Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Shameless curiosity

No need to be discreet when taking photos of strangers without asking 

The lack of privacy is evident in China. Over here it is totally OK to ask each other about everything from your monthly salary to why you aren't married yet. (Anyone who has lived in China for more than a month probably nods their head in recognition now). But then there is another sort of 'breach' of privacy, that probably doesn't even cross the mind of some of you, unless you come from an as 'private sphere concerned' country as I do: in Sweden there should be clearly visible spaces between people in a line to the ATM, also, even if someone is wearing a pink bunny costume and walking down the street, you only glance at him discreetly, rather than staring and pointing (until he has passed you, then you are free to turn around and stare and go 'OH MY GOSH! Did you just see that?! What was he thinking stepping out dressed like that!').

But in China, it is totally acceptable to stare, to point, to wave hello to strangers (not to mention to yell 'HELLO!' to strangers, even if you're just passing them with your car), and just to be... curious in general. When first moved here I found the shameless staring from strangers to be the one thing I couldn't get used to. I always thought there was something wrong with me, like a big snot coming out from my nose, ketchup on my top or that I'd forgotten to pull up my zipper. Then, I remember the first time I tried to read a Chinese newspaper in the Shanghai metro, and I found five other Chinese people to be reading the very same page as me, over my shoulder. First I got annoyed, thinking 'what the h***, get your own paper!' But then I started thinking and realized that... 'what's the harm? They are only reading the same page as me?' and stopped caring.

Yesterday I was sitting at a cafe trying to learn 79 new characters when I saw a young Chinese girl sitting opposite me next to the window, reading and filling in some papers. Outside the window was a parking guard, who must have been bored to death with telling cars where and where not to park, because he was leaning onto the window, squinting, and reading the same paper as the young girl. It must have been something kind of amusing, because at times he sniggered. (I also assume he was a bit of a slow reader because when she turned the page over I could see that he got slightly annoyed. For a short moment I almost expected him to bang on the window and mouth something like 'turn back the page, I wasn't finished!', but then reality checked back into me). It looked so funny, especially the fact that the girl was so oblivious to it.

At various times when I have been waiting for my train to Shanghai at Suzhou's train station I have picked up my Chinese books or flash cards and tried to study. But it doesn't really work. It takes less than 40 seconds before a small circle of Chinese people form around me, telling me that 'those simple characters even my son knows, and he is only 8!' or that I am writing with the wrong stroke order (however, that I am 'not bad for being a laowai.') It's cute and helpful at some times, and annoying those days when I really just want to write, and not be compared to someone's five year old genius son (I already get it -they are ALL smarter than me! No need to rub it in).

It's the same when buying groceries here. People are extremely curious to see what I am cooking for dinner, and especially.. how much it costs!! Or, like once at a restaurant, I was having a spicy meal with a friend and we ordered a jug of sweet plum juice (酸梅汤 -suan mei tang) to help us cope with all the chili peppers. The Chinese couple next to us kept looking at our jug, obviously wondering what it was. Some moments later they got up to leave, and the woman walked over to us and looked at the bill that the waiter had already placed on our table.

-Ah, it is suan mei tang they are drinking!! She said loudly to her male company. 20 kuai for a jug!! Too expensive!

And there we were, sipping away.

I actually don't find it as annoying as I thought I first would (only the shameless staring, especially when I am having a bad hair day or is in a generally grumpy mood), but more like... amusing! Obviously, it has also affected me, and turned me into a person that is way too curious and blunt to fit into the Swedish world of 'discreetness' and 'politeness' Only last summer when I was back in Scandinavia I found myself extremely curious at what other people were eating at cafes, how much they spent on shampoos when grocery shopping and how many people ordered beer during lunch hours. My friends almost didn't put up with me, telling me to 'stop staring at strangers' and that I didn't have to stand so close to others while lining up somewhere, and that there was no point giving people who crossed between a line the evil eye, because they were just crossing between the line, and not trying to cut in line. Oh well, what can I say? When in Rome.....

58 comments:

Theo Routley said...

Hello,
I just read this article and i thought it was great, I lived in Thailand and it is much the same, also i would just liek to say that a open minded attitude is required to live in paces like China, and thailand and most asian places since the culture is so different.
I just wronte a article abotu that same thing on my blog acctually =)
Good blog, im a follower

Lover of Life said...

LOL! And to think my blog entry today was what I thought was a rude question, and totally out of character, to the person asking it. I needed to read this story to put it in perspective!

Found your blog on Blog of Note.

Jo-Anna said...

Totally understand what you mean about studying in public. Whenever I try to take out my notes to study my Korean on the subway or something, I get five people staring over my shoulder. They usually chuckle to themselves and I can hear them speaking in Korean to one another, "oh look, the foreigner is studying Korean", which I don't really care about, but then they start talking to me and asking why I'm studying Korean, and then I can't study anymore.

Just Breathe said...

Your post, so true. We have a very large Chinese community in this city and alot of those very same things happen! When I was in Japan, I couldn't get over the personal space thing. I just didn't like having a person nod off on my shoulder while on a long train ride. The pointing and such, I told myself I was a super star! Hey whatever it takes to join the Romans!

Jonna Wibelius said...

Jo-Anna -yup, although sometimes it is really good!! If I ever feel like practicing my spoken Chinese I just pick up my books, count to 10 and dam-ta-daaaam: someone appears and starts asking if I really can speak Mandarin... and a moment later we are having a conversation. Although obviously I don't feel like doing this every single day but at times it is fun. I have met quite a bunch interesting people at the train station as a result of this.

Jewels said...

You are much more open to such things than me, I'm afraid. In Canada it's all about personal space. Even Toronto makes me nervous.. too many people too close! I imagine it takes a lot of getting used too. Although the only thing I found ridiculous was the lady who picked the bill up of your table! lol. I can't believe that actually happened. I guess I need to travel more.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Just Breathe -Yeah, I've tried thinking 'I'm a superstar' too although it only works on good days, and def not when u r back in China after a Christmas holiday (jam packed with indulgence).

Jewels -it takes some getting used to for sure. As for the woman looking at our bill at the table I am more wondering why she just didn't ask us what we were drinking instead of looking at the bill.

Chad said...

Ah, it makes me miss Japan!

Went through everything you described. Down to people telling me they didn't understand English, despite the fact I was speaking in the local dialect.

The best one was at the beach. Yakuza (Japanese Mafia) were all over the place being descretely ignored. However, the exceptionally (by their standards) hairy gaijin was receiving a lot of active pointing and laugher.

Dozens of stories like that. That's what you get for not being Of The Society. But, yes, I learned to tune it out except for those exceptional circumstances.

Emil said...

It is hard to get used to it, and sometimes you will get one of those "Bad China Days" when you just hate everyone. Though it is not so frequent as it was for me earlier.

Some weeks ago I had a train trip from some place in Heilongjiang, and I was expecting it to be a hellride, because of Chinese new years and the fact that there was only one train passing there everyday. The train was packed with people, but someone gave me a seat and almost got angry when I refused their offer, so I eventually had no choice. So I ended up answering all kinds of strange questions and playing cards and drinking beer the whole way, and they refused to let me give away the seat. So a train trip which lasted 8 hours felt like 2.

Jason said...

Okay Jonna the article is so nice and
what you said at the end of the article is perfect!
In conclude this is the civilization
diversity

TERI REES WANG said...

My Husband was born in the U.S. but, his parents were both born in China but, from different parts.
He the city slicker form Shanghai and she the country bumpkin from the mountains of Shandong. We took a family trip in 2000. My Husband was laughing at how rude and crude is ancestral folks are. Old ladies spitting on the street. Everyone bumps into you, no one says "excuse me" or "sorry"...there is no such phrase or need. They know they bumped you, and you know they bumped you, so it just happens. You sneeze, no one says "Bless you" or "Gesundheit"...everyone sneezes so, no need to acknowledge.
My father-in-law says "Thank you" to the waitress as she brings more tea by knocking on the wood table. So not so rude, just different.

>In a sea of so many look-a-likes, I am sure you stick out like a blond ghost.

>In a place where information to the masses comes in minimum doses, no wonder every one takes advantage of looking over the shoulder to get it. We think nothing of sharing the T.V. in our living room, the radio in our car, or the Movie screen in the theater.

> The blunt comments, that's just them being social. The French do it too, when they are some where else other than France. "In France we do not do this thing you just did..."

>Every little village in China cling the the version that their dumplings are the best. So, they are never satisfied with some one else's version of the same dumpling.

This new world is re-shaping you.

Loveanewidea said...

Nicely written, and very interesting to read about. I suspect this must be how the Amish feel here in the US when tourists photographs their every move, even when they're doing very ordinary things.

TERI REES WANG said...

..she didn't ask you about your bill directly, because after all that spying she still did not think you spoke Chinese, or at least well enough to correspond, or even know her response. Is there a good comeback word in Mandarin that means "Behave"!...?

Ramesh said...

You've gone native Jonna ! you are now comfortable with all the staring.

This is quite a common habit in most of Asia. I am also a laowai and my "special experience" is the number of times we have been stopped and a photograph of my 8 yr old daughter taken, because she has big eyes which are cute !!

Jonna Wibelius said...

Ramesh -not really... I am getting used to it, but like Emil pointed out, there are still some days when u just hate everything and wanna yell at people who look at you for 2 seconds too long.

Emil -it's those unexpected things that makes living here so much more fun than living in Sweden :)

Jonna Wibelius said...

Ramesh -not really... I am getting used to it, but like Emil pointed out, there are still some days when u just hate everything and wanna yell at people who look at you for 2 seconds too long.

Emil -it's those unexpected things that makes living here so much more fun than living in Sweden :)

kanmuri said...

In Japan it's kinda weird. Japanese people are way too polite to ask other Japanese people about what they're doing or stare at them. However, when it comes to foreigners, it is ok to ask about all those privates things THEY would never talk about. It's like the rules of society don't apply to us, we're some kind of circus animals and they have the urge to poke us with sticks... You get used to it, tho...

Like Jewel said, Canada is all about personal space. I endure stuff here I would never in Montreal.

Anonymous said...

T.I.C. This is China. Have you ever tried to explain to your Chinese friends that staring at others is not a social norm in other countries? I think most Chinese, even those college educated ones, are oblivious to this social etiquette. I think only the Chinese would do the things you have pointed out. I have read someone mentioned Koreans, but they are a lot better. I have many Korean, Japanese and even Taiwanese friends. They all respect privacy much more than Mainland Chinese. It might be a thing that Chinese are still learning since getting out of their shell 3 decades ago.

Islane said...

Great post and so true, but not only in China!
I have lived in Morocco for a while and the curiosity is without limits there as well.
At first the bluntness shocked me but then I somewhat got used to it.
The only thing that really pissed me off was when i was trying to have a private conversation with my husband and people from across the room start asking what we're talking about!

Great post and enjoy your stay!

Jonna Wibelius said...

Anonymous -yup, TIC... In 2005/2006 I was living in Finland working for a Chinese company. That was my first real 'contact' with Chinese people living abroad, and MAN, did they have difficulties with adapting?! They found the quietness of Finnish people boring, ("没有热闹的地方"), the food weird (when they could they would go to Chinese restos), the amount of sugar used when baking outrageous (I especially remember this one coz I interviewed a Chinese woman who was living in Finland and who was writing a cookbook on Chinese cooking), the 'going to pubs and drinking beer' bad and the whole ice-hole swimming and sauna culture shocking but intriguing. So yup.. F course I understand that what we consider strange here, they consider normal, and vice versa.

Islane -Ohhhh listening in on other people's conversation is one thing (I do too.. I have to shamefully admit), but making a comment about it??! Oh, that would be stepping over the line!

Omkarnadh said...

Your Bolg was too good.. how could i get updates????

Matthew said...

It's actually a lot of fun to stare back and see the reaction--usually they get a little nervous and sometimes scared. Most of the time I just try to ignore everything that goes on around me.

One friend likes to blow kisses at people that stare at him too long. He says it usually gets them to stop.

Steph said...

Wow, so true! I know what you mean, sometimes it's ok to just ignore it and go on with your day, but there are times I just want to be rude to people when they won't stop staring! I just try to remember that I am like a moviestar to them, they aren't trying to be rude or disrespectful, they're just curious.

The thing that really bothers me, though, is when they just assume I don't understand any Chinese and will talk about me right in front of my face...I don't think I'll ever get over that.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Steph -I think it is still so unusual to Chinese people to meet foreigners that can speak Chinese. Maybe in 10 years they won't assume it any longer? Although when that sort of situation occurs normally cannot help myself from saying something in Chinese. I love seeing their face expressions when they realize that I understand.

feroze.ka@gmail.com said...

nice work

Kirsten Erin said...

This was a really interesting and well-written post. I didn't know about that difference in the culture before and it's really interesting to hear about it. In the US, privacy is also a major thing, so it's interesting to hear the differences.

Китайский городовой said...

Lol, that's so true!
Chinese are totally different in everything that concerns privacy and such.
Kinda weird.

未婚男婴 said...

Cultural differences,
Different perspectives。

Bruce said...

I'm sure you get a lot of looks just from being tall and blond.

The difference in personal space expectations is so different. I was in line at McDonald's standing right behind a person and this lady came up and tried to stand in front of me because she said she couldn't tell that I was even in line. I guess she expected me to get right up on the person in front of me.

3M Ian said...

been reading this for about a week... I love the writing style and you have a fantastic insight into different cultures

Brad Farless said...

I have to agree with what the anonymous poster said. Mainland Chinese seem to be very different. Singapore is primarily Chinese, but it's nothing like what you describe. In fact, the culture in Singapore is almost western. Most Chinese here don't even speak Mandarin, especially the younger ones. English is the predominate language.

@Jonna, I sometimes sit and daydream about western style baked goods, with lots of sugary goodness! It took me a long time to get used to what's considered a "sweet" in Singapore. One of the reasons I look forward to visiting the Philippines is because they've adopted western baking habits. Have you heard of a cake store called Red Ribbon? Fantastic stuff! Oh, and they have donuts too! Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts.

As far as the issue of privacy is concerned, both in Singapore and the Philippines... again... you might as well be in the US. More so in Singapore than the Philippines. In Singapore everyone minds their own business, or more likely is engrossed in their book/iPod/newspaper and has no time for anyone else. Things in the Philippines are a bit more casual, but conversation doesn't spring up around you just because you're a foreigner. Even in remote parts of the Philippines all I ever get is a passing glance. My wife thinks it's because I could pass for mixed when I'm clean shaven.

About going native... There was an occasion in Antipolo, north of Manila, when we were walking down a crowded street and I saw a foreign couple, both very fair skinned, blonde and blue eyed and I literally stopped and stared like I was at the circus. I hadn't seen blondes in months! Ha ha ha!

bkbj said...

Laowais stare too! Just behind their sunglasses :P I agree though, privacy isn't that much of a concern here, at all. My boss would peer over my should to see what's on my screen. Drives me nuts, and I am not even slacking. Maybe next time you can stare back until the staring person looks away ;)

In regards to Emil's comment - I once played power rangers with a little kid on a Chinese train. It.was.awesome :P

Anonymous said...

So what exactly was the problem, if people stare at you, just put on a friendly smile and that is it. Unlike here in Scandinavia, 9 out of 10 people you meet on the street won't even notice your presence, no eye contacts, no friendly smiles, just so cold as the climate...

maanu said...

when i found out that i was gonna be studying medicine in china i thought i'd do some research before hand.

so i went to the local bookstore(in male' maldives) and i found the book 'chinese for dummies!'. in the chapter about chinese behaviors that foreigners will find strange i still remember two things.

1- chinese people will spit anywhere. on restuarent floors, on buses.
2- they will stare at u. and not only will they stare at u they will call their friends and make them stare at u as well.

so i was expecting this behavior when i came and didnt find it strange at all. i only notice it when i'm with friends and like a whole group of them start starring at the same time. so after a while i'm like i should charge like 10 yuan for a look. or..oh look! foreighers! they eat just like us!.

anyway this is my first comment and i really identify with ur blog enjoy reading it. keep it up!

Emil said...

Hehe, I got to admit I also stare at foreigners when I meet them. Where I live I usually never meet foreigners, so when I do I become all excited and stare at them until I become embarrassed of myself.

Melanie said...

And I would get annoyed when my mom would dig through my glove box of my vehicle. :)

I live in a college town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, USA. We see a lot of Chinese students around town and such. It's funny because they always seem to be in their own little bubble. I'm curious about them and "discreetly" watch and listen to them, even though I can't understand the language. But they seem to be ignoring everything else around them and in their own little world. :)

Rebecca Lynch Photography said...

I don't think I could handle it. I am a private person who likes her space.

Allen Young said...

These things also happened in my life, and I don't like it either. But maybe you received more attention because you are a laowai(I have just learned this word from your last post, and I think it is very funny). As a Chinese, we ask privacy questions each other to shows one's regards, and the art is how to answer. I'm learning English just as you learning Chinese. One day a friend of my farther said to me , my son's salary is twice than yours and you are the same age. I just smile to him. Many of the feelings of Chinese isn't show up, there is some real culture of China hidden in Philosophy, but not everyone knows,even Chinese.

NikMark said...

(I also assume he was a bit of a slow reader because when she turned the page over I could see that he got slightly annoyed. For a short moment I almost expected him to bang on the window and mouth something like 'turn back the page, I wasn't finished!', but then reality checked back into me)

It really made me laugh and generally the entire subject was funny but still I'm pretty sure this kind of behaviour is annoying. I come from Europe also ( Greece ) and I don't think I can accept it.

Rowena said...

When I moved to Italy I had the same problem of maintaining my "space" when out in public. People either walk as if they don't see you and expect YOU to move out of their way, or when in a busy supermarket, they just keep pushing up nearly quite against you when in line.

Not a big deal anymore and I grew accustomed to having my space invaded, but the one thing that I just have hard time with is body odor! Ugh, sometimes it's just rank (mostly men but sometimes the women too even though I should add a disclaimer that not ALL italians have terrible B.O.). Tell me, is there a problem with chinese people not using deodorant? My bad luck that I have a super-sensitive nose eh?

Chocolatesa said...

As for reading the newspaper over your shoulder, I'm guessing you must have been sitting down otherwise they might have a hard time! lol Yeah if I was in your situation I would have so much fun listening to people talking about me in front of me and then replying!!

I found an article today about getting a driver's license in China http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=CNG.b0a7be9f94fe16f95ff3400ddc1d174c.14c1&show_article=1 , have you done this yourself? If so what was your experience with that? If not do you have stories from other people about getting their driver's licenses in China?

konichiwa, bitches. said...

hey man I'm an American living in Germany and I have to say I could draw lots of parallels between some Asian countries and here... z.B. standing way too effing close in line, examining other's purchases, staring and/or commenting. You're better than I am, cos even "when in Rome" I expect the Romans to have a smidgen of respect.

love yr blog though. :)

Leo said...

I was in Hong Kong for 3 days last year and I can relate. The staring, pointing, strangers taking photos of my daughters, and the personal space thing were all quite weird.

The worst thing though was out on a hot day at a crowded theme park and most asians were carrying umbrellas for sun protection. I am really tall and so the sharp pointy edges of these umbrellas were exactly at eye height and these people were laughing at me avoiding the umbrellas and some were purposefully standing closer just to watch me react - a bit too rude I thought.

undertree said...

yes, when you find out the shortcoming of the others, you are also learning it. That is why somethimes we say: learn from your enemy, and become your enemy at last.

beth said...

when I was in China this past summer I felt very uncomfortable with all the stares and people taking pictures of us. We were there to bring our baby son home, and after we received him the stares turned into outright curiosity and a major invasion of our space. Eventually we got used to it and began to enjoy the interactions.

Brad Farless said...

Rowena, in Singapore there is also a problem with body odor, though it's not really the locals per se. Most of the people with the bad body odor seem to be foreign laborers from India. I apologize if it offends anyone, but I'm just stating the truth. If you get on a train at the end of a working day and there are Indians present, you can expect a heavy "curry" scent, as well as the typical underarm BO. One time it was so bad that my wife and I got off the train at the next station to wait for the next one. Luckily trains in Singapore are only 6 minutes apart, but the smell was just too horrible. My wife was becoming nauseous.

Blank-Socrate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jelica said...

Hi Jonna, loved your post!

You get a lot of that 'shameless curiosity' in Eastern Europe, too. In my home country (Serbia) it is perfectly acceptable to ask people about their salaries, which I find incredibly rude.

Also, no such concept as 'personal space' when you stand in a line--but then, you could also argue that we don't really do lines, it's more like a bunch of people elbowing their way to their final goal :)

hGr said...

I am really sorry and offer my self sincere apologies as a young Chinese (under 18). I think the reason to this phenomenon is education. I don't mean that they didn't finish their education well. What I mean is that THEY ARE BADLY EDUCATED ON PRIVACY BECAUSE OF THE CIRCUMSTANCE AT THAT TIME. You know, 20 or 30 years ago China was really poor and every home was almost free for others to go into (even now some rural areas are still the same), because everyone is similar. At that time, we didn't have a relatively free market at all so furnitures and other things are the same in every family.In a word, nothing was worth
stealing so there was no need to protect yourself. Also, during that time thoughts of everyone were the same. So, based on this kind of society, this is understandable.
However, people (mostly students born after 1990s) are DIFFERENT AT ALL!!!For example,as for me,I also care a lot about my privacy because I realize it and I think it's a commonsense that we protect ourselves meanwhile not disturbing others.Asking the price,salary,home area,religion and politics views are things I hate to both ask and be asked. Also,it's common for some students to communicate with foreigners.
Just sorry for these things.

sheri amor said...

well.. sometimes u nave to still adopt their culture, adapting is really difficult sometimes but, It's fun to know some stuffs..they might be offended by just looking at them

Blank-Socrate said...

I like your blog very much, I am living in a country with the same curiosity culture :)

miss m said...

that caption is hilarious!

Anonymous said...

Your article here pretty much explains why I love China so much. As a Chinese person living in the US, it's a bit difficult to adapt since people here are much more private, more individualized, and less eager to be friends.

Now it doesn't matter since I've become used to it and adapted pretty well. However, it still feels uncomfortable and out of place for me at times.

This is the main reason really why I love China, I just love watching the people when I'm there. I feel at ease, I feel like I can strike up a conversation with some kid on the street, on the bus, talk to some middle-aged citizens with no worries about privacy or anything. It's just extremely casual. And I wouldn't understand why most people would think that it's impolite. This is Chinese culture, and this is what makes us Chinese. If China was a private country, with people having boundaries, that just would not be China, nor would it feel like China....no matter how you put it.

I have Chinese people complaining in America about people having boundaries, while in China there's almost no secrets amongst people or strangers, you can easily ask about their private lives without any hesitation. I guess this type of communication is very affable, adventurous, just fun in general. I think for Westerners being in China they have to be prepared for this.

Rick Kappra said...

Jonna,
Your blog is great. I hope you will write a book some day.

I remember when I was in Shanghai and eating alone in the restaurant at the YMCA where I was staying. I tried to be discreet and not stick out like a 1,000 pound gorilla. I sat in the back of the restaurant which had a big TV screen in the front. There was an older couple sitting near the front of the restaurant who saw me come in and proceeded to turn in their chairs and eat their dinner, watching me the entire time! I felt like I was in an aquarium!

Anonymous said...

Remember, different, but not wrong!

I don't agree with you when you use the word "shameliss". When in Rome, do like Romans do. When in China, It's you who should adjust but not the local people.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Anonymous: I never said there was something 'wrong'. If u read the article correctly u will notice that I am actually more positive/amused than negative. Don't get hung up on a title. I am not trying bag someone here. I am just stating some cultural differences.

Where I come from, going up to some strangers at a restaurant and looking at their bill is considered quite shameless!!

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your writting. Many Chinese are happy to see you in China and elsewhere simply because of your fluency in Chinese, an appreciation/respect for their culture and traditions.

Here is a story I want to share. I went back to China for a visit after spending 15 years in the U.S. I get to used to say "thank you" whenever helped. So I did the same when in china. One day, a very close boyhood friend was apparently agitated by too many "thank-you"s. He looked at me and said SOFTLY "Aren't we friends? Then stop saying 'thank you'".

Enjoy your time in China, which is evolving... for the better.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting article. Too bad that people took it negatively. As a matter of fact, it is considered extremely polite to stare in China. In China, you stare at older people, superiors, your teachers, anyone who deserves respect. If you want to be extra polite, you gather around the respected person in a large crowd and stare at him or her. So there is no reason to feel uncomfortable.

Everytime I'm back in Europe and catch sight of a Chinese-looking person, I make sure to stare at him properly and shout "NEEEEE HOW!" (That's "hallo" in Chinese). They absolutely love it!!! It is a foolproof way of making a friend.