My sister was recently invited to attend a local badminton club, and to cut a long story short, she wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms. Thankfully, she is made of pretty stern stuff and like a phoenix from the ashes, rose above adversity to bring us the 8 Noble Truths of playing nice with local newcomers and expats alike..
1. Behave like an adult.
What is it about someone new in the group that makes everyone regress to high school? Seriously, we have all seen new people before, and we promise not to steal your boyfriend, copy your homework or start rumors about you. We may have different clothes, hair, skin or accents, but we are here because we believe that individuality should be celebrated, not castigated. So if you could just treat us like an intelligent, normal human being rather than an alien with three heads, that would be marvelous.
2. Don’t make us look foolish, just because you can.
We are your guests, and are on our best behavior. This makes us easy targets for ridicule, but aggressively smashing feathered objects back across the net to try and intimidate us says far more about you than us.
3. Tell us the rules before you start.
We are new to this, so if you have particular codes of conduct that you would like us to adhere to, we are happy to be told. If your way of deciding who is going to serve first is to tap the shuttlecock in the air and see who it points to when it lands, we can accept that. But if you don’t tell us, and we leap athletically into action to return your ‘serve’, don’t tut, roll your eyes and stomp off. We’re not mind readers, and we’re just trying to play the game, for pity’s sake.
4. Forgive us our trespasses.
The trouble with unspoken rules is that they are, well, unspoken.We are going to make mistakes and step on your toes. So if you have strong feelings about which part of the court is yours, let us know. And use words, please, rather than swiping at us with your racquet.
5. If you invite us to join, include us.
When you put up posters advertising for new club members, implicit in that notice is a certain inclusivity. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with that word, it means that the odd kind word is not only appreciated, it’s pretty much expected. If that’s too much effort for you, don’t put up the damn posters and waste both of our time..
6. Play fair.
We’ve been around the block, and so we know when you are just inventing new rules to make us look bad. We are trying to please, we are turning ourselves inside out to conform, but the fact that we are new doesn’t give you the right to take advantage. So please don’t leave us to pack up the equipment alone while you all head off to the pub.
7. We’re here because we want to meet you.
We may seem standoffish or awkward or unimpressed, but it’s because we feel uncomfortable. However it may seem, we really do want you to talk to us, and any overtures of friendship are greatly appreciated. So please don’t all huddle together in the corner like you’re being invaded – if you think you feel uncomfortable with someone new, imagine how we feel when everyone is new.
8. A smile is all it takes.
We don’t need intellectual dialogue, detailed resumes or witty repartee to make us feel included – simply acknowledging our existence with a smile or a hello is enough. So next time you see someone new walk in the room, make eye contact and smile. It costs you nothing, but to us, it’s priceless.
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress