Manners and the lack of.
Trip Start Sep 14, 2009
91Trip End Aug 31, 2011
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
the cool room
Saturday I went and visited a school that was opening up. I heard about the school through a fellow American and he wanted me to come with not only to help him but to see about work as well. I was pretty much turned off to the idea as we started asking questions. The school is a private school, so I imagined it to be that way.
The other guy kept asking questions. The person who was acting as our translator was doing a very, very good job. Every thing she translated was as we had been meaning. However, every reply we got answered not only a question we didn't ask, but also a question that we didn't care about
Recently on the daily bike ride there's been a college student who can speak English pretty well. Over the past few days when I've been talking to him I figure I should try something different. Instead I just complain about the ways that myself and my friends feel that Chinese people disrespect us foreigners. After the third day of this the guy looks to me and says, "Just don't think about it!" This is a common Chinese response. This has not been the first time I've been told this. I told him that was unacceptable. Westerners will always try to make themselves happy. When we decide that we don't want to think about it any more we shoot ourselves in the head. He kind of laughed at that, but then was reminded once again that our cultures are different. However, I keep on reminding him that from the first moment he introduced himself to me (note that he introduced himself to me instead of grabbing my leg or fondling my body hair) he has been treating me with respect that westerners would enjoy and that he was doing a good job
Sunday I took a bike ride out to the nature reserve to see if I could see the cranes. I had never been there before, so I wasn't sure if it was just some small park or just some open space. I could not gather much information in my limited searches. When I got there there were no signs, just a building and a gate left open. So I bike in. Finally I hear a woman screaming at the man at the gate to stop me. I keep going, but when the man started screaming I figured I should stop. He keeps saying to me, "You need to buy a ticket" in Chinese. I'm getting quite sick of people pretending not to understand me when I talk to them in Chinese, so I figured I'd turn it on them. I just kept repeating in English, "Sorry I don't understand you!" When he kept saying the same thing over and over I started to look more frustrated. So I give him my dictionary so he could look up the word and show me. He just takes the book and points back to the building. I point to the book again and instead he just points to the building again. Turns out he is illiterate. At this point I want my book back, but he refruses to give it back to me. Since he is older I can move faster than him and end up snatching it away. So we go back towards the building. I see that the ticket price is listed as 30 yuan, but then on a sheet next to the sign it says add 20 more on top of that. So I ask them how much it is. In English I'm told
Now again, most of the time when I try to act respectful and talk to people in Chinese the general response I get is "I don't understand! I don't understand!" I talk to my teachers later about what I said and they tell me I couldn't say it any better. So as I said, these people could fully understand me. I ended up arguing with them on and on for the next 20 or 30 minutes about how they have change their price back in 2008, but still have not updated their sign to their current price. The old man said I could talk to the manager about the issue. I told him to go get him. The old man stands there and does nothing. I wait 10 seconds and ask again. The old man does nothing. I ask a third time. The old man looks at me. I then ask him when the manager will be here. He says he doesn't know. Welcome to customer service in China. So I then talk to the woman at the window to speak with the manager. He's not here, he's in the city. I express to him that he gets here in a car. I came on a bike. It's much more difficult for me to come here than him, so I should speak with him immediately
So what did I learn here? Frustrate people first so that way they will be happy to understand you as opposed to disappointed that they can understand you. That's a really crappy lesson. I asked a friend who had gone there if the 50 yuan was worth it. She said it was and the bike ride out there is a nice 50+ mile round trip. Next time I'll ust have to leave earlier so I can spend more time there.
Later in the evening I ended up going out to dinner with a friend of mine. It was at a really big restaurant and when we walked in about 15% of the tables had patrons craning their necks to look at the foreigners that just entered. Then about 10 minutes later something surprising happened. An employee of the place came up to me and literally said, "Excuse me, can I ask you a question? Where are you from?" Real, actual geniune politeness expressed by a Chinese person who cannot speak English. It made me happy. I answered his questions. He thanked me and went on his way.