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It is always difficult for me to call a(n older) person by her/his first name at the first meeting. The intricacies of addressing have been discussed in different disciplines and there is a good amount of literature in this area (for an overview see this book).

The hierarchical society imposes some conceptual scripts that you just can’t help. I had overcome the issue with older/high-ranking men whenever I had to address them (by their first names). However, the issue remained unchanged with older/high-ranking women. There was always something stopping me from addressing them in anyway except a title plus the last name. A couple of years of living in Poland, I believe, worsened the issue; since Poles are stricter in this respect than Iranians.

Anyway, a few days ago and after almost three months of living in Australia, I decided to end this subconscious discrimination, so I wrote an email to one of my supervisors (who is a very nice lady) and explained why I intended to begin addressing her in the “Australian way”, i.e. by her first name. Here is the email content (and it seems self-explanatory):

I’ve been advised to take the Australian way of addressing. Actually, I’ve always believed that the system of hierarchy we have in many countries in the world -including Iran- doesn’t entail any moral values (or superiority) per se. Besides, I’ve always considered myself an ironist (in Rorty’s terminology) who believes in the contingency of his ‘final vocabulary’. However, (and surprisingly,) I feel uncomfortable to swap two arbitrary forms of conceptualisation. Happily though, I lack any ideological inclinations, except the belief in the ethics of a liberal subject (with regard to Judith Shklar’s definition). But, now, I am able to understand how difficult integration is for those with a large body of engrained arbitrary beliefs and ideas. So, I’ll try my best to prove to myself that what I practise is not the antithesis of the philosophy I preach! and I would call you ‘in the Australian way’, even though it might be (and is) a bit difficult in the beginning.

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