Yesterday while skyping with Karolina and telling all of my frustrations and joys, I realized how much I actually learned about Asia, and China in particular. While it has been a little bit of a roller-coaster of ups and downs, it is a truly fascinating opportunity to be able to observe and live in such a contrastingly different culture.
At the same time, I keep finding out how much of a continental European I am, with my own presuppositions of what is respect, especially in the areas of eating time and speaking volume. Every Sunday I have lunch with my boss’ family and almost every time I am engrossed by some of their behavior – raising voices, slurping, eating very fast, unexpectedly leaving or joining the table…
To be fair, I have to add that they are always very considerate if I had enough food.
I have been reading tons of blogs and various articles and it seems that asking if you are full is just a Chinese culture in general and nothing really particular to this family. I won’t add much to this post of my own observations, but I will post a few tips that I did not found in other blogs from this article.
1. No nose blowing.
“Furthermore, you must never ever blow your nose, look at the “spoil” and then re-plug it into your trousers pocket. You mustn’t blow your nose at all at table in China. It is common to go to the toilet to blow your nose.”
I was just having cold this past week and my nose was running heavily. Ups ups…:) I might have blown my nose once or twice somewhere close to people, but good for me that I normally feel extremely awkward at blowing my nose in front of others.
2. Don’t use toothpicks at dinner time.
“if you need to use the toothpick, you should use your hand as a visual cover.”
I think this is a general rule everywhere. Esp., in the west.
3. Soup at lunchtime ALWAYS
“soup is considered a drink in China and not food – as you “drink” your soup, you do not “eat” it.”
Finally I found an explanation why they always drink soup at lunch time, but never have any drinks.
4. Leaving fast
“Everybody stands up ending up the common meal, which might seem a little abrupt to Europeans sometimes.”
True – no lovely sitting afterwards for digestion.
5. Indirect criticism
“Chinese often have an outstanding ability to express their criticism indirectly. For instance, if an interpreter has did his job lousily, it will be highlighted that he has to fulfil so many obligations that they will thus not bother him next time. If an idea is really poor, it is underlined that this person has had many excellent ideas in the past. The basis of working together in China is, in contrast to the West, the maintenance of harmony and the avoidance of arguments. ”
I have not noticed this yet. Probably I was too short in this country or the criticism was too indirect for me.
6. Ending on an equal basis.
“All these circumstances do not mean that Chinese do not like to passionately discuss various topics. Yet, at the end of the vivid discussion, the conclusion should be drawn that basically both were absolutely right or that they have meant the same thing. It should not be the goal of a discussion to be the “winner” afterwards, you should not aim for fighting the counterparty by arguments. Such a behaviour would be perceived as embarrassingly arrogant and it could be misconceived as a personal criticism towards the counterpart.”
Something to remember for the future! and something I actually feel quite comfortable about, unless it is a truly unsettling issue.