Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What's considered as embarrassing yourself?

HHH public 'ridicule runner's ceremony' -only embarrassing if the boss is watching?

Yesterday, fellow blogger ’Woai’ wrote about losing face, and situations in Shanghai where the Chinese seem to take the concept to ridiculous extremes. It is funny this whole thing with losing face, because I find it a little bit contradictive. Before when I was working here I used to interview a lot of foreign CEOs and they all told me that ‘here in China, you really have to pay attention to that you don’t accidently make one of your employees lose face. For instance, if s/he comes with a somewhat stupid idea during a meeting, you should not ridicule the idea in front of the whole team of employees, but rather take him/her aside and tell her.’

Yeah, sure so this is all very clear to me. Chinese people should not be ridiculed in front of others (actually, who would NOT mind that??!), but then my question is, how can there be such a difference between losing face when being ridiculed by others and losing face when ridiculing yourself?

The other day at the gym I stepped into the stretching room and sat down on a yoga mat to do some stretching. Behind me, a young Chinese girl got clearly annoyed as she was using the mirror that I had sat down in front of. I didn’t care, it is a small room and not so much space, and obviously, neither did she, because moments later she started dancing.

Dancing is great. I love it too. Although I normally do it at clubs and stuff, or, (if I am really keen) at home in front of the mirror. This girl, however, was listening to her ipod, so only she could hear the music, and doing some pretty daring moves in front of the mirror… (ever seen a music video of ‘The Pussycat dolls’? Well, if so, you get an idea). It started with some sexy hip swinging, some pole grabbing and pirouettes, but soon she was down on the floor, crawling towards the mirror (she crawled passed me), with the whole mouth pouting and some (attempted) sexy look going on. Seeing that I was also seated in front of the mirror I had to look somewhere else not to bust out laughing. I don’t know if it was the over-the-top, ‘sexy’ dancing or if it was the fact that she was doing all these moves to music that only she could hear that I found so hilarious, but seriously –it just looked so silly?! (being all polite, however, I would never laugh out loud… it’s just not in my upbringing to point, stare or laugh at others).

The girl didn’t care what-so-ever (I guess that I should add that she wasn't any 'star' dancer). She got up on her legs again, grabbed a ‘pole’ (in fact an exercise pole attached to the wall, I think it is supposed to be used as a stretching tool) and continued her sexy performance. It wasn’t just her and I in the stretching room, but also a bunch of guys, some watching her with interest and some who didn’t care at all. When I left 20 minutes later she was STILL swinging herself around, hugging poles and crawling on the floor. I've got to give her some credit for not caring about what other people think –and applaud her for the fact that she got quite an exercise session out of this!

Don’t get me wrong here –I don’t think there’s anything wrong with dancing. But I would never do what that girl did out in the public. I would find it completely embarrassing to even be caught dancing to music in my ipod that I can hear but everyone else is oblivious to. To then add some (attempted) sexy pouting, crawling on the floor, and pole grinding…. Oh lord, just thinking about it makes my face turn red!

My point is –what’s the whole deal with losing face over here? Is it only other people that can make you lose face? What about yourself? Where do you draw the limit of what is embarrassing and not? How can pretending to be a Pussycat doll at a public place not be considered as embarrassing as getting your idea ridiculed by your boss? It is still happening in front of other people? And I reckon crawling around on the floor definitely puts yourself out there much more than opening your mouth and sharing a (stupid or not so stupid) idea does? Or is that just me?

21 comments:

Pingu said...

Maybe she was dancing specifically for you to enjoy? ;)

But yeah, either she doesn't think what she's doing is weird and in anyway jeopardise her 'face', or she doesn't care what you think about her.
*shrugs*

sour said...

HAHA!! oh man, that's crazy! i can't believe it! crawling toward the mirror. it is strange, how that wouldn't be considered "losing face". it would here in Canada, i totally LOL-ed about it. haha! awful!

mantse said...

Maybe this is a cultural difference between. I cannot say this is a showoff and she maybe just wanna dance in a room with mirror.

People do not aware what they do is ridiculed themselves in front of others. if aware, i don't think someone will do this. (who want to have a RED face in front of others?)

kanmuri said...

I think it has something to do with who is watching. If you ridicule yourself at work, this might have repercussions but if you ridicule yourself in front of strangers, it's not important, because they don't count.

They did an interesting experiement in Japan. Usually, Japanese people are really polite, but when they are with people they don't know (like in the train, a public place)they can be quite rude. So they had about 9 Japanese people squeeze themselves in a telephone booth (they took the phone out) and managed it without problem. Then then left the people together in a room for about an hour. After that, they tried to fit them in the telephone booth again: they could only fit 3. The people had got to know each other and now knew their respective places in the social hierarchy. They didn't want to be rude.

So maybe it is something similar to that ;)

Lost in Americana said...

Chinese people don't like to lose face in front of their parents and elders - people who they respect.

They don't care when it comes to strangers - in fact they often like to make absolute fools of themselves as you saw with the dancing girl. If anything, the Chinese are the LEAST sensitive about being embarrassed in front of people of all the Asian countries - they go to great lengths to play tricks on each other in order to get some money.

The Japanese and Koreans, by default, are much more conservative about keeping respect for each other.

陈磊 said...

Chinese people really likes to show off in front of other people, but especially foreigners. She was just saying "hey! I'm just as sexy, if not more sexy than you!" Or something like that...

Haven't you seen this stuff on the web before?:

http://www.chinasmack.com/pictures/daughter-of-shanxi-coal-mine-boss-shows-off-her-us-lifestyle/

What that girl is doing is exactly the same, just replace money with sexiness (this is a word?)...

kanmuri said...

@Lost in Americana: I beg to differ. Japanese people can be downright rude when they want to. They just do it differently. Korean people can be quite insulting too, just look what happens on the web. Human beings are human beings, no matter where.

Don Tai said...

"Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the sexiest dancer of all. I am, I am, I....Hey, where'd this white girl come from? I'll show her who's the sexiest dancer of them all!"

I'm sure the guys liked the show. Yes, China has crazy people as well. And you're not one of them.

WoAi said...

Jonna I think they key thing here is that SHE didn't think it was embarrassing so therefore, no loss of face. Just like the guy who proudly wears bright yellow trousers thinking he looks like a Paris fashion week model.

Have you not heard of silent discos? You are given headphones and there are 2 DJs. You choose which you want to listen to then just dance away. It's called silent disco because if you want to chat with friends at the bar, you just remove the headphones and you hear nothing but see one group of people dancing to two different sets of music!

njd said...

Hahaha - Classic. I just always assumed that the Chinese simply don't think things like that are embarrassing. No deep psychological thoughts about it here:-)
And while I think it is humerous and would never do things like this myself...I find it quite pleasant that they don't care!

Jonna Wibelius said...

pingu -naaah, I think this lady was dancing for herself! :)

sour -yeah in Sweden I bet someone would call the police if they saw her... ;)

kanmuri -yeah u r probably right. Interesting example about that phone booth.

Don Tai -no, I am not. Quite happy bout that (although I do go for runs outside... isn't that considered quite 'crazy' over here?!)

Woai -for real?! You're pulling my leg here, aren't u?

njd -I also find it entertaining and refreshing (at most times). Especially since it is so different to how peolpe act back in Sweden..

Chris said...

I don't know how you managed to keep your composure during that, I think I would have walked out with my tongue severely bitten into several pieces!!

I've constantly been slightly confused with the whole concept of losing face, I've seen people make fools of themselves in similar situations and they don't care in the slightest, but then, when it comes to confrontation with students I have seen major embarrassment.

WoAi said...

Jonna - Not at all!!!! It's quite popular now because it also means places don't have to worry about complaints.

Just Google "silent disco". It's too early for April Fools Day!

bkbj said...

Jonna, I admire your unimaginable amount of self-restraint. I would have bursted out laughing the moment she starts crawling.

@ WoAi, I heard of this group of people who got together last year and had an ipod rave right in the middle of Union Square in New York City. So I am buying your silent disco story. I actually think it's quite genius!

konichiwa, bitches. said...

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA that is hilarious!!! crawling on the floor and pouting. Fantastic.

Why does it sound like so many people there are nuts? Like bonkers? The guy with the walking picnic also sounds like he has a few screws loose... maybe you just have an "interesting" gym.

Little Tiger said...

Thank you for the mental image of thay lady crawling on the floor, it made my day. lol

Babygrand said...

That's quite funny (and brave?). How u manage to maintain composure is beyond me :)

alex said...

Very interesting!!

Thank you))

Jonna Wibelius said...

Chris -that's just how I feel.. but a lot of people explained it here.. obviously faces are only lost if the person makes a fool of him/herself in front of people s/he knows...

Woai -Omg.. that's hilarious!!! New thing on my to-do-list: party on a silent disco. Thanks for sharing!

konichiwa, bitches-the gym is my fave hang out place here in Suzhou.. not only can I sweat as much as I want without anyone giving me strange looks, but it's also a great place for people-watching!

Anonymous said...

haha!! tahts all so true!!

You live a surreal life. i've got a story on my blog you might enjoy. its the latest one :)

~*Ery*~ said...

Try looking up information on Face Negotiation Theory in Asian countries (I think there have been some specific studies done in South Korea). They should give you a pretty good background as to why its ok to be embarassed in one situation and not another.