Readers’ Blog

What is Rude?

Popularity 13Viewed 6967 times 2016-12-10 09:10 |System category:Life

Early morning, my neighbor clatters down the stairs. Just about when he hits the first landing, right by my apartment door, he makes a great honking sound, snorts, and spits a wad as he descends the last few steps to the foyer. I can hear 'floop!' as he ejects his mucous and the 'splat' as it hits the floor.


A few buildings away, another man engages in a sneezing fit. It seems to be a ritual for him. I can hear him every morning. He does nothing to muffle his affliction.


At noon, a loving and engaged Grandma returns home with her charge. How do I know she is loving and engaged? Because she constantly exhorts the small child, all the way up the stairs (and then down again, after the noon break). She does not do it quietly.


On the bus, a phone jangles. “WEI???”, and thus begins an exchange the entire bus can hear.


In the supermarket checkout line, an elderly woman pushes past to take a place at the front of the line in spite of the rest of us, who have patiently been waiting our turn.


A workman comes to repair a water leak in my bathroom. He smokes as he works and throws his cigarette on the floor when he's done puffing. He squashes it with his boot as he walks out.


Related to cigarettes, a common occurrence: smoking in restaurants where 'No Smoking' signs are prominently displayed.


In restaurants, it is not uncommon to see/hear people loudly smacking their food, open-mouthed.


Every evening at 6:30, save for when it rains, the neighborhood people, from the one I live in and from the community next door, gather to dance. Their music reverberates and echoes through the buildings. Sometimes they dance past 9 PM. Most recently, one of the groups hired a dance instructor whose amplifier is particularly loud.


Mercifully, the drumming team only practices during the summer. This past September and October, it sounded like the two dance teams, the dance instructor and the drum team were competing to see who could be the loudest. In short: only rainy evenings provide quiet. 


During evening hours, when the area by the pond is most full of people, I don't suppose anyone does this but, one fine day, holding class outside, my students and I arrived at the pond area to find a woman defecating by the gazebo, in plain sight. Being a stroke victim she couldn't squat down; she stood, with her pants around her ankles, slightly bent over and holding on to a railing. I was mortified but my students shrugged it off, and the woman continued until her bowels were voided, and then sat down next to some of my kids and asked them questions about their teacher.


The questions! “How old are you?”; “How much money do you earn?”; “Where's your husband?”; and the comments: “You're so fat!”; “You're so tall!” and once, a helpful soul dug into my wallet to 'help' me as I was counting out cash at a train ticket window while muttering approvingly about a foreigner who can navigate China independently.


Here I might mention the lack of personal space: the Chinese like to crowd!


According to the customs and manners I was raised with, all of these behaviors are rude. The people practicing them would be considered ill-mannered. Maybe someone would even chide a person who spits in the foyer of their building or is too loud. And woe to anyone who cuts in line!


But these behaviors are... if not accepted, at least condoned in China, in spite of an ongoing campaign for civility.


Since I've been here there have been public service adverts on buses, on television and on the subways: you should give your seat up to the elderly, the frail, expectant women, or parents of small children. You shouldn't eat or drink on the buses or trains, nor should you spit. The city is plastered with '文明' signs! I can't imagine how much the government has spent on these educational campaigns, or on dual refuse bins: one for trash and the other for recyclables, with a small inlet for cigarette butts.


Throwing cigarette butts on the ground is one of my pet peeves. Trash too. Especially since these waste bins are liberally scattered all over China's cities; why throw trash on the ground?


Most parents of young children that I know often chide their progeny after an uncouth act: Is that civilized? (那是文不文明? - na shi wen bu wen ming?In my opinion, that is laudable. We learn our best lessons as children. But the question remains: if children are being taught what is and isn't civilized behavior, and those behaviors mirror the ones I learned as a child, making them easy for me to recognize, how is it that these bad behaviors persist?


And so, I wonder: with the perpetration of acts that would be deemed uncivilized, ill-mannered or downright rude by the apparent guidelines set forth by the government, acts that I understand to be uncouth because of those campaigns and because of my upbringing in a different environment, and these acts are apparently condoned, what would be considered rude, in China?


Please note: in no way am I demeaning China or her people. Never would I say that anyone here is being deliberately offensive. I understand that this is a different culture than the ones I grew up in, with different standards and different norms, and there is nothing at all wrong with that. I am genuinely trying to understand what would be considered rude to a Chinese person, so that I don't inadvertently offend anyone. Please help me!  

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


Passing

Eggs
1

Flowers
1

Shake hands

Ray

Friends who just made a statement (2 Person)

Like 0 Share
8.03K

Report

Comment Comment (27 comments)

Reply Report TedM 2016-12-10 12:14
I know how you feel. Whilst China has developed its industry and business; its economy in a remarkably short space of time, it remains very backward socially by Western standards. Many of the things you mention would have been seen and done in the west 100-200 years ago; spitting, shouting etc. Social behaviour takes a very long time to develop. In China it has begun to improve. Many schools have begun educating students in better behaviour. There are even parent courses in a few schools. As a middle class develops, so too will better standards of behaviour.... but over time.  See my blog "The Children of China" that I wrote a few years ago. It is not about children, but about how a young China is learning and developing socially, just like a child who needs to be taught acceptable behaviour (whatever that may be).
Reply Report teamkrejados 2016-12-10 17:49
TedM: I know how you feel. Whilst China has developed its industry and business; its economy in a remarkably short space of time, it remains very backward s ...
Thanks for your support. I too have noticed more education in socially acceptable behaviour.
At my school, I don't think the teachers engage in manners teaching. If they did, why would they leave the classrooms filthy and the blackboard full of writing?  
Reply Report TedM 2016-12-10 22:57
Selfishness and a lack of consideration for others, or care for public spaces is going to take a long time to correct. Some teachers show good examples, many do not. And imposed rules do not count. These apply to other people. It is clever to break them to your advantage. The meaning behind the rules is not understood.
Reply Report parcher 2016-12-12 21:32
I still have not worked out why so many feel the need to spit? I eat the same food but never feel like spitting at anytime, and I doubt other foreigners have either. Its definitely worst in the morning and its not pretty I agree. AS for the smoking issues......that would annoy me if they put their cig end out on my floor....
Reply Report DMZappa 2016-12-12 23:05
I would say, "Welcome to China".
Reply Report seneca 2016-12-13 07:14
Everything becomes a few degrees more tolerable once youy accept that the father and mother roles are not held by parents of children but by the rulers. The country is a "motherland" and the cops, magistrates and mayors are all members of the C.P.C. The mother is mild, the father is harsh. In the end, it is the father, i.e. the P.S.B., the teachers and the chengguan who drum morals into the commoners.

How can the commoners behave differently when the official fathers smoke ciggies in their offices, spit on the floor, shout orders and generally lord it over them? The commoners in turn register their children with a boarding school run by the fathers. Biological parents have very little influence over their children's behaviour: it mainly comes from officials.
Reply Report 1105852048 2016-12-13 07:16
To be rude is to make them lose face, argue with them or confront them about a problem, especially in front of others [make them lose face].
Reply Report fatdragon 2016-12-13 09:07
My wife, who is Chinese, is disgusted by the social manners of the Chinese but considers it a little better in the younger generation.
Reply Report Dracarys 2016-12-13 10:08
Some Child in China is just like nightmare if you once traveled by high speed rail .. You'll find no peace and you just can't relax in the long journey cause there are Children running through the compartment and their parents, however, think this is the exactly child's nature ..
So what you talking about in this blog, its origin come from people's early age and it's really pity that some parents are taking it not seriously ..
Reply Report parcher 2016-12-13 10:08
1105852048: To be rude is to make them lose face, argue with them or confront them about a problem, especially in front of others [make them lose face].
True..
that's why it is not easy managing local workers...
to fix a problem is easier sweeping it under the carpet
Reply Report Ratfink 2016-12-15 10:05
parcher: I still have not worked out why so many feel the need to spit? I eat the same food but never feel like spitting at anytime, and I doubt other foreigne ...
It's a large and complex issue "spitting". In part it's bad manners, some of it is due to the belief of many Chinese people that phlegm etc is somehow harmful and should be expelled from the body and then there's pollution and other issues.  There's no simple "one size fits all" answer to spitting in China.
Reply Report parcher 2016-12-15 10:30
ok I see,...
Reply Report teamkrejados 2016-12-15 13:09
TedM: Selfishness and a lack of consideration for others, or care for public spaces is going to take a long time to correct. Some teachers show good example ...
And there, we go to a completely different lesson about beating the system. Sigh!
Still, thanks so much for your input. Wish you a great day.
Reply Report teamkrejados 2016-12-15 13:12
parcher: I still have not worked out why so many feel the need to spit? I eat the same food but never feel like spitting at anytime, and I doubt other foreigne ...
My son, who is not Chinese, spits. It drives me crazy! When I asked him about it - way back when, when I was responsible for him, he said it's a guy thing and I wouldn't understand. I don't think so, but I left it at that. Parents have to pick their battles, you know.  
Spitting seems to be an equal opportunity, here. I've seen both men and women spit, however, men seem to do it with more vigor and glee.
Thanks for your input and your annoyance by association about that worker who put his cigarette out on my floor.  
Reply Report teamkrejados 2016-12-15 13:16
DMZappa: I would say, "Welcome to China".
Strange thing is, these behaviors are ubiquitous. I actually had to think a while on instances that would be considered rude (except for the woman by the pond. That one sprang right up!).
I had the idea for this article on the way to a wedding in a small town. Knowing I would be the only foreigner there, I wondered what I might do to inadvertently offend anyone who has never seen a foreigner.
Funny story about that: I was swarmed with teenagers while out, waiting for the event to begin. As they pelted me with questions in English, I told them (in Chinese) that I am French and speak no English at all. Their disappointment was obvious.
Was that rude? I wonder...
Reply Report teamkrejados 2016-12-15 13:21
seneca: Everything becomes a few degrees more tolerable once youy accept that the father and mother roles are not held by parents of children but by the ruler ...
After yesterday, I tend to agree with you.
I went to a boarding school for left-behind children. Said children were well-behaved, for the most part. But, when left unchecked, their behaviour turned, rather dramatically (an autograph session became a shoving and shouting match, with the littler students getting trampled and even injured).
While the headmaster, a gracious woman, seemed to embody dignity, the administration, comprised mostly of older men who smoked, puffed away and spat on the floor.
I wondered: which behaviours will the children embrace?
Thanks for your insight. Wish you a great day.
Reply Report teamkrejados 2016-12-15 13:25
1105852048: To be rude is to make them lose face, argue with them or confront them about a problem, especially in front of others [make them lose face].
Thank you for your answer.
As it turns out, I was confronted with just such a situation recently. A fellow teacher insisted I fulfill a promise she had made to someone else (without my consent or knowledge). She wasn't giving me face, was she?
But, if I didn't do as she had promised, I would be causing her to lose face.
Should I have ignored her lack of face for me and helped her save face?
It was a difficult situation! Fortunately, it resolved itself well, in the end.
Again, thank you for helping me understand this complicated cultural issue.
Wish you a great day.
Reply Report teamkrejados 2016-12-15 13:28
fatdragon: My wife, who is Chinese, is disgusted by the social manners of the Chinese but considers it a little better in the younger generation.
I can understand your wife's dilemma.
America is my country of nationality but I am burdened with shame at some of its doings, so blatantly and publicly displayed. And there, the younger generation is not necessarily the better one.  
Reply Report teamkrejados 2016-12-15 13:30
Dracarys: Some Child in China is just like nightmare if you once traveled by high speed rail .. You'll find no peace and you just can't relax in the long journe ...
Good point! On the one hand, it is nice to see children being children. On the other, it is not nice to see them disturb the peace. But, by far less appealing are the parents who tolerate such behavior - force it on everyone else.
In trains, the concept of 'indoor voices' would be good.
Reply Report teamkrejados 2016-12-15 13:32
Ratfink: It's a large and complex issue "spitting". In part it's bad manners, some of it is due to the belief of many Chinese people that phlegm etc  ...
There is no simple, one-size-fits-all to anything, in China (or anywhere else). That's what makes it so much fun!

facelist doodle Doodle board

You need to login to comment Login | register


Album

Recent comments

  • 2014-04-01 2017-9-24 17:21

    wonderful depiction

  • The 'Face' Effect 2017-8-17 16:51

    In the USA blacks demand all people of other races to call them "African American" Yet they call each other the"N" word everyday.Maybe they should folllow the law. Respect is earned and can not be foreced on you by any law.

Star blogger

Anming

4124

views

Maierwei

2603

views

财神

4580

views

BACK TO THE TOP
Contact us:Tel: (86)010-84883548, Email: blog@chinadaily.com.cn
Blog announcement:| We reserve the right, and you authorize us, to use content, including words, photos and videos, which you provide to our blog
platform, for non-profit purposes on China Daily media, comprising newspaper, website, iPad and other social media accounts.