Part 4: Cultural Competency in the Bar Scene


“ Oh my God, you speak so well!” …. (Oh boy…)

“ You have have, like, no accent at all!”….. (Here it comes…)

“ You’re like Aziz Anzari”…. (*Cue DJ Khalid’s voice over*- “ And Another one”)

If I had a dollar for every time this opener was used on me at a bar, I’d have enough money to dump a notable amount on a certain Netflix executive’s desk, to convince them to hire me as the  new lead in Master’s of None….or at the very least, start my own “Ignorant Bar Encounters Dating Game Show”. Maybe I exhume a sense of passiveness when I talk to people, or maybe people are actually that ignorant, that they think its ok to drop some pretty offensive bombs right off the bat, and know that I wont immediately cut into them. To avoid making a scene, I never do call them out- which I guess really makes me an integral part of the problem here- but I mean, sometimes you can’t really blame an ignorant person for being ignorant, the same way you cant blame a toddler for shitting themselves 15 minutes after you’ve changed them….you just hope they grow out of it, and that its just “a phase”. The problem is, I don’t think this is something that people will grow out of at all…whats even more concerning, is that I feel like this is something people have grown INTO over time.

Growing up in Calgary’s North West, I was one of a handful of kids who wasn’t caucasian…in fact we were so sparse, like grains of pepper in a salt shaker, that I sometimes forgot that I was East Indian at all. The thing here, is that not once during any interaction in my childhood, did I ever feel singled out, did I ever experience blatant ignorance, nor did anyone ask me where I was from (largely due to the fact that I’ve grown up a few blocks from everyone I went to school with, and they all knew exactly where I was from…Calgary…likely born in the same hospital). This childhood innocence and ability to look past colour, to focus in on the person in front of them, and their values, was lost by the time I hit university (along with people’s love for Pokemon…except for that brief period of world peace a few years ago when Pokemon Go dropped…but that’s another topic altogether). For whatever reason, once we hit the bar scene, the majority of people lost all sense of what’s socially acceptable/appropriate to say to someone. I partly blame the loud music, and inability to hold a deeper conversation- but there was a shift from caring about what makes a person tick, to trying to gauge everything about a person based on stereotypes derived from their outward physical appearance. Everything about this is wrong. (One glance at me, and you’d assume I loved Bollywood music- when in fact I’m more of a Blues/Funk kind of guy, who has never even once, seen a Bollywood movie in his life).

But what can we do about this? Trying to immediately educate people on social tact when they accost you at a bar is definitely one method to curb ignorance- but lets be real- under the veil of alcohol, hardly any of these ignoramuses really give a shit about whats right or wrong, or what is or isn’t socially acceptable to someone. As jaded as it sounds- its almost a futile task to tackle. Personally I opt for stepping out of that bar scene altogether, and seek out events/places/parties that cultivate meaningful conversation (generally a place where the music is less than 200bmp, and at a level where you can still hear the person 1 foot away from your face)- largely because its those types of scenes that draw a more culturally aware crowd. Instead of commenting on how well I articulate my words, or asking me where I’m from, we can talk about the most exciting thing you’ve done in the last 3 months, so I can get to know you as a person, and what makes you tick. This city is full of these kinds of social gatherings- and I firmly believe that if we start making an effort to make these more inclusive/open events flourish with our support, we can draw more culturally aware people into the fold, and more and more people would want to be a part of that community. A community that fosters an appreciation for one another on a deeper level through common interests, arts and music- rather than getting excited about talking to someone who talks like “Aziz Anzari". 

Pardeep Sooch

-(Not Aziz Anzari)

Part of “One Big JAM” 

(Alaine here, if you haven't heard of One Big Jam you seriously need to check out their events. That is, ONLY if you like being fully entertained. See, now you have to check it out because there is no way you said no to that.)