Monika’s Musings

miscellaneous tidbits on marketing, advertising, and life in general

(Cultural) Misunderstandings


As someone with a background in communications, I am particularly interested in and fascinated by miscommunication. Today I’ll tell you one of my most favorite stories.

When I was at university, I was always looking for ways to actually avoid studying. Therefore, I was quite active in many extracurricular activities and it was only natural that I became part of the Student Government Association. 

My school was great for many reasons, one of the top ones being its small, but very diverse student body: we had more than 100 nationalities. 

The SGA consisted of three Bulgarians (eh, well …), one American, one French-Haitian and one Iranian. And somehow we found a common language. Well, most of the times.

One day I walked into the office, only to find our SGA vice-president really grumpy. To my Hello she replied with something along the lines of You’re a mess. Oh, wait, no you’re OK, I’m a mess. And so are half the other members of the exec council… Apparently!

The only adequate reply to this was a dumb look on my part; then she handed me a piece of paper. The following was written on it:

Monika – OK

Philippa – OK

Jen – mess

Kam – mess

Neal – OK

Maria – mess.

It was also written in my handwriting (which I think my friend had failed to notice). Jen was super pissed off that someone was calling her a mess, and my boisterous laughter definitely didn’t help … until I explained.

See, the previous night I had to call my team to let them know an early morning meeting would be cancelled. I jotted our names on a piece of paper. Next to me, and the ones I actually managed to get a hold of, I put OK. Next to the others – I put mess. Abbreviated for (left) message that is.

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