Signs tell a lot of things about the society in which they are found. This one I photographed at the parking lot entrance of Bandung Electronic Center (BEC) on Purnawarman street, for example, may look simple and innocent. But if we read it carefully, it actually may not be as simple and innocent as it looks.
On the surface, the message of this sign looks like a courteous and privileged treatment for lady drivers. Underneath this surface, however, this sign also implies that lady drivers are being considered not as competent as their man counterparts. It is therefore both a statement of courteousity and inequality between men and women.
The fact that this sign is written in English may escape the scrutiny of native English speakers who live in a country where English is its first or second language. When read against the fact that English is neither the first language nor second language in Indonesia (read: Bandung, where this sign is located), a different set of conclusions may be drawn. First, we may conclude that there may not be a sufficient equivalence for the term in the Indonesian language (the conclusion of which, of course, is not true as the Indonesian does have a perfect match translation for it). Second, English is considered as a more prestigious language by the owner/management of this mall/business premises in particular, and the society in general. To the dismay of may patriotic and nationalistic Indonesians, this conclusion may be true. English has become a more and more prominent language in our daily life to the detriment of our own national language, Bahasa Indonesia.
As simple as they may look on the surface, signs do tell a lot about the condition of a society. Therefore, beginning today, I'm going to take you on a tour of sign reading in the city where I live: Bandung. This series of posts on sign reading, hopefully, will make us more aware of the complex nature of signs and represent the current state of a society, despite their simple and innocent look.
Text and picture by Eki Qushay Akhwan, all rights reserved.