Monday, October 8, 2007

One Two Three Four Five

5 How are everyday common manners different? For instance, it used to be that in Germany everybody was pushy and competitive in public.

I have no idea. I don't speak the language well enough and I don't know what behaviors are reactions to my foreigner status. In my own neighborhood it took a lot of getting used to: people would not only stare at me, they'd tell their friends "hey, look at that." It may be the fact that I'm a foreigner that gets me such polite, helpful treatment everywhere I go.

The first guidebooks I bought said that people would cut in front of me in line, spit on the street, burp loudly at meals, and try to charge me 10 times what they charge everyone else. So far none of this has happened. I did recently learn that the vendors at the mall I frequent really will shave 1o RMB off the price of everything, but that's closer to a 5% markup, and really what else could I expect? You wouldn't expect someone freshly arrived in the US with 200 words of english to get the best deal on a cell phone plan, why should I get an ulcer over paying three dollars extra for a DVD player?

The people are nice, they're helpful at restaurants, a lot of the teenagers have some very limited english, but most people are utterly confused by my limited vocabulary and total illiteracy. When pointing at random to a menu item, I'll often get asked a long sentence in mandarin ("I don't understand what you're saying, sorry" is a phrase I whip out every hour or so), but no one makes a fuss about it. There are often three or four people working in a five-table restaurant, and people do stare, at us as we eat, but again it's hard to see that as a cultural constant.

Oh wait I finally thought of one odd thing: some guys, I assume the more uncouth, when its hot will roll their shirts up to reveal their bellies, tucking the roll in their armpits.

That seems weird.

1 comment:

zacharyr said...


Question +1 at your leisure: do you plan on getting bespoke dress clothes?

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