please leave your prejudices at the gate

As I was boarding a Lufthansa flight this morning back to Riyadh, there was a young Saudi couple, probably in their early 20s, ahead of me in line. For those of you who have flown out of Frankfurt before, you’ll know that you have to scan your boarding pass through an automated gate before you can board the plane. The young man of the couple was holding both of their boarding passes. He first scanned the woman’s boarding pass and had her go through before scanning his own boarding pass to proceed through the gate. I thought that he was a very nice, courteous young man, and then didn’t think anymore of the situation. But then a female Lufthansa agent who was standing nearby saw this, and she said to the young woman, “You are very capable, you know. You could have done that yourself!” and then addressing the young man, said, “Women are very capable of doing many things. They take care of the house, take care of the children. They are very capable! You should value her. Make sure that you treat her nicely!” Her friendly, jolly tone of voice belied her condescending and disdainful attitude towards Saudis.

Would she have said the same thing if it had been a young European couple? I highly doubt it. Why does she assume that this young Saudi man doesn’t already treat the woman nicely? If it had been a European couple, would she have labeled the man’s actions as indicative of a domineering, controlling husband, or a thoughtful, considerate husband?

Also, had this woman even been to Saudi Arabia before or bothered to learn anything else about the country besides what mainstream media would have us understand? Probably not, because if she had, she also would not have defined Saudi women’s capabilities only be their apparent ability to take of the house and children. She would have seen that Saudi women are physicians, professors, scientists, writers, teachers, businesswomen, and yes, some are homemakers – just like in many other parts of the world. Also, she obviously assumed that this young couple was married. Maybe they were brother and sister, which would have made her remarks even more inappropriate!

I think that this Lufthansa agent should stick to her job – getting people on the plane so it can leave in time – and forgo the obtuse social commentary!


6 responses to “please leave your prejudices at the gate

  1. How rude of her! First of all, it’s none of her business and like you said it could’ve been brother and sister! Very unprofessional. What was their response? I would’ve even said something to her because that is just so out of line.
    If it was husband and wife the man 100% sure did it out of courtesy to his wife. I let my husband do stuff like that for me when we fly and I have no issues with it whatsoever. Actually it feels nice to have him take care of those things and I always loose my boarding cards anyways so one less of a headache for me.

    This type of prejudice you talk about is very common even among expats that have lived here for ages! Problem is they don’t really know any Saudis or have a clue what the religion is really about. They only believe rumors and have certain prejudice to certain behaviors. So a man doing something for his wife here is oppression, she is treated like half human. Same act in Europe, what a gentleman!!

    For example when some of my friends first started interacting with my husband they automatically thought he was aggressive or possessive and tried to make the smallest things seem like he was. It was so annoying. Soon they realized they were wrong, but they only changed their opinion to say “he is one in a million, not like a Saudi man at all!”.

    • Thank you for leaving your thoughts here, Laylah! Yes, it is too bad about the pervasive prejudices about other cultures, especially when it comes to holding everything to Western standards and even among people who have lived here for a long time. Hopefully with blogs like ours and others, we can help dismantle these misconceptions!

  2. This is etremely rude! Shocking to read.
    I hope the guy gave a fitting reply!

    • The couple didn’t really reply – they just sort of smiled and gave a light laugh, but I don’t remember them saying anything. I am not sure if they completely understood her, or if they were just letting it go.

  3. These are Germans, they like always to give lessons to foreigners, especially Arabs. I let you judge from this … no matter what you do, they will always criticize you.

  4. I found it interesting earlier in your blog, when you said that the husbands were supporting their wives during the driving protests (why would they? a) he loves her b) he won’t have to drive her around anymore, lol).

    Later on (I have been reading your blog all day, drawn here by a friend’s blog. She is now living in Riyadh and blogging about it), I saw that you wrote about the men supporting the women’s protests at the University, at their peril! It was at the point my thought was “Well, why wouldn’t they? Their men are just like ours. They love and cherish their women as well.”

    How ignorant and rude of that Lufthansa agent. How gracious of that couple, to let it pass like that.

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