Saturday, March 23, 2013

Chinese Etiquette Issues, continued...

Many a time, we Chinese inflict all these ridicules, contempt and scorns upon ourselves. Not too long ago, a bun-maker in China was said to have used old paper cupboards to make the inner ingredients for his buns. The news was beamed all over the world – CNN, BBC, etc. The story turned out to be engineered a local reporter. By the time the truth emerged, damage had already been done. Hardly any of these global news channels bothered to retract the story. Why we ourselves have to do such a thing?


China-bashing is a fair game in the Western media. CNN’s Jack Caferty is most blatant about it. During the height of the street violence against ethnic Chinese in Tibet just before the Beijing Olympics, he placed the entire blame on the Chinese leadership and called them a bunch of goons. Chinese diplomats attempted to put on a more balanced perspective in the global media; but they didn’t sound convincing, largely because of their inability to articulate their cause in good English, a concern which I will discuss again later.


In Australia, we have John Garnaut who writes a regular column on China in The Age in Melbourne. This chap is believed to be stationed in China, yet little of what he has written is positive about China. He is forever talking about human rights and democracy, or the lack of it, in China – events like the Tiananmen incident, and his belief that there is really little or tangible in China’s so-called growth, etc. Even though these issues are pretty stale, undiscerning Aussies think all is gospel truth in whatever rubbish he writes.


But Chinese are not helping themselves. Tune on to CCTV9 (Now CCTVNews), China’s only international English channel, and you will understand what I mean. Besides a few anchor presenters, most of their correspondents spoke mickey-mouse or sing-song English. It is neither American English, nor Australian English, nor English English. It is Chinese English! They read English in the manner as if the text is in Chinese. It really irritates those who understand the nuances of English language. On the other hand, take a look at the Al Jazeera presenters, you can’t help feeling impressed. 


A high degree of self-centredness

A sense of misplaced self-centredness appears to be particularly strong amongst the Chinese. If you are ethnically a Chinese, you are likely to be greeted with “Kei tor wei?[1]  when you enter a Chinese-run restaurant in any part of the world. (You may also notice that it is not much of a greeting either; chances are that the waiter or waitress is also nonchalant when he or she says those words.) To a Cantonese, everyone who looks like him or her, or is yellow in skin, is a Cantonese!


            When you go for your yum-char[2] [饮茶], do you see that the restaurant will only provide a little plate of chilli sauce? It is for the whole table to share. Restaurants also seldom provide separate spoons in the dishes they serve. Why? The Chinese are used to sharing the dishes with their chopsticks and spoons. You can pick and choose with your chopsticks and spoons even though they are laced with your saliva and debris of food. Try asking them for separate spoons; they will think that you are “par-pai’ (or almighty)! What so unhygienic about sharing your food? And observe the way they dish out the plates to you; you might think that they received their training in casinos! They dish out the plates like dishing out cards!


            It is evident that Chinese generally do not bother to make a good attempt to understand their customers; they are simply too presumptuous. The Japanese, on the other hand, will study every need of their customers. The Caucasians, for example, have longer limbs than they do; products meant for this market will reflect this knowledge with the most intimate attention. We think everybody behaves like a Chinese! Of course, I have to rest my case if any reader argues that this is efficiency – something we should be proud about!


To many a Chinese, every Caucasian is a kwai-loh [鬼佬] (foreign devil); every native is a huan-knea [番仔]. Every one seems to be some kind of a kwai []or kwi (ghost), knea or chye (little fellow) to us. We are also very racist, aren’t we? We should do some soul-searching. Are we that superior? Or are we just trying to hide our inferiority complex? I think it is more of the latter. Averagely, we are less articulate in the way we express ourselves; we are either more over-dressed or under-dressed, and are either more over-groomed or under-groomed. We are “less-straight” than Caucasians, are we not? 

To be continued...

[1] “How many of you?” in Chinese Cantonese
[2]Drink tea” in Chinese Cantonese, but actually it is a form of breakfast-cum-lunch outing with friends or family members in Chinese restaurants where steamed buns, delicacies and sweets are served on trolleys. 

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