Archive for the ‘miss manners’ Category


Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Interesting news today.  My friends and I have been nervously joking about it. (“Do you want to grab food, oh wait, can’t really afford to be seen with any other foreigners right now.”) We’ll see how it plays out. I’ll keep you updated if CENSORED. Just kidding ha ha ha?

Not a whole lot is new with me. I’ve been constantly coming up with new games to play with my students. My latest is to bring in my alarm clock, and set the alarm one minute ahead. Then we play hot potato while saying the days of the week, months of the year, seasons, etc. The game was up when they figured out how to disable the alarm really subtly, without me noticing. (I’m telling you! They’re clever! Not that my classroom is anything like Jurassic Park.)

Right now, I’m procrastinating on doing some writing homework. Our teacher emailed us a PDF and we have to describe the pictures in Chinese. Unfortunately, they’re cartoons, and I have no idea what the jokes are. Take a look. I’ll be accepting assistance in the comments section below, thanks.

Sad to say my 父母 have left Beijing. I hope their trip wasn’t too overwhelming! I had a lot of fun showing them around, and I was reminded that traveling and living in China sometimes isn’t the most convenient, but is always an adventure. Also, I learned that I literally have no table manners left. It’s not really a thing here to NOT reach all the way across the table. (Not to mention slurping noodles!)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of “common courtesy” and how it relates to Chinese culture. My Chinese American friend was telling me how frustrated she gets sometimes with Chinese people here who, she feels, don’t express any courtesy. And I can see what she means. Shoving, reaching, spitting, smoking, talking loudly…. they’re all common and nobody bats an eye. If you say hi to a stranger, even in a situation like an elevator, they’re going to think “crap, am I supposed to know that person!?” (And that’s the best case; usually they’ll just think you’re bonkers). I was reading a blog post where the writer was complaining about how in China, people think you’re stupid for showing what we would call politeness. Even the language itself can be harsh sounding, and brutally blunt. In America, in situations where I would normally say “oh, no thanks, I’d rather not,” in China I would say “不要” which is simply, “don’t want.”

I think there’s a much more subtle force at work than our version of common courtesy. I think overall, people are much more open to others (umm, not talking politics here). I once helped a grandfather carry a baby carriage up some stairs while grandma carried the baby. They thanked me and I cooed at the baby for a minute. Maybe not the best example, but the whole situation struck me as so routine for them, like they thought it was really unremarkable. To them, it was so natural that I would offer help and smile at their grandson. I think a similar situation in the U.S. while of course it could happen, would be regarded with much more… suspicion? In the U.S. accepting help like that would be seen as a sign of weakness much more than it does here.  And instead of getting huffy or angry at others, everyone accepts that the public space is for everyone, and so anyone can bump into you, spit on the ground, play a loud game of cards, and it’s okay. In the U.S., someone bumping into you the wrong way can start a fight.

Anyway, obviously not fully developed in these ideas and I’m just kind of running a rambling comparison. Just something to think about.