“I don’t like Chinese people. When I visited Guangzhou a few years ago everyone was cutting in line. They would use their elbows just to push past you. They didn’t even care if you had been standing there a long time, they always had to go first. In Malaysia people always line up, even when they are in a hurry.
China has too many people and none of them have any manners. Like when you go into the bathroom and nobody has even bothered to shut the door. You see everything and I just can’t stand it. I don’t want to see your penis and I definitely don’t want to watch you poop; it’s disgusting.
Furthermore, China doesn’t even have any traditional culture. Everything has been lost there. If you want to see lion dancing or dragon dancing you have to go to another country. In Malaysia you can see these things everywhere around Chinese New Year, but on the mainland they are only on TV.
And it’s not like I’ve only been to China once, I’ve been there four times and I still can’t stand it. When it really comes down to it I love China’s scenery, but I can’t stand it’s people.”
This is a rough translation from Chinese of the monologue given by our ethnically Chinese, Malaysian taxi driver when we mentioned that we lived in China. Other ethnic Chinese here have told us similar stories from their experiences with the mainland and so far 3 out of 4 didn’t have a single nice thing to say. I was more than a little surprised by their reactions.
I’ve been working in Singapore and HK recently and I’ve had very similar conversations with people in those countries [ethnically Chinese people]. I hate to say it but I find it hard to disagree with a lot of the negative things people say about “mainlanders”. Of course it’s lazy to generalise and there are many exceptions to the rule but the majority of mainlanders are causing problems for the image of the Chinese abroad. China really needs to do something to address it’s unsavoury national characteristics or else the word “mainlander” is going to become euphemistic for awful behaviour, if it’s not already.
It’s not just HK and Singapore even in GUANGZHOU the locals also hate mainlanders.
What’s Ironic is that half or 40% of population in Guangzhou are from migrant workers. The locals of Guangzhou are also irritated with their new mainland immigrant saying that their Cantonese speakers is getting taking over by Mandarin speakers from Central China. But the same can be said in Shanghai, migrant wanted workers migrated to Guangdong because it’s China richest province. Mainlanders just want to go where place is rich, you don’t see them migrating to Sichuan. But in Shanghai and Guangdong they are trying to dry up all the resources, you can see people of Shanghai are also fed up.
Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan dislike mainland immigrants.
Mailanders from Shanghai and Guangzhou dislike mainland immigrants.
Now even the assimilated mainland migrants dislike the newer mainland migrants.
So it’s really all too ironic to be honest.
I’d say this is a typical perspective of the majority of ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia. By and large, their ancestral homeland is now vilified as mooring an uncouth culture.
After spending two years traveling around China myself, then coming back to Southeast Asia, I must say it is refreshing to no longer get a brusque beat-down daily on my morning commute.
I’ve been to Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia and have many friends who are Taiwanese too. I have to say I understand where these guys are coming from, those countries are politer and better mannered. I think mainly because in essence, they’re older nations where manners were a part of social conformity (ruthlessly enforced) in Singapore, religious conformity (enforced though less ruthlessly) in Malaysia, colonial conformity (legally enforced) in Hong Kong and educational conformity in Taiwan.
I’m also aware that Chinese bad habits were once rife in all these places and it took time and concerted effort to remove them. It will happen on the mainland – is happening on the mainland, here in Shenzhen the revolting spitting thing is much, much less common than it used to be, as it is in Beijing too. But it takes time, and a concerted effort to change – and at the moment, it’s not a priority as China has a million other more important things to take care of on its development road map than the sensibilities of foreigners.
I’d suggest you arrange a stay of 2 weeks to Hong Kong to see 58 millions a year mainland chinese from PRC doing to the city. 2008-2012
I’d like to know the history of manners/ public behaviour in the diaspora. And i wonder if the ccp rule has made things worse or not. . . Personally, i have about zero time for any talk of gradualism re: china. So, when someone says ‘theyre getting better, they just need time’ i’m like, ‘well theyre not having any of mine.’ Lastly, there is the idea that people in small places, like taiwan or hk, can change faster than people in big places, like india or china. But then my question is, how qualitatively different a place is china from taiwan? Isnt china just a collection of small places?
Your Malaysian cabbie’s generalisation IS an accurate one, albeit cynical-sounding. Tom, what interests me more is why were you surprised?
My theory is that during the Cultural Revolution all the modern Chinese with manners [the running dogs of the imperialists] were sent to the countryside to be ‘re-educated’ – taught how to hawk, spit and shit on the street.
Any Chinese person that showed some kind of western behaviour like opening a door for a lady, or blowing their nose on a handkerchief was likely to be labelled as a member of the bourgeoisie and purged or killed. So not showing manners has been a way of saving yourself from the zealous red guards in China for a pretty long time.
Also having a deceased sociopath who’s closest comparison would be Jabba The Hut as the eternal spiritual leader doesn’t help matters much.
Well, that’s an interesting way to start my morning. I’m not sure how universal these opinions might be but, then again, I’ve dealt mostly with mainlanders in recent years and they are generally loathe to say anything bad about China (should I say “zhong guo” or “zu guo”?) – while often talking about how bad the West is and how stupid Americans are. Not all of them, mind you, but a pretty fair percentage…
I would be curious to know the opinions of mainlanders of the diaspora throughout Southeast Asia – at least those who have traveled there. Are there similar perceptions?
“仓廪实而知礼节, 衣食足则知荣辱” –史记《管晏列传》
Yes, but mainlanders who are wealthy enough to come pursue an education in Malaysia are still exhibiting inconsiderate habits no different than what has been described, though not as severe. They talk too loudly (!!!) and wear lingerie to the admin department.
YS, they are horrible I am wearing mask and ear plugs everyday when I go out . They raised their voices in all circumstances, even the children are so evil to look at.
now we know why they are so loaded. 2 Billion Hong Kong Dollars donated to China earthquakes in 2008 – check the news closely to understand a bit more of what happened to those money;; schools built but shortlived then replaced by ” development ” expensive houses, cash cows for the local officers.or still built with ” bubbles ” so high death toll when the earthquake hits ( but we paid 2 Billion !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ) 2013 – a young boy 19 from mainland chinese money launching Hong Kong Dollars 1 Billion through BOC(?)..the little part of old Hong Kong fighting hard with communist, don’t you guys know ??? we are doomed not in 50 years , already 2012. 95%
I really don’t understand the purpose of the post, other than telling us something about the prejudices that “overseas” Chinese hold. Still, I’m not surprised that the Greek chorus emerges to confirm these prejudices are grounded in objective reality. No doubt its Chinese culture that is at fault, or perhaps the Cultural Revolution, right? What’s next, a guest post quoting a New York cabbie confirming Nigerians are an immoral, thieving people?
I thought it was a rather interesting monologue given by the cabbie, thought it would be interesting to others and drive discussion. Seems to have done that.
I think it’s interesting, too, Tom, but not in the way it has been taken up in the discussion. To me, if one hears something like this from Chinese-Malaysian taxi driver, then a discussion of the attitudes of Chinese-Malaysians or “overseas Chinese” is in order.
Um, ok, in what way should we be discussing 华侨? How they’re different from mainland Chinese? What about Taiwanese? Not sure what point you’re attempting to make here… 🙂
None of the above, @Chopstik. Just saying that if I want to know something about the habits and living conditions of the Chinese diaspora, I wouldn’t interview mainland Chinese taxi drivers. If I wanted to study the attitudes and feelings of mainland China expats, I might read English language bloggers on China. But I certainly wouldn’t use bloggers thoughts on China as a source of insight into Chinese people ways of being. Of course if you want to know something about how the diaspora feel about mainland Chinese, the taxi driver in my post is quite a good source. As an academic, my tendency is to try to match the data source with the aims of the research. Very often the available data determines the questions that can be asked.
Thanks for the lively discussion all.
Quick observation/opinion from a longer-than-expected SE Asia expat (currently in KL; studied in BKK):
This morning I met a convivial cabbie, and — while I don’t recognize cabbies as the most credible sample of a culture or a journalistic source (they tend to be a bit 井底之蛙; it is also lazy journalism) — I’d like to say that, though stated simply, the man I spoke with echoed a similar set of grievances previously mentioned.
Best to let him speak.
Third-generation Chinese cabbie born in KL. More comfortably in Chinese, so his statement is translated: “Some mainlanders I’ve met [in KL, Hong Kong and Macau] are full of themselves. They are liars; they get angry easily. The women? I think they have a horrible disposition [towards life].”
A quick convo with a Singaporean elementary school teacher proved more instructive: “Singaporeans dislike mainlanders, generally speaking. Especially those whose jobs have been taken by them,” which is because S’pore immigration policy was loosened for mainlanders a few years ago, then quickly tightened. “I can’t say they are not well educated. It depends on which industry they are in. Engineering is badly affected. Specifically manufacturing.” She then described an incident when a mainlander “hijacked” her cab. “The woman said to the driver: ‘你怕什么？我又不是不会给你钱。快开车啊’ (What are you afraid of? I’m going to pay you. Quick, drive!) And she slammed the door and the cab drove off.”
A Singaporean makes a comment along the lines of, “The cultural development of a nation is shown by the state of its public bathrooms.”
Soon after, China has “5 Star” public bathrooms in almost all the major tourist sites and airports.
Lee Kwan Yew has more political clout than a cabbie in Malaysia, but public relations are important to any country, and perception shapes reality.
So the opinion of a Malaysian cabbie does matter, and it should matter to the government and people of China.
Wow. Who needs Hu Jintao when you have Singaporean sages with advanced theories of cultural advancement! Presumably we’d still be coming and going from Beijing Terminal 2 if it weren’t for him. At any rate, I thought it was “…how they treat their most vulnerable.” In another post, it was “…how they treat animals.” Or was that “…whether they wear shirts in noodle restaurants on hot summer days”? I guess Mr. Hu doesn’t read this blog!
Make a coherent argument.
Hmmmm…I moved to China in 2002. A lot of people were spitting. Soon after, SARS broke out. In 2009, I flew to Beijing from Vancouver. Upon arrival, the airplane was delayed on the tarmac so everyone could be checked for the flu. I conclude that the authorities had heard of my earlier arrival in China and connected the dots. Clearly my disgust with spitting caused both SARS and H1N1.
So then your argument is that it is ENTIRELY coincidence that Lee Kuan Yew meets and speaks with Jiang Zemin, and later something as inconsequential and unimportant as bathrooms get changed, even when they were mentioned in Lee’s speech.
I don’t have nearly as much faith in coincidence as you.
Now who would deny such an manifestly undeniable conclusion? All I can say at this point is, “Thank you, Mr. Lee!” Perhaps it was from that point forward that Mr. Hu realized the need to wash his hands before lunch. Did Lee also happen to mention that the true measure of a nation’s development is the design of it’s olympic stadium? I’d like to thank him for that, too!
So you will cling to your belief that it is 100% coincidence.
Absolutely no correlation at all.
Confidence men love people like you.
There are no coincidences. Anyone who tells you “it’s just a coincidence” is trying to fool you.
I’m not sure. Do you mean entirely or ENTIRELY?
Do you not understand how to add emphasis to a printed word, or do you not understand that entirely means 100%?
I’m really not sure. What I do know that it’s hard to read when one’s eyes are watering so heavily. Did I mentioned that my lungs are beginning to hurt? Any more PRICELESS nuggets or GRAND revelations about the course of China’s development?
Eyes watering? Lungs hurting?
How is that relevant?
Stop writing, and get some rest. Drink more water and get more rest and you’ll feel better in a few days.
Will do. I’ve learned to appreciate the medicinal effects of hot water.
I don’t get what is so surprising about this discovery. is it that even ethnic chinese from other countries are complaining about uncivilized chinese mainlanders while if I do it as caucasian European I will be called ignorant or even racist just because I’m saying truth?
I’ve been in VN, KH, LA, TH, MY, PH, SG and ID and I was discussing this many times, maybe China (at least in cities) is richer than most of southeast asian countries, but even citizens of poorer countries are more civilized (and happier) there, it’s not about money how civilized or happy you are
and China fails especially compared to the most developed SEA country (not counting SIN as country) – Malaysia – which feels almost more like Europe than Asia and it’s my 2nd favourite SEA country after PH or on par
5000 years of culture and they still didn’t learned the meaning of queues, closing doors or respecting privacy and tons of other things known to every pupil in primary school in west. only other country where I experienced such bad manners as in China was India, at least they can excuse themselves by being very poor and uneducated
An intelligent critique of your comment wouldn’t focus on anything like ignorance or racism, @M. The problem is that, like many able scholars of the past (e.g., Max Weber), the starting point of your analysis is a universalist conception of everything with European sensibilities as the normative core. With this analytical strategy, the foreign other you analyze will always be shown as lacking or, at best, doing a so-so job of measuring up. Any Chinese with the gumption to point out this fallacy will probably be vilified as “nationalist,” right? The second problem comes with identifying a universal “Chinese” culture embodied in all people whose ancestral homeland happens to be China. Finding an outsider to set up as a privileged insider to confirm our own prejudices does not make our analyses more salient. My best childhood friend, born in Canada to Punjabi-Indian immigrant parents, has no special insight into the prevailing beliefs and attitudes in India today, although the views he expresses upon visiting that place would say something about the attitudes of second generation Indo-Canadians. Third, and this brings me to the heavy irony of this discussion in light of the recent blathering on about Hu Jintao’s recent speech, when we hear sophisticated urban Chinese bemoaning the uncouth manners of the countryside, how do we understand this attitude? By demonstrating how the urban Chinese have more advanced manners and culture? shouldn’t we be enlisted as writers of CCP communiques on matters of civilized and advanced culture?
If I follow your logic, only Chinese are allowed to say that China is good or bad – and when I say Chinese, apparently that means only mainlanders. If outsiders, even those who may be hereditarily from said location, attempt to offer their own views on a given subject, it is a fallacy because they are judging it from a lens that is external to that situation and therefore unable to view it “appropriately” – ergo, it will never measure up to the foreign standard. And sure, if you wish to remain mired in whatever “cultural” lifestyle with no desire to “improve” or “do better”, then I guess that would be a valid argument. I suspect there are probably a fair number of North Koreans (who’ve left North Korea) who would be willing to argue this fallacy.
This isn’t to suggest that the “European” normative core (as you put it) should be the standard by which China (or its citizens) is/are judged. But to suggest that people who are put off by the seemingly low standards often exhibited by many Chinese (many of these examples are done by both those in the poorer countryside as well as the richer cities) and comment about it are “judgmental” or “negative” about China or Chinese is painting with a very wide brush – something you appear to accuse others of doing with seeming regularity.
As I’ve pointed out previously, dismissing the opinions and views of others does not negate them if they don’t agree with your own view. Suggesting that “foreigners” are unable to judge China and Chinese is, in my own view, simply a method of pushing forward “nationalism” at the expense of actually attempting to learn from others. China and its citizens are not perfect any more than the foreigners who visit and enjoy the nation and its people. But arguing cultural relativism is a dangerous thing because it is an argument that can be twisted in ways that are often detrimental.
It does remind me of one completely irrational excuse I heard put forth years ago when someone pointed out that a child should not be going to the bathroom on the floor of a small, family-owned restaurant – “Hey, that’s ok. It’s China. No big deal.” The other foreigners (including a Vietnamese couple) simply walked out recognizing that it was completely unhygienic and not a “cultural” thing.
I don’t think you’re following my logic, @Chopstik. It’s not a relativist argument. What I’m saying is that, when you set up an external standard as the norm, the only possible evaluation of the object of interest is negative or, as I said above, a sense of approval that “they” have finally measured up. In the case of Weber, the very categories of comparison were irrelevant to the Chinese situation. A second aspect of my argument is that the views of these nationals of other countries are used to convey the author’s own view of China (note: I’m not suggesting that this is Tom’s motivation for the post). A third problem is a much simpler one of generalization, as though a child peeing on the floor is a) some kind of general problem, and b) serves to explain anything particularly important about Chinese people’s sanitary habits. On a side note, have you not found that, despite the obviously unsanitary practice we confront everyday on the mainland, that Chinese are somewhat obsessed with other aspects of sanitation that “we” aren’t? A fourth problem, specific to your example, is that the control of the bodily excretions of children is not seen in the same light in China, as you are no doubt aware. There is a sense in which pee on the restaurant floor is objectively unhygienic, but note that it is a child’s urination that is seen as not particularly problematic. Had an adult done the same, there would have been a public lynching. The same is true in the home. If I can relate a personal anecdote, the “storing” of bodily fluids in diapers is seen as unhealthy and rather disgusting by the majority of Chinese who use the more traditional method. Indeed, for my father-in-law, the relatively late potty training of kids in Canada is evidence of moral depravity. I would argue that children peeing and pooping in public places is seen as a necessary evil that is part of the process of getting those bodily functions under control at an earlier age. “Westerners” disgust at this practice does not represent a recognizably superior approach to the problem. So what I’m advocating is not relativism but contextualization, an engagement with a foreign culture on its own terms. Being repelled by these things is perfectly natural, and even justified at times, as when one takes note of the ill treatment of street children. Finally, I want to say that the accusation of nationalism is sometimes warranted, but quite often people are totally justified in saying that foreigners miss the point. What they might also be saying is that the line of argument put forward is simply not relevant to they local people view something.
I totally agree with the above comment: don’t understand the purpose of the post. It would be more beneficial if you use writing skills for discussing not some shadow effects but the real big picture. I would like even to suggest a topic for writing/discussion: Chinese adults are having great difficulties in learning English. We see things through the lens of our native language and to change that we need a special tool. Conversational lessons will have a very little impact on Chinese learners if a teacher does not know how to take out the native language out of the process of learning English.
“On a side note, have you not found that, despite the obviously unsanitary practice we confront everyday on the mainland, that Chinese are somewhat obsessed with other aspects of sanitation that “we” aren’t?”
Out of curiosity what might these be?
I think you are underestimating the amount of thought that people [the Greek chorus] give to these issues. I came to China 2.5 years ago with what I consider to be a pretty open mind. I am well aware of the euro-centric courtroom of my mind and as best I can, I try not to make judgements although I do find the longer I stay in China the more closed my mind is becoming and the jury is getting closer to it’s verdict.
I think your argument relating to the obvious matters of sanitary behaviour don’t hold up. If you were using that logic to argue against someone criticising mainland Chinese for eating of dog or cat meat it does better but it grossly patronises the critic because the reason they may object to cat or dog meat being consumed may well be nothing to do with the type of animal involved or their western sentimentality towards it and more to do with other factors such as humane slaughter and farming practices or frustration at the superstitious beliefs that lead people to eat dog and cat or drink tiger bone wine etc.
For example my objection to spitting, which is far from my biggest problem in China, is not that I find spitting offensive as much as I find objectionable the failure to understand or consider the hygiene issues that indiscriminately gobbing causes [That pre spit noise really gets me tense though].
Also, many Chinese people from the mainland subscribe to this view too and find this behaviour just as offensive without having been subjected to a western upbringing and regarding the views of modern Chinese people, most of my Chinese friends are actually from the countryside and find the behaviour and materialism of urban Chinese offensive.
I think this article highlights a growing problem that the Chinese mainlanders have with their image abroad. As well as perhaps holding up a mirror to our own prejudices.
Thanks, nomamanopapa. I’ll give a couple of examples off the top of my head in addition to the one about baby diapers mentioned above.
Wearing one’s outside shoes in the home is terribly unclean. Now, as a Canadian I’d tend to agree, but many of my American friends (perhaps those from sunnier climes?) don’t understand why I object. Lying on a bed in clothes worn outside the same day is extremely unsanitary. My wife preparea the divorce papers every time I do this. I try not to do it any more. Building a pile of clothes in a basket that sit for days on end waiting to be washed is unclean and kind of gross. Why are you storing dirty clothes? Blowing your nose, thus storing your snot in a handkerchief or tissue is disgusting. I could go on. There are many such examples of foreign behaviour that rankle when I live with my in-laws.
In terms of the amount of thought that the blogetariat come up with, clearly there is a range. Some people read and don’t comment, others obviously put a lot of thought into what they say, others have no qualms about spouting bigoted nonsense wherever they go. In terms of your experience in China, what you describe is a common response. This isn’t hard to understand because I’ve lived it. There is a lot of pressure on socially isolated foreigners living in China. There are all kinds of affronts to our sensibilities. Some of these affronts are shared with Chinese, others are not. At risk of pissing off readers of this blog, what Chinese feel and what we feel may appear the same on the surface, but they are not, in fact, the same. We are dislocated foreigners who typically can’t read, write, or understand what is happening around us. To the extent that we come to an understanding of our experiences, we do so at the cost of great struggle. As often as not, we come to patently false conclusions based on hyper-emotional responses to things as simple as someone spitting on the sidewalk beside us or a child peeing on the sidewalk.
You are right, I would say, about certain unsanitary behaviours. But choosing an example the everyone (perhaps) agrees on avoids my argument and doesn’t disprove it. For the record, I hate that prepare-to-spit noise, too.
Finally, if the point of the article is the growing problem of the Chinese image abroad (presumably Tom will address his point when he returns from holiday), then perhaps a more sophisticated historical discussion of the Chinese image abroad is in order. Alternatively, we might ask why precisely is this a problem? If so, for whom? Why does the Greek chorus think so, because as far as I can see no one has made the case so far.
So what you’re trying to say is, ‘it’s all greek to me?’
The Greeks have it!
I heard that spitting stopped during the sars scare.
Good question, Vortex, I don’t remember. For a while, everything stopped. The thing I remember is that people started putting spoons in the dishes on the table rather than grabbing with chopsticks. It didn’t last long.
In Beijing/Tianjin, at least, spitting very nearly stopped, since everyone stared at the person, and made comments – just loud enough to be heard, but not provoke an argument. I only saw a few incidents of people spitting during the SARS scare.
But…. Parasitology – a reason for spitting.
Many parasites; (from roundworms to hookworms and others) hatch in the intestines, burrow through the body as juveniles, enter the lungs, work their way up the bronchial tubes, get coughed up (there’s a bundle of nerves where the bronchi join the trachea, and at the top of the trachea that cause coughing when they get triggered by anything your cilia work onto them) and swallowed down the esophagus to reenter the digestive tract as adults ready to make more eggs – which come out in your stool.
These eggs are tiny and tough, (most can survive boiling temperatures for short periods) – they get scattered by the wind blowing across fields fertilized with human or pig excrement. (once very common in China, and almost any pig parasite can survive in humans too, and vice versa)
It would not take a genius to notice that people who spit more, are more healthy. 5000 years of an agrarian economy, millions of farmers with millions of pigs, somebody noticed.
Spitting can simply reduce your parasite load, keeping you healthy.
Sooooo….. washing those raw vegetables well is crucial. (and you wondered why most people in China aren’t accustomed to eating raw salads.)
0.5% of Chinese people eat dogs (okay maybe some cats). Dogs are pets in Europeans and Americans of 0.8 billion.
100% of Europeans and Americans eat beef. Oxes and cowes are holy animals in India with a population of 1.2 billion.
Some Chinese (very small amouts) eat pets; But 100% Europeans Americans eat holy animals.
If we are talking about universal norms.
Do we have “universal” norms? According to some, it doesn’t seem possible as it would thereby require us to overcome our inherently self-actualized view of the world according to our own particular social upbringing. And, if we are unable to overcome that, then it would then be logical to presume that it would be impossible to establish a “universal” norm. I’m just sayin’…
Also, I can pull numbers out of my head and put them down to show that 100% of Chinese expectorate constantly thereby creating a hazardous and unsanitary nation which would then correlate to the fact that they’re obviously all dirty but it would hold as much weight as yours does – which is to say, none. Whatever point you hoped to make with your fallacious example is lost because it is so hyperbolic and inflammatory.
This is not intended as a personal affront, merely my first reaction to what seemed to be a completely arbitrary and ridiculous premise.
Do you have a source for your stats? I’d like to use them in a joke book I am compiling.
Have a biscuit.
10% of Italians or 9% of Germans are vegetarians, 5% of Dutch don’t eat meat and so on and so on, so much for 100% Europeans eating beef meat
while not 100% of Hindu believers avoid eating beef meat, same as not all Muslims avoid drinking alcohol or eating “filthy dogs” (both quite common in biggest Muslim country in world!)
so I don’t know what you tried to prove by your comment, (not) eating some kind of meat has nothing to do with manners, it’s just different culture, of course I won’t be offering beef to Indian or asking for it in India, because it would be rude, but I don’t see nothing wrong with eating beef in Europe and I actually don’t have really problem with Chinese eating anything, it’s quite rational attitude you can explain, while you can’t explain why they are so ignorant and selfish about other sleeping people or leaving train, that’s just plain ignorance and no manners at all
M, according to your data, I will change my post to
0.5% of Chinese people eat dogs (okay maybe some cats). Dogs are pets in Europeans and Americans of 0.8 billion.
90% of Europeans and Americans eat beef. Oxes and cowes are holy animals in India with a population of 1.2 billion.
Some Chinese (very small amouts) eat pets; But 100% Europeans Americans eat holy animals.
Chopstik, except “100%” is not that accurate which should be 90% according to M, which part did you find “a completely arbitrary and ridiculous premise”? Is what I mentioned not right?
What I always have heard in USA was “Chinese are horrible because they eat dogs”.
I wish Americans are all open-minded as M who mentioned that “it’s just different culture”.
Perhaps we need some categories to help us out here (apologies for reentering the discussion).
Clearly there are things that are perceived differently from within different cultural mindsets. What people feel right about eating or not is a good example of this (although I would say that statistics are superfluous to the point made), as is the diapering example. We could usefully break this distinction down, however, by taking into account the differences within “the culture” that others have noted here. Clearly China is a ethnically diverse country despite the dominance of the Han (although even the Han are quite diverse). This is one way of proceeding. More productively we might make a distinction between classes or class fractions, the point being that certain practices that we take to be cultural are actually divided infinitely. What we don’t want to do is to ascribe cultural meaning to matters such as door slamming and pushing on the subway. These practices have much more to do with material causes, e.g., doors that don’t close quietly and overcrowding not to mention rapid urbanization, and don’t really tell us much about how some overarching culture commands people to behave or not.
Also, we ought not to draw to close a connection between what is objectively or materially necessary and what people feel comfortable doing. As nomamanopapa points out, it may or may not be true that one’s clothes are dirty, but this will not prevent your mother-in-law from screaming at you when you lay on the bed wearing them. After all, those firecrackers have long been shown to have absolutely no effect on evil spirits, no? Still, people insist on using them for some reason! Similarly, it is likely true that the Chinese way of handling toilet training is more environmentally friendly. Still, as I pointed out above, my father-in-law’s ascription of moral rectitude to early toilet training is utterly without significance to the Western parent whose neighbours look upon him or her with disgust when their child poops or pees under a tree in a public park.
Finally, I think @Chopstik has a point about room for critique/improvement. The centrality of cultural practices and the meanings attributed to them locally do not prevent one from making a critique of those practices. My point is simply that making that critique without adequate understanding of local beliefs is pointless for the most part and amounts to making a moral cause of one’s squeamishness.
I agree with you and M, it’s just a different cultural standard. However, I took issue with your sense of numbers which seemed to be pulled out of thin air with no source for such (IMO) ridiculous numbers. Furthermore, you seem to be applying them in a manner of making an irrational argument. I am uncertain whether you intended them as humor or outrageous hyperbole or if you were indeed serious. If you were serious, then a source for your numbers is appreciated. If it was more humor or hyperbole, my apologies as I missed it – not implausible in a setting such as the web.
So if I apply my western and democracy centric understanding of normality when trying to understand an oppressive dictatorship I am making the same mistake? Or is that a straw man argument? it seems to be in line with your point to me.
Thanks for you examples, I like the taking off the shoes one. It’s actually pretty common for western households to implement the same policy but I would also suggest that the ground is generally less unhygienic in the first place in the west for the obvious reason[s].
I think the tradition of not using nappies is probably an environmentally superior way of dealing with an infants bodily functions and from my western position I judge the Chinese way superior and have learned something from them. Although I would take issue with regards to a kid shitting on the floor of a restaurant.
As for lying on the bed in your clothes it’s not necessarily unclean is it? If I am back in the UK in the Garden of England [Kent] for a mild summers walk in the fresh country air and return home to lay down on my bed still dressed with the fragrant air of a summers evening upon my smoking jacket I really wouldn’t feel there was a problem certainly not that it was “extremely unsanitary”. However you are not going to see me donning a set of Shanghai pyjamas and strolling down a longtang and then even sitting on my sofa it would be horrible.
I agree that a more in depth analysis of Chinas image is probably warranted to be fair, if as your say that is what the blogger is touching on with this post. But a blog post, especially this one, is really just there to draw a discussion in or reveal a quick thought. A dissertation about the subject would put me off engaging.
Also I can easily think of numerous reasons as to why Chinas image abroad might be problematic for China, can’t you?
To be honest, what I’m advocating is adequate understanding of the phenomena in question as a first step, not a universal normative theory.RE democracy-centrism, the word democracy is used ad-nauseum by CCP theorists themselves. The application of this concept of democracy in China is in by and large cynical, but assessing such cynicism would obviously demand that attention be paid to the way in which the concept is understood in China/within the Party. As a Canadian, the US understanding of the democratic process is obviously insane in some respects, but I would be remiss if I didn’t attempt to understand the history and reasons why the process has come to take the form it has.
On the issues of cleanliness, you’re right. These things are not necessarily unsanitary, and that they are taken to be so is obviously related to how bloody dirty it is outside in China. Still, cultural practices, whatever their origin, tend to be quite “sticky.” Indeed, my home city in Canada is far from dirty, but my wife is still horrified when I lay on the bed in my clothes.
Finally, very quickly, I asked first. 😀 And, to put a finer point on my initial comment in this thread, I can think of many reasons why the bigotry of foreigners in China might reflect poorly on the reputations of their home nations (present company excluded, of course). See the “ugly foreigner” posts on this blog.
Can’t say that I have found much guidance on theorising (ie understanding) the clean, the unclean in relation to the body in modern China, thus far.
So lets go with the comment flow.
All Korean men are drunks who beat their wives.
Americans dress like grubs and talk loudly.
Malaysian tourist always let their hotel baths overflow and make gluttons of themselves at smorgasboards.
All Japanese men have very strange paraphilias ie weird sexual peccadiloes.
The English store their car parts in the bathtub and wear threadbare underwear.
All Muslins experience extreme sexual anziety all the time.
You forgot one, KT: All Australians bare their teeth constantly. Perhaps this to make tooth picking more efficient, but the sight of plaque when I’m eating is really unappetizing.
Yes, well we all have our prejudices Lorin, don’t we! Where is your academic reference for this jibe at the Aussies? No worries! G’Day Cobber!
Don’t even get me started on the Scots!
Ok, democracy is a tedious and bad example it’s flawed product full of viruses. And should a Chinese or any other commentator from another culture say so they would have good reason, whatever their ‘cultural-centricity’.
But it seems to me that what you are talking about regarding these kind of reactions is just another form blasphemy not bigotry.
Many westerners, like me, find many of Chinas accepted behaviours [or any other culture that they find themselves alien within] affront the social expectations that they have been conditioned to accept as normal.
For example – “Those baby outfits with the slit in the arse are disgusting.”. The truth is they are not disgusting, they are a pretty good idea, we’re just not used to seeing them in western society and are obscured from the child’s bodily function by a nappy which ridiculously ends up on a landfill site.
Or in your wifes case – “Laying on the bed with your clothes on is disgusting.” The truth being that it’s not actually disgusting, unless you have been working in the slaughter house all day, it’s just not normal to her.
But anyone who makes either of these statements is wrong though and it’s their problem to get over and their position that needs amending. That’s how I see it anyway and I wouldn’t bring the term ‘bigot’ in to play just yet but if someone is insisting that a bicycle is a car I personally have to draw a line between tolerance and intolerance somewhere.
For me many of the things that annoy me these days are the things that go beyond simply being offended by what is not normal to me and become offensive when they are things that are tangibly negative, ‘universally negative’ if you like.
You should never answer a question with a question but your question seemed pretty rhetorical and the answers obvious though.
The way that Mainland Chinese are perceived overseas could be important in terms of creating an ‘internationally harmonious society’ in any of the following situations: tourism, business, religion, or politics. To whom? The Chinese and Non-Chinese, to anyone.
But to go back to the original blog post, to me the most poignant part of the taxi drivers monologue and that represents my greatest frustration in Shanghai is this:
“Furthermore, China doesn’t even have any traditional culture. Everything has been lost there. If you want to see lion dancing or dragon dancing you have to go to another country. In Malaysia you can see these things everywhere around Chinese New Year, but on the mainland they are only on TV.”
And this decline of genuine culture in mainland China is something that I think matters hugely abroad and to Chinese people themselves. Do you not agree?
I reserve my right to blaspheme in China and defend the right of the Chinese to blaspheme against all that has been instilled as sacred to me. I will however continue to take offence when what’s going on around me is genuinely incorrect, screw ‘universal normative theory’ [I’m not sure what that is anyway], if you drive around the city at night without your lights on on your car, you’re a prick wherever you are from.
P.S. I did read the ugly american post I’ll have to re read it to see how it fits in with this, without doubt there is responsibility on ex-pats to understand that how they behave overseas is also important.
Your points are well made, and I’ll let the discussion go at this point. I will say, though, that many times comments here do cross the line far into the country of bigotry. Reading these, I wonder why the writers feel particularly justified in slagging Chinese. Is it the political commitments of China’s leaders that make these ok? By the way, and this will not apply to all cases of driving and night with no lights (at times obviously absurd and dangerous), but when I first moved to China, almost everyone drove with no lights in the city except to flash at an oncoming car as warning. A company driver once told me that this was to avoid blinding other drivers and cyclists. I don’t really agree with the tradeoff in safety, but I have to say, when driving in China, that seeing cyclists with another car’s lights shining in your eyes is hell. Let’s call it a day on this discussion, ok? There’ll be other opportunities I’im sure.
I’m glad you found them well made because on re-reading I find myself finding myself very hard to follow indeed. So I agree for my own sanity a full stop is in order.
For your reference, have you not noticed that the reason you find the glare of headlights so unbearable is because so many drivers here fail to use the dipped setting?
In a country that according to WHO in early 2000’s had 2% of car ownership and 20% of the worlds traffic accidents anyone advocating the Chinese road safety perspective is in a very, very weak position.
lorin, there are some universal manners and it doesn’t matter if you are from Europe, Africa or Asia – smashing doorsor doing loud noise in early morning or late night when everyone else is sleeping is uncivilized everywhere in world, because you show you have no respect to other people or you can try to explain to me what is great cultural tradition in China being plain ignorant about other people sleep
I think even some primitive tribes in Guinea must know that you should be quiet next to sleeping people to not wake them up, it would be funny and sad to see some actual research comparing behaviour of European, Africa and Chinese people versus chimpanzee, crow, elephant or some different social animal in some specific situations as entering/leaving crowded place (subway?) or behaving next to sleeping species of its own
and yes, I was today wake up by idiot doing noise in morning and yesterday I was wake up by super loud fireworks from outside
Look, M. There’s not a thing in your list that doesn’t piss me off, too. So…I’ve been providing examples of how the “universal” in these things is not quite so universal as it is sometimes taken to be. My last comment, however, is that many of the things that piss us off are not the product of bad manners at all but, rather, of the material conditions at present on the mainland. Let’s not belabour the point though, ok? Let’s curse the door slammer and not blame an entire nation of people or its “culture.”
By the way, you know its Spring Festival, right?
you said in your posts we are not allowed to criticize, because it’s different way of thinking in Europe than in China, different culture, so I pointed out some universal things based on pure logic which has nothing to do with culture, same as mathematics is universal language there are also some universal manners/rules to harmonious society that you don’t want to piss sleeping people or what is the fastest way to enter/leave crowded place
so please explain to me how is smashing/slamming doors next to sleeping people instead of quiet closing (it’s possible, no matter of some material conditions if I’m able to close same door quietly without any difficulties) excusable and not universal everywhere in world. of course all these complaints are generalizations, there is minority of people who have manners (but it seems it has nothing to do with education, because even people who were travelling abroad or has very good education are doing this), but I’m assuming to be in touch with intelligent reader who will understand that when I write about “Chinese” I mean “big majority of Chinese” (percentage depending on situation we are talking about) and I don’t need to write in lawyer language
if there are things which may be disgusting but they have some ratio or advantages I understand them as cultural thing and have no problem to tolerate them, but some things just don’t make any sense
I think I’ll go with a “no comment” here.
Which primitive tribes are we talking about? Those in Papua New Guinea or the Republic of Guinea-Bissau. Okay, the former gets a bit primitive when you more into rural regions, but not so sure about the latter, given the high level of organisation displayed by the African Cup of Nations presently taking place in that part of the world.
Seriously, I think we need some anthropological imput here, and one or two animal behavioural experts wouldn’t go astray either.
Have been reading this Anthro blog a bit recently: savageminds.org/
I was in Canada, and the Chinese visitors did the same thing! But, in this case, they smiled and drifted up through the long line for lunch until they were in front of everyone. They could have just walked to the front if they had wanted to be honest about what they were doing. I found it hard to believe that this behavior could survive in any country, let alone China, one with so many people.
China was very disgusting for me. I could not believe my eyes as a westerner.But it is their culture, so I held my tounge. You probably should have done the same; trolling is never the answer.
I totally agree. I was in HK and Macau few weeks ago, and they were talking so loudly to the point of yelling at each other in public, even in the hotel lobby.
I found one old mainlander dude even smoked in the lobby of Venetian hotel. Saw one fat guy wearing an under garment tank walking around at the Venetian food court !!
I’m Chinese myself, and I’d love to spit on mainlander chinese any day.
Indonesian,Japanese,Korean,Australian,American, European, Malaysian people,all of them doesn’t like Chinese people’s attitude. And always have issues with chinese people in their countries.Chinese people are spiting in everywhere, bad drivers, compulsive liars,noisy, unloyalty, short temper, slick.
Mostly Mainland Chinese people I met in my life always make a loud noise with no reason, dirty, cheating, never in queue. I found Chinese people from HK, Taiwan, SG, Malay are very good. Anyway I also have a friend from Mainland Chinese and he also has good manner and do what good earthling do. But most of Mainlanders make the left good Mainlanders misunderstood.
Come discuss this topic at our facebook page!
I have to say chinese bad manner is not gonna change soon. I want to blame most of rich and upper class people I met in china. They believe standing on top of law and ok to treat other people badly. So, at the end, Chinese society do not have justice system or contemporary social norm. Furthermore, they sensor and block all kinds of medias. I think sensorship already killed the chance to grow their normativity and manner while the society has been evolving. while looking at little kids on the street shooting their garbages on the street and crossing street anytime, I feel very sad becuase it seems the social behaviors will inherit to the next one most likely.
I lived and worked in China for 7 months in 2014. I have absolutely nothing nice to say about mainland chinese people. All levels of society behave like ill-disciplined oafish peasants at the best of times…. in fact, I can honestly say that my cat has more manners than the average chinese person (and more cultured too!). Is it any wonder they dislike the Japanese so much? They are the complete opposite – humble, quiet, respectful, honest and polite…. everything a chinese person is not! I know which I prefer living in my country…