My sister and I were having a conversation about one of my recent doctor's appointment. I noticed that during my last consultation her nurses kept coming in and out of the room. I didn't want to say anything as I know there is a different set of work ethics in every country. Even though I was just consulting her about a cough I felt a bit uneasy that her staff were sometimes present in the room. I guess I'm just used to the Confidentiality Act  / Health Information Privacy Code which is practiced by New Zealand doctors. When my sister and I thought about it there isn't even a Malay word for privacy.

Me: What about 'sulit'(private)?
Sis: How do I say I am a private person in Malay? Saya seorang yang sulit?
*my sister and I broke into laughter because that translates to 'I'm a difficult person'*
Me: Okay, what about 'bersendirian' (alone, sole)? Saya suka bersendiri? I like to be alone. No, that isn't even close to saying I'm a private person. And a 'private room' is usually known as bilik khas which literally means special (designated) room.
Sis: See, there's no word for it!

Maybe we just have a terrible command of the Malay language but if there really isn't a word for privacy in Malay then what does that say about our culture? Is privacy an issue in other cultures too?


Anonymous said…
hahaha!! Yea, my hubs agrees he can't think of a word for private in Malay :)

I love how interesting culture is. I think it does say a lot about how Malay culture views privacy. The fact that Malaysia is very community oriented is a big reason why there is no real word for privacy.

Of course Western cultures are completely different. Focusing on individuality and "property" we have many many different ways to express 'privacy' in the English language..

I love it! I actually really love and respect community oriented cultures/societies because it makes room even for shy or reserved people to be part of the community. It makes me want to possibly have children in Malaysia.

Not as true for Western societies.
Shahirah Elaiza said…
Sarah: Collectivism vs individualism. That rings a few bells! Did you study Anthropology at some point by any chance? =)

It's great that you love community-oriented cultures! It's definitely different to the Western way of life. We all crave for something we don't usually have. The grass is always greener on the other side =)

As for me, I enjoy getting to know people and being a part of a community. But I can't deal with people coming in and out of the room when I could be discussing something personal with my doctor. And I can't deal with people who feel it's okay to share my personal information with others. Privacy can be taken very lightly here. It's okay if you're okay with it, but if you're not you'll feel violated.
Wow!! that's really interesting. I'm assuming the language is a reflection of the nation's culture.
Regarding, confidentiality, something like that happened to me but not quite.
Latin American culture is more...family oriented than Anglo "North American" culture. When I was a teen, I needed to go to the gynecologist. My Mom took me there and then she went inside the examination room. I was allowed to say no to anybody going in (by law). But if I said no my Mom would become upset. For me it was very embarrassing back then. But now I understand why my Mom didn't think anything of it. She was just being a Mom.
Shahirah Elaiza said…
Hispanic Muslimah: There's no such thing as privacy when you're a teenager! lol Besides, Mums always have a way of knowing stuff about their kids. My friend and I were talking about this the other day. She was saying how there'll always be a spiritual and physical connection between our mothers and ourselves because we were once literally a part of them. I think she's right =)
Anonymous said…
Umm yea, hospital room is going a bit too far...

I'm the kind of person that likes to be able to turn privacy off and on.. lol.. I guess that proves how I was raised =)