Dear / Sister

One of the things in Saudi Arabia that makes me pull out my (in)famous eye roll?

When someone addresses me in English with “sister”. Better said, keeps addressing me. All the time. “Sister this”, “sister that” … Last time I caught myself muttering to myself again that we’re not in a convent full of nuns to be going on and on with this sister business.

Of course, this is in truth an honestly kind gesture. In the Islamic world, it is used to address anyone, even in formal situations: at the post office, in the hospital, in the supermarket …

From Arabic, the terms are actually literally translated into “my sister” and “my brother”. Tamer says it sounds very unifying in the original language.

In English and Slovene, however, so much gets lost in translation. The possesive pronoun “my” disappears and at the same time it sounds a little strange. At least to me.

The reality is, that a good part of my communication is limited to writing, since nobody goes out much these days; so I am faced with being a “sister” mostly on Facebook and in text messages.

In addition to “sister,” I’m even more allergic to the word, which is mostly used by expat ladies from Pakistan; they simply love to use “dear” at the start or end of their sentences and they reign supreme in all the chat forums.

Slovenian language simply cannot convert this nuance of charm, in a formal conversation or basically any stranger. In my head, it translates as totally condescending, patronizing.

Each time, I have to distance myself and decipher the purpose of the message in addition to my second language.

Have you ever faced a similar language predicament? When something just doesn’t work in your native language and sounds so insincere …?

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