Sunday, April 19, 2009

The spitting boss

Since I moved to China I have gotten used to get used to a lot of things that I would find hard to accept 'back home' -such as the endless spitting on the streets. I have seen -and heard- it so many times now that I have stopped caring, even though I don't really approve of it, but I have realized it is just a thing that a lot of people do over here (some things that I still cannot stand however are nail clipping in public as well as people sneezing without covering their mouths -aaaarrrghhhh!), however, some days ago I hit my boiling point.

Like I've told you guys before, I am currently doing some project work for a new company, an entirely Chinese company, and it has proven to be both a bit of fun and a bit of a challenge. Since no one in the office speaks a lick of English (not even the most simple stuff) I have to rely entirely on my Chinese, which is great, although sometimes frustrating (I am -as you all know- not as good as I would want to be after almost 2 years of Chinese studies). Still, communication isn't the biggest issue here. My "boss'" constant spitting is.

He's one of those 'noisy guys.' When eating lunch the whole restaurant hears him, as he does a lot of additional, extra eating noise while stuffing himself. Fine. No problems. We are all different. Also, when in the office and working in front of his computer he's also very noisy... but not as in talking-a-lot-noisy, but more like: Heavy breathing, and then a lot of loud nostral inhaling (you know that thing you do with your nose sometimes when you feel it is itching? I don't mind this, although this guy does it every second minute, which I find a bit... strange. Although, all in all, it is still fine). But then, there's the clearing of his throat. The deep, loud clearing of his throat. That he does every five minutes or so, and that is followed by a loud moment of him spitting in a bin next to his desk (which is next to where I am sitting).

Every time he does it I feel like screaming out loud. I find it so out of place. We all have our 'habits' and 'things' but some stuff I feel you should keep to when you are alone, or at least outside. Spitting in a bin in an office is just... yuk. Of course I can't say anything about this. Instead, I just sit there, next to him, all quiet and try to continue typing on my computer, pretending that I didn't hear (or see) what he just did. No one else says anything. I bet the others are so used to it.

Although I wonder for how long I will be able to shut up. I'm scared that on one of my 'bad days', I might just explode. Which might also be the last day of me helping out at this company.

25 comments:

Emmy said...

Yeah that is just disgusting. The worst part with this, or anything that annoys you in life, once you notice it and it starts bothering you then you can't help but notice it even more. So well, good luck! Maybe bring an iPod with head phones to listen to if you are allowed. I would be highly annoyed too.

Kelly said...

AH! I have the same issue in my office! I think my eye starts to twitch every time my coworker hacks, does a "farmer blow", or snorts in the office. Yet no one else seems to think it's horribly gross but me!! Only in China!

flyingfish said...

Well, I mean, it's also incredibly unhygienic, right? TB, anyone?

Good luck getting this problem sorted out.

Alex W said...

I think you can evoke the concept of "face" here to help understand your colleagues' apparent apathy to what your boss is doing. Indeed, perhaps they are just used to it and truly don't mind... or, perhaps they are reluctant to point out his "flaw," or draw undesired attention to him, especially considering his status. I think you can also understand their behavior (or lack of it) as a form of non-intervention. I wrote a bit about the idea of Chinese non-interventionism in a post on my blog if anyone is interested.
the link

Jonna Wibelius said...

Emmy -fortunately he's out of the office quite a lot... although when he is in, it's a disater. Yup, Ipod it is.

Kelly -awful yeah, but how can u get it to stop?!?

Flyingfish -unhygenic indeed. But yeah, I don't think I can solve this one. I mean, I can't really tell him to stop can I?

Alex -I told one of the other girls, she just went 'yeah I know, it's bad' and that was it... I guess they all are used to it and know that they can't do anything about it. Oh well. Although I'm happy I don't work there every day.

renaye said...

i don't understand the need of these people spitting in the first place.

Shanghai MiFeng said...

Even though it's gross , it is a chinese thousand's of year's old custom , like smoking is for Men there . Unless you see it not being done by the younger Generation's , it will be around for a loooong time and be something we have to live with . As foreigner's can't go over to another country and tell them what to do . Thanks God for iPod's . Maybe starting to do it yourself will stop your Boss from doing it ? Ever thought of that ?

Jonna Wibelius said...

ShanghMifeng -I know it's an old custom, that's why I say I haven't really cared about it until now, when it is so 'in my face'... Spitting isn't really something I do, unless I get a bug in my mouth while out running... so I find it hard to imagine me clearing my throat and spitting in the bin.. having said that though, it would be quite fun to try! Just to see his reaction. Hehe, actually, just the mental image of doing that cracks me up! :)

Anonymous said...

You have been in China about 3 years,you can try to use Chinese character to write your bolg .

^-^

Daley

Gingerblossom said...

I've noticed that Chinese folks tend to defer to their bosses, even when they are wrong or in this case, exhibiting unhygienic habits. They won't speak up about it and if you do, you'd be seen as rude by the boss. He may think of it as a loss of face and give you a hard time thereafter. You'll just have to live with using the Ipod ( as a loud volume) for a while.

Dangerous Des said...

he sounds like a smoker. Would make sense why it's so constant, and why he's spitting all the time without regard for other people's sensibilities. Back when I was a kid and before I was a smoker, smokers used to hack on me all the time, I'd shoot them a dirty look like "hey jerk cover your mouth" and they'd go, "oh, don't worry, it's just a smoker's hack." As if that makes coughing all over another person less impolite/unhygenic.

spitting is gross, but sneezing and coughing without covering one's mouth is the absolute worst. Can you believe that fully grown adults, people who have lived through wars and reared grandchildren, still don't know to cover their mouths when sneezing on a crowded train? Disgusting.

Rick said...

Not only in China! I work at a small company in midwest USA. The owner and his brother constantly spit on the floor daily. If a garbage can is near they'll aim it there, otherwise it's on the floor right where we all stand. It is so disgusting! They'll swipe their shoe over the spit to try and smear it out as a courtesy. We'll be having a meeting and the boss will drop spit right in front of me. It's so gross. I've heard this complaint about the Chinese before... but here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin I deal with it daily too. This is a professional design business where I work... it amazes me how the owner thinks this is acceptable.

Little Tiger said...

hehehe that definately is out of place. Do any other people in the office mind?. perhaps they don't mind because they're used to it or because he's the boss.
Some things that my (chinese) flatmates do really get under my skin at times. They usually work late so when they come home they make dinner. The problem is my room is next to the kitchen and I can always hear their chewing and slurping of their food. I don't want to say anything because it's not my place to tell other people how to eat.
The funny thing thing is, I was at my mother's a few weeks ago. While I was having dinner, my mother was horrified at the amount of noise I was making while eating!I don't know how but it must have rubbed off on me without me realizing
So who knows, you could find yourself spitting into bins soon enough :)

胡崧 said...

I think the perception of spitting being a part of Chinese tradition is grossly inaccurate. To me it is just another stupid excuse that an ill-mannered person use that makes every Chinese look bad.

I think it all comes down to family upbringing. I was brought up not to make any noise when eating, while some of my friends are exactly the opposite. It annoys me sometimes but I have learned to accept it as long as it is not over the top. After all, I slurp when I eat noodle and I am not a big fan of so-called "public chopstick".

I am not against spitting either as long as you do it properly (like spitting into a napkin or something). There is NO way in hell that I am going to swallow it, that is just disgusting.

Brad F. said...

Singapore is primarily Chinese, but spitting in public is against the law here and you can be given a hefty fine for it.

Thank GOD!

Just reading your description of what that guy does right next to you constantly makes me queasy. Hawking and spitting is just one of those things that grosses me out. I don't even like to do it myself.

Ugh. Glad I ate dinner already. My stomach is flipping!

Jonna Wibelius said...

Little tiger -hahaha! Would love to have dinner with you just to see that for myself! Actually, when I was working in SH in 2007, one of my workmates used to go to this cheaper than cheap noodle place for lunch (2-3 kuais)... I asked to join him and he got all 'ehhhh sure, although... u know... I eat there with locals... so u might not like what u see'... and sure, once we went I had to witness him slurping and shoving in his noodles just like everyone else around us. I tried to do the same but got soup all over my top. I guess it takes some getting used to before u can master the technique.

Dangerous Des -change of name?!??!? He's actually doesn't smoke, which is so strange?!?!?! But I agree w u, not covering your mouth while coughing and sneezing is worse.

胡崧 -yeah like I said.. I don't mind the slurping... but the spitting... it's just gross.

gingerblossom -yup of course they do. They are so dependent on him liking them. If they would oppose him he might lower their salaries or even fire them (although with the new labour law it is said to be harder for someone to fire someone just like that.. I still think it happens a lot though)

Daley -I tried some months ago, although most people that read this blog cannot read Chinese characters so there's not really any point...

Brad F -sorry to ruin your appetite... In Austria in Europe it's also forbidden to spit and you'll be fined if caught spitting in public. Gotta love that rule!

Anonymous said...

"I am not against spitting either as long as you do it properly (like spitting into a napkin or something). There is NO way in hell that I am going to swallow it, that is just disgusting."

Ah, a typical Chinese mindset and arugement on spitting! Everyone has to spit. So what do you do when you have to spit? Swallow your spit? No way. Has it ever ocurred to you that you get rid of this disgusting habit altogether? Why do you have to clear your throat so often and so hard that you cough up with some spit?

mantse said...

I don't think even this is a "traditional" Chinese customs but still acceptable is the modern world. (even i don't think this is a customs which Chinese spitting on the street). at least, my friends, who mostly educated in university, they also not accept such issue in public area.

Anonymous said...

get out of the place that u are working at...

your bf should not be letting u go through such a stint...

Jewels said...

Sad to say, but we have it here in Canada too... although such people are seen as rude, and kind of...lower on the respect scale.

Dangerous Des said...

yeah, changed the name because it was one I had carried over from MySpace, and I decided I had just outgrown it... now that I am in my late 20s maybe it's time to have people take you a little bit seriously, hard to do sometimes with "bitches" in the name, LOL!

胡崧 said...

"Ah, a typical Chinese mindset and arugement on spitting! Everyone has to spit. So what do you do when you have to spit? Swallow your spit? No way. Has it ever ocurred to you that you get rid of this disgusting habit altogether? Why do you have to clear your throat so often and so hard that you cough up with some spit?"

I am sorry but this argument does not make any sense. Tell me ANOTHER way to clean up your throat without spitting? When your throat does not feel right, there is no other way to clear it without coughing up the spit. The idea of getting ride of this "habit" is ridiculous. Spitting is one of the ways to get rid of the toxins in your body. We are biologically engineered to do so.

Of course I don't think it is right to spit on the street. However, I find the idea of spitting into a napkin is completely acceptable. I am not grossing you out and my throat feels better.

If you don't like it then it is none of my problem. It only shows how intolerant you are.

Shanghai MiFeng said...

Jonna , have you done it yet ? It really cracks me up too , picturing that sight , you and your Boss spitting into a Bin . I bet this would be his first time seeing a Woman do that . He might stop doing it or give you a Raise . Hehehe .

anke said...

Living in Beijing, we were really excited when we discovered on a recent trip to Hong Kong that spitting is illegal there. So excited in fact, that we took a picture of the sign forbidding spitting in bins at the MTR station.
Maybe you can print it and hang it on your office wall???

What today ate we? said...

When I was "studying" for my Chinese driver's license (it is actually memorizing the answers to questions, as some of them are really not very logical), I came across this question:

What should a driver do when he needs to spit while driving?

A. Spit through the window
B. Spit into a piece of waste paper, then put it into a garbage can
C. Spit on the floor of the vehicle

Especially the "need" really cracks me up.

And, 胡崧, that was what the anonymous commenter was trying to say: I have never met a non-Chinese person that "needed" to spit. BTW, your intolerance argument is not sensible. Here is an argument in the same vein: if I peed on your desk, and you don't like it, you are intolerant. If you do something that you know other people don't like you doing, that just means you are indifferent to their feelings.