Author: Sara Naumann
Thursday September 24, 2009
星期三 9月24日, 2009
I’ve been listening to a few podcasts discussing the loss – or lack – of civility in the US recently.
We’ve got Congressman Joe Wilson’s outburst during President Obama’s health care speech at the forefront, followed up by Kanye West and Serena Williams’ recent gaffs.
Is it coincidence or really an illustration of the decline in American civility?
Despite nodding my head in agreement with the pundits who argued it was indeed a real decline, and apologies should be (and were) offered up, I found myself only days later in an interesting dilemma.
In China there’s a different notion about civility.
Diners routinely snap at waitresses to hurry up.
Horns blare at the first sign of a green light.
It’s even difficult to say “please” in the same way we would in English.
And saying “thank you” to a family member isn’t necessary.
As I stood for what seemed to me too long in the front of the grocery line with my hand out dangling the cash for my purchases, while the checkout girl took a personal call on her cell phone, my recent agreement on the downfall of American civility vanished as I snapped in Chinese to hurry up.
So here I am in China, caught in my own, what my American side tells me is, lack of civility.
I would probably not have done this in the US (though admittedly my local grocery store has moved to self-check out, but that’s another matter).
I put it to my Facebook friends to see what they thought and most agreed that I didn’t act circumspectly.
Feeling slightly shamed, yet at the same time righteous, I took it to my Chinese lesson where my Chinese teacher was incredulous.
Of course it’s OK to tell the service person to hurry up.
It’s not even considered a lack of courtesy.
My “outburst” wouldn’t even be considered such here in China.
Here, many discussions would be considered arguments in the US.
(I do not dare compare Chinese culture to any other than my own.)
Where Americans are typically non-confrontational, Chinese people can openly discuss their disagreements and, as long as a level of face is kept by both sides, it can end rather amicably.
It is not uncommon to see a crowd of people gathered around a traffic incident where the perpetrator is using a very loud and excited voice with the policeman at the site.
I gawk at such sightings waiting for the officer to throw the person to the ground yelling “Spread’em!” but it just doesn’t happen here.
The discussion on civility led to another interesting topic – freedom of speech.
I’ll save that for another post.
From Sara Naumann, About.com’s Guide to China Travel, guest-blogger for Chinese Culture. You can also find Sara on twitter .
出自Sara Naumann, 来自About.com的”中国旅行指引”,一名写中国文化的嘉宾博主,你也可以在twitter上找到Sara.