Saturday, June 7, 2008
It happens everywhere.
When I am riding my bike to the uni. When I am riding my bike back from the uni. When I am locking my bike outside the gym. When I am standing on the pavement waiting for the lights to go green so that I can cross the road. When I am buying fruits from the local fruit man. When I am riding through the gates at uni. When I am buying train tickets. And when I am just, simply, standing somewhere outside.
A car, a bike, a scooter, or some pedestrians will pass me, and yell:
You can tackle this in two ways. You can either be the moody bitch and not reply, which I do sometimes. Especially when I am in a bad mood.
Or, you can, of course, reply. Gather your forces, take a deep breath and from the bottom of your lungs yell:
-NI HAO! back.
Exception: small children. For them I always put on a bit of a show: a smile, maybe a bit of laughter or giggling before I say 'Hello' back, meanwhile I wave with my hand. (Actually, something I've noticed is that in China, I use my hands much more when I talk to people. Whatever I tell with my mouth I also show with my hands... everything from how many mangoes I wanna buy, to if I want to go left or right, to what I have been eating, cooking, or how far I have been running... yeah, well, U get the point. I suppose I look quite idiotic sometimes when I speak).
Most of the time, the HELLO (which is often followed by a giggle) comes from a car that is passing by, but when it comes from outside a factory (eg. very common case when I walk back from uni as I walk buy several factories where the men are sitting outside having lunch) the 'conversation' can go on. If you reply to a facory HELLO the respons is most likely to be a loud laughter. Once I decided to laugh back. Big mistake. That resulted in them cheering.
Another time I was out horseback riding in Suzhou with a group of friends. We passed one of those temporary houses for workers that are working on a building project, and I sincerely believe it was the first time for some of those workers to either see horses or foreign women and Mongolian guys on horses. Because when we came, the 10 guys that were sitting outside started yelling, and a moment later, the rest of the workers poured out of the houses and lined up to great us.
HELLO HELLO!!!! someone yelled.
NIMEN HAO! I replied. Which resulted in roars of laughter. And an applaud.
Yeah, the latter was a bit weird. There we were on our horses (that, thank lord neither reacts to the sounds of cars honking or the sound of workers laughing) receiving standing ovations. I am not even necessarily good at horse back riding..
Point to be made? I am not sure. Saying Hello to a foreigner in China is obviously a big deal. The smaller the city, the bigger the deal. In Shanghai, this rarely happens meanwhile in Suzhou, this is an every day event. Once we had friends visiting and were walking around in an old part of Suzhou city, looking for a place to have lunch. People even came out from their restaurants and shops just to say hello. I've been thinking about if I should do the same thing now when I go to Scandinavia. Should I greet every Chinese looking person I meet on the street?
Or, should I simply settle for the fact that this happens in China only.