I was talking to one of my Shanghainese friends the other day and asked her about what she’d done during the wknd. (Unlike a lot of my friends here she didn’t just reply: “sleeping!”). She told me that she’d gone to a Japanese restaurant to catch up with an old school friend, but the friend had never turned up.
-What?! I asked, clearly surprised. What happened? Did your friend have an accident or did you have a fight or something?
-No… well I went to the restaurant and waited for her for 2 hours (!!!). It was kind of annoying since I was really hungry but I read some magazines while I was waiting. In the end I was sad that she couldn’t make it but she was really busy at work.
I was astonished by her kindness! If a friend stood me up like that I am not sure that I could have said as many nice things about her, well at least not only 4 days afterwards. But the more time I spend in China, the more I realize that ‘cancelling things at last minute/not showing up/ having people waiting for you’ is not considered to be a biggy over here.
Remember the western guy that I wrote about in the ‘go dutch’ post? Well, in the end he never had to experience any ‘who-is-going-to-pay-drama’ because the girls spent the whole day cancelling on him. First they cancelled lunch 30 min prior to it happening. Then it was said that they were going to play pool at 5pm. When he still hadn’t heard anything from them at 4.30pm he decided to give it all a complete miss (I guess on the bright side he saved a lot of money).
The worse ‘stood-up’ I have experienced here in China, however, occurred when I worked at a city magazine and was supposed to go and interview some rugby (?) team that were practicing in Shanghai’s eastern part, Pudong, on Saturdays. I had arranged for a photographer to come with me, but when the day came I woke up with tonsillitis and couldn’t get out of bed. I spent the morning trying to get someone to cover for me, and then called the photographer to inform him that I wasn’t coming.
Turns out, however, that neither was he.
-Oh, I don’t think I can make it either.
-Why not? Are you also sick?
-No, but I am on the train.
-Yeah, I am on my way to Guangzhou!
I find the funniest bit in this story to be the fact that I called him… Imagine if I wouldn’t have woken up sick, and gone out to interview the team and we all would have stood there (me and the beefy guys) waiting for the photographer. How completely unprofessional! But he didn’t even apologize. In the end I almost felt like as if it was my fault that he didn’t show up. I should have reminded him and double-checked (Fortunately, the story turned out well in the end. Since neither the photographer nor me could attend I simply postponed it all).
I still don’t really understand why people have such a relaxed attitude towards ‘not turning up/ cancelling on your friends at the last minute.’ I personally find it kind of…rude. Although that is obviously because where I come from, it is not considered to be OK to just ‘not show up’ or to be 2 hours late. And I think that despite the fact that ‘when in Rome,’ this is one of those things I will never get used to/do myself.