community groups.”