Wednesday, January 25, 2017

This is not China, we have rules

I just read this headline on China’s CGTN: 'This is not China, we have rules': Chinese behavior abroad back in the spotlight
A video about a Chinese mother who took her daughter to a clinic in Singapore has gone viral.  Apparently, the mother has returned to the consulting room to ask a few more questions after collecting some medicine, as she was not sure how to follow the instructions regarding taking the treatment. The doctor rejected her request and asked her to get a new number and return to the back of the queue, and said something like “this is not China. We have rules.” An argument ensued and police was called.

This all sounds very familiar. To the mother, it was something very natural for one to act in this circumstance. I suspect the doctor’s response must have been a result of a prejudice that he has built over the years – after seeing similar behaviours day in and day out.

Each time I saw someone jumping queue, I would also not hesitate to remind the culprit of the need to observe good practices. But it had to be done with some diplomacy or politeness lest an ugly response might result.

I just returned from Bangkok. I saw people queuing to go into lifts. Ditto in many places in Singapore. Many of them are Chinese. The question is, why Chinese in elsewhere can do it and Mainland Chinese cannot do it?

I suspect Mainland Chinese have lost their sense of “right” and “not-so-right” in so far as norms that are acceptable to educated people in the more “cultured” world. Many Chinese, no matter how educated they are, seem quite oblivious of the need for give way to elders, say hello when paths are crossed, tone down their voices if there are also other guests around, cover their mouths with handkerchiefs or tissues when coughing, on fox-trot their chopsticks on dishes, etc.

Surely the leadership in China must be aware of the prejudices against their compatriots. Why not start a national campaign to highlight and correct these Chinese “deficiencies”? (They have done a few, but I thought they were quite mickey-mousy and will not produce the results intended.) Such a campaign must be sustained; not just with a few PR or half-hearted efforts.

In Singapore, they can cane people who mess up places with chewing gums. Maybe this is the way to discipline?

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