Thursday, November 20, 2008

How I went from 'athlete' to 'bad girl' (in my teacher's eyes)

Good girl gone bad

Yesterday we had one of those interesting and deep (.....) discussions in our speaking class. The teacher wanted to know what we liked to do on our spare time, and her first question was:

-Have you EVER been to a bar?! (A bar, as in a bar where they serve alcohol)

You could tell that it was a big question for our teacher, a young Chinese girl in her mid twenties (or early? or late? actually impossible to guess the age of Chinese people. Most of them look very young -lucky bastards!). She started off my eying up some of my Korean male class mates, who are in their late twenties and definitely must have visited plenty of bars, if I have gotten the Korean culture correct?

-Eh... once, in Beijing, a tall, Korean guy (probably in his 30ies) lied.
-Oh, tell us about it, did you drink a lot of alcohol? What did you drink? Did you get drunk? Our teacher was on fire.
The guy continued lying and said he had only had one beer. (Bulls*t!!!)

Then the question went to the Japanese girls who were all way too well-behaved to even take the world ‘alcohol’ in their mouth. The teacher smiled approvingly, especially when one girl said ‘I prefer to study on my free time.’ Then, the question was passed over to us, the Europeans/Americans, namely: me, an American boy called Clar-KE (I loved how the teachers pronounce his name!) and a new girl from Serbia; The 'Ou-Mei ren'. The (assumed) drinkers. The 'bad kids.'

-I assume that u often go to bars and drink? the teacher fired at the Serbian girl, who looked kind of startled.
-Eh, no, in fact I don't drink, the girl fired back.
-Oh? You look like you do?!


Moving on to Clar-KE:

-You MUST drink often, Clar-KE?
-Eh.... not that often.. like sometimes?
-So how much do you drink then? Do you get really drunk?
-Eh.. not always, like.. it is not such a big deal...
Clar-KE's limited Chinese skills kept him from being able to explain that he was more of a 'casual/social' drinker than a big drinker, mainly having a beer with a friend as a social thing rather than to get shit-faced. But the message didn't came across to anyone else but me and the Serbian girl. I could tell that my teacher thought she had hit bad-kid-Jackpot.

Finally, it was my turn:

-You Na! You must be a drinker! (Note: this comes from a teacher who saw me compete in the 3000m race during Suzhou Daxue sport’s day, and then told me that I was a 'real athlete')
-Not really. I prefer running to drinking actually.
-But you often go to bars too, don't you?
-In Suzhou?! Never! In Shanghai, yes, at times!
-Oh, I thought you were a real disco girl!
-Why is that?
-Because you are young... and tall, and blonde.... and... hihihihihii...
The whole class joined in on the laugh.
(Geez, those are the strangest reason I have ever heard for calling someone a big drinker?! I've heard that 'blondes have more fun,' but never that 'blondes drink more.' Although maybe they are related?)

-So what do you drink in bars? Do you get really drunk?
-Eh… no… like.. going to a bar isn’t such a big deal. Sometimes I go just to have a glass of wine with a friend. It is like going for a coffee. You don’t have to drink yourself drunk every time
, I tried, but my teacher looked completely blank to this answer. It was obviously that to her, drinking is an ‘all or nothing’ thing. I think I might have gone from a ‘real athlete’ to a ‘real drinker’ in her eyes (will this affect my overall grades you reckon?? Why didn't I just lie like my Korean classmate?!)

-So what about you, teacher? A curious Korean boy, who had admitted –to everyone else’s delight-, that he was a ‘bit of a drinker.’

-I have been to a bar twice in my life, the teacher said. And I am never going back. I think bars are stupid and bad. And people that drink in bars are really, really bad.

Me, Clar-KE and the Serbian I-look-like-a-drinker-girl exchanged looks. I think we all were thinking the same thing:

“We are regarded as really BAD people over here?!”

And I thought Chinese people weren’t judgemental?

I especially feel for the Serbian I-look-like-a-drinker-girl, who doesn’t even drink, but who still has ended up in this category just because of her looks.

This also makes me wonder if my Chinese teacher (who is from southern China) has any idea of the drinking culture in China’s dongbei area… or if she just regards that whole area as ‘too bad’ to even think about visiting?


Mark's Blog said...

This remind me one of the conversation I had with my Korean and Kiwi friends

Kiwi: Is there any bar in China

I: Yes, Many

Kiwi: Do you go there?

I: No, not at all. If I want to drink, I normally drink with family and friends at home or restaurant, but definitely not at bar

Korea: Why?

I: There are too many bad people there at bar, like drug dealers, alcoholist and nuts

Kiwi: So, is drug illegal in China

I: It depends. But selling drug may get the dealer executed. It is a crime worse than murder.


Anonymous said...

1. i think the chinese only have problem with the idea that a girl drinks and even loves it.. most of the chinese men drink whether they like it or not because it is a MUST-have social skill..i was once lectured by a professer of PR in my uni and he said at the first lesson that "what's the most important characteristic of a successful PR worker in china? capacity for liquor!". u can't imagin how much money we wasted on table each year (especially those gov. officials).

2.Bar is a newly imported thing in china (not common until 1990s) so there is no pub culture here. and it is simply tooooooo expensive for college students(chinese) who happen to be at the craziest age for booze(consider 4 kuai a bottle of beer at street seller). As a result, a great number of ppl can't tell the difference between a pub and a disco, they think going to a bar only means going to dance in a loud disco..and dancing in a disco easily mix you up with those easy going super open "hot" chinese girls (and numerous horny men), which leads to the conclusion: bad girl..(clubing in china is kinda distorted..)

3. Traditionally the chinese drink at dinner with food, they barely only drink alcohol, even when there's no food they would cook something to match the alcohol (下酒菜), such as peanuts, chicken feet, duck neck..those take you time to eat and won't make you feel full (ensure enough room for the alcohol >.<).

4. in terms of socialsing with alcohol, the chinese drinking custom at table is awful (in my idea).干杯 ganbei literarily means bottom up, you have to cheer with ppl you want to make contact with to show your respect and receive other ppl's cheers, sometimes when u cheer with someone he may return his ganbei later to show his manner, needless to say there are also situations everyone cheers ppl are kinda forced to drink, and normally baijiu 白酒.

5. ppl in dongbei area drink a lot JUST TO KEEP THEM WARM!!! >.<

Anonymous said...

Geez! In the US our college profs often went out and had a drink with us! I can't imagine how she would react to that?!

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't know, I still think you are an "Athlete" with a capital "A!" Several days ago I was inspired to stay on the treadmill for ten minutes longer than usual (for me that's a big deal) because, right when I was ready to get off, I thought of your hilarious post about the spin class and thought to myself, "If Jonna could keep spinning for TWO HOURS, surely I can go on for another few minutes!" So, thank you for the inspiration. You can tell from one of my blog posts last month


that I am definitely NOT an athlete, so I think if you can have such a good influence on me all the way up here in Beijing, that must be worth something! (Maybe you should tell your teacher about THAT and see if she still thinks you are a "disco girl" :))

Jonna Wibelius said...

Zhou -when I first moved to Finland (located in norhern Europe in case someone doesn't know) I was amazed of how people there drank.

"It's only because they want to keep warm!" was the lamest (but most common) excuse I came accross, beause when spring and summer came, with long, balmy nights... the finns were still downing their booze as if there was no tomorrow. So unless Dongbei people stop their drinking habits from May-September, I don't buy the 'to keep warm' excuse... :)

Although u made some really good points. Obviously the 'drinking/party' culture that exists amongst uni student in the US, Europe and Australia, doesn't exist amongst Chinese uni students, and in a way I guess it is good. Drinking isn't healthy, although if you drink with moderation it isn't deadly either. Like u said, bars are a kind of new concept in China, and it will obviously take a long time before people realise that having one beer doesn't make you a 'booze loving person'... Or, I don't know if the drinking culture ever will enter China. There's too much good tea over here. :)

But if people think of 'gan bei' (with bai jiu) when they hear the word 'drinking' I can understand why they consider that sort of activity to be a big no-no. I have been in a 'Gan bei bai jiu' situation once and it wasn't fun... at all! Straight shots of Bai Jiu in full throttle? Nowadays I always say no thanks. Fortunately it is much easier to say no (to booze and cigarettes) as a girl than as a boy in China.

Jonna Wibelius said...

flyingfish -10 min longer than usual on the treadmill IS a big deal, for me too! I'm so glad to hear my painful-but-efficient-fat-burning-spinning-experience inspired you. :) Keep running!

Anonymous said...

wow Jonna Wibelius. how come you could have so many topics to write and update your blog like everyday.... and mostly I think are interesting to read.

oh yeah, and Zhou brother explains really good about the issue, smart.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Kabul -only 'most of them'...? Kidding! ;)

Well I have a few addictions in life. One is working out. Another one is writing.

Besides, how could u NOT update your blog every day in China?! There's so many interesting/funny things happening here every single day. Just going to the post office is an adventure of its own... So what can I say? I'm at a place where it is impossible not to be inspired?! And my fingers are on fire over here... :) (Although just because I just said that I bet I will hit a dry spell soon... That's always how it goes)

But I've been like this since I was a kid. My mom just gave me a pen and a paper and I would write until my fingers were bleeding. Same with emails/letters/diaries... I always have something to say.

Anonymous said...

MuUaHahaHHAa what an entry…got me laughing my ass off
While reading, I cant help but to picture your so called “teacher” was drunk wiggling
“Clar-KE” Double MuUaHahaH send me straight back to the 70s
And here comes the punch line…. “You Na! You must be a drinker!”

But contradict to my popular believe, I always have a mental picture of Chinese getting piss drunk on a weekly basis. Or maybe just too much jap drama for me

Emm… its must be hard on you and the “bad students” to get stabbed without a fair trial …
Anyway.. thank you for sharing

Anonymous said...

When your teacher finds out you are living with your boyfriend, she'll think you've gotten even worse!

Don't worry, remember, Chinese are very reserved, old fashioned, whatever you want to call it. It's especially true for girls. In fact, they don't really care at all if it was a guy.

Don't worry, it is changing, so it won't be the same in 20 years...

Jonna Wibelius said...

Pingu -it is funny because Chinese people are so reserved about some things (like sex and alcohol), and then when it comes to other things, there is no privacy/limits what so ever! They ask u 'what's your salary' or tell you 'you have put on weight' as if it was the most natural thing...

Unknown said...

Hi, This is rainbow from hong kong that i sent you a email before. Although i am also chinese, there is really a big culture different from hong kong to mainland ( we call china as a mainland).Come on, I really think that there is no big deal to going to bar, and just like what you said, its just like having a cup of coffee and there is a place to have a casual talk with friends( for me) and i dont know why i must be "drunk" if i go to the bar.

Unknown said...

Jonna,are you caring about someone judging yourself as a bad girl? Even I do not care what the other people stereotyped on me. I do drink 3 or 4 times a week, and swear many times to give up this habit because of the headache makes me obviously disorder whole day after all.
Our culture likes to follow up without distinction, and do not know how to respect with different views people in communication. They simply count the people good and bad as a social standard, which makes western feel they were consulted inside actually.
Sometimes I shame to go to bar because I am not the age for meeting new people and for fun in there. Some of teachers still believe that they do like parents doing to have right guiding students’ life and treat them as a child.
Just do it what do you like to do. As a Chinese, I have never taken so much care about my behaviors in this case. This perhaps makes me not welcomed in a circle, but they will finally find the truth face of mine and like me other than the one who pretend to be a good.

Anonymous said...

"Besides, how could u NOT update your blog every day in China?! There's so many interesting/funny things happening here every single day."

Indeed. I sometimes have to queue my posts and have the whole week of posts in the queue because so many stories have happened. Last Friday I had to post twice in one day because there was too much stuff going on.

Anonymous said...

I just remembered lines from one of LiBai's poem in which he said that when you drink, you should drink all the way you could, till you get drunk or so. Is it possible that the poem influence Chinese people thought about drinking?

Anonymous said...

This was great, fascinating stuff. Imagine the teacher's reaction if someone had said: Nah, I don't get really drunk that often, I'd rather smoke weed. Back in college in America some friends and I smoked hashish with our 'Drugs In Society' professor. LOL!

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
never use alcohol

or any other drug
which may influence your mind

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