Monday, August 24, 2009

Keen to find a teacher

I was chatting to one of my western male friends today. Like me, he lives in Suzhou and when he goes to Shanghai for a party weekend he often stays at a failry nice, but cheap hotel. Yesterday evening he suddenly received a sms, going:

”Hey, this is Li Lin, do you teach English?”

He thought for a while but couldn't come up with any friend named Li Lin, so he simply replied:

”Who are you?”

And got:

”I am Li Lin from the hotel.”

Ah, that Li Lin. That Li Lin that has checked him in and therefore has his mobile phone number?! That girl that he has never really talked to, but simply handed his credit card to, before he filled in a slip where he wrote down all his personal details?

”No I am not a teacher.” he finally wrote and decided not to stay at that hotel again.

”OK!” Li Lin replied.

There sure ain't no such things as ”protecting people's privacy” over here. If you are keen to learn English and just happen to sit on a number to a foreigner you can just go ahead and use it.

Even though you obtained it at work, in a business situation.

Quite a funny story!

But also a tad bit scary (even though I knew the keen-to-learn-English girl probably didn't mean anything bad).


Anonymous said...

I bet she's not really after the language skill, but the man I say.

scribbling sassy said...

that is so not appropriate, you see? they just lost a client there!

TC said...

He should just have reported it to her manager and that would have been the end of it. Its not professional, but I don't believe this is symptomatic of what goes on in most Chinese hotels (4 stars and above), and it still beats being called racist terms and subjected to racist caricatures which I encountered at a scandinavian hotel's front desk...

Jonna Wibelius said...

Anonymous -Well I don't know actually. Maybe she just really needed a teacher. There's a time and a place for everything though, and this obviously wasn't it.

Sassy -no, not professional at all.

TC -this was not a fancy, five start hotel at all, but rather a cheap, local one. Still, one would think that they wouldn't use their guests phone numbers like that. I don't think my friend is the sort of person that bothers to reports things like that. He'll just find another place to stay at (or, I bet he'll forget about it all until the next time he is standing there in the reception again, haha!)

But now u made me so curious, what did someone tell you in Scandinavia?! It's quite unusual for Scandos to be directly rude to foreigners just like that I think (but totally OK for them to be rude to each other), so I'm quite curious about this story. And what country were u in?

Anonymous said...

This is just China! The country's economy has been running steroid in the last 2 decades that its people don't have time to understand the very basic universal concept like privacy. Imagine you were a caveman time-transported to the Renaissance period in Europe. Wouldn't you caveman have a hard time understanding what the societal norm would be? China was like a huge caveman society, isolated from the rest of the world for 30+ years (1949-1980), followed by a small scale experimental market economy in 4 coastal cities from the early 1980 to 1989. After the TAM Square Massacre in 1989, the power that be was scared of any more imminent revolts that would disthrone them and spent 2 to 3 years following the Massacre to figure out a way to keep their power. They decided to try out market economy and has been at it at full throttle since 1992. Market economy (capitalism) did work as it has always worked for every society and culture. Hence, the economic growth has been going on so fast in China that people simply don't have time to absorb all the changes needed to go with the new status of things. As a China observer, I can think of a lot more "odd things" about China but I won't bore you with details. After all this is your blog. You have done a good job observing some of the unique cultural differences due to this unique economic growth and rapid societal change in China.

TC said...

Well, I don't go for less than 4-stars hotels in China, just to err on the side of safety.
The incident I mentioned occured in Helsinki. I had to attend a last minute business meeting there, and my gf (who's European) decided to come along for some sightseeing and shopping of her own. We booked into a local hotel, and when we arrived and were at reception, I noticed they had a fairly large poster print which featured a "Chinese" character, cartoon, replete with pigtails, flowing gowns, squinting eyes, buckteeth, pointy hat, bowing and grinning insidiously akin to nazi posters depicting Jews back in '33. There was something in finnish under it, no idea what it was saying. When I noticed it, the conversation went:
@gf: That's pretty racist...
gf: Well, you can tell them about it, maybe they just don't notice...
@receptionist: Miss, that print you have on the wall, I would like to point out that its rather inflammatory and insensitive, would you be kind enough to reflect it to your management?
receptionist: What? THAT?? Well, no one has ever complained before and I don't see the problem with it. YOU PEOPLE are so sensitive! What are you? Chinese?? I suggest if you don't like it here, you are both free to check in at another hotel!!
Then she glares at my gf and goes:
So do you prefer to leave dear??
My gf gave me that "PLEASE don't start a loud scene now!" look, and since I didn't want to embarass her, and also because I had a meeting a few hours later, we just signed the paperwork and went to our room.
My gf was kool though. She arranged entirely on her own (and her contacts) an alternative place for us, and it was all done fairly quickly. So we left on the same day, no fuss, stayed in a much classier place and I returned telling admin not to ever do any bookings with that crappy hotel again.
Scandinavia was weird in that regard for us though. Whenever I was alone there and was in my business suit, people were generally nice, friendly and professional, but when I once got lazy and threw on a cheap china-made top over my suit, everyone everywhere was rude and derogatory, and I actually had to go back to my hotel to don on my chesterfield coat again, and then they went back to being nice. It was so obvious! When my gf and I were there together, people always treated her rudely and were totally unhelpful, though they were almost always civil with me, except when they were drunk. This was in contrast to the rest of Europe where people didn't care, or in the US where folks were really sweet to us both. That's why I always tell all outbound staff for scandinavia: Don't dress lazily, ALWAYS wear your suit, wear your best overcoat, treat it like the Paris office where everyone's fashion conscious or you'll see their ugly side! :D

Pete In Syracuse said...

Ya TC I'd like to hear it too. If it's not to rude to listen in? I think I would probably be creeped out but, be the one that goes back & remembers as I'm in the lobby

Pete In Syracuse said...

Oh I forgot to ask you last time aren't you starting at a new school too, this coming time in China?

Jonna Wibelius said...

Anonymous -not boring at all, rather interesting I'd say... u can write as much as u want. I understand what u mean, China is still lagging behind in terms of some things.. Like privacy rights. Also, the culture difference is quite significant. As u pointed out I am just an observer. I don't really wanna judge through this blog, just point out the differences and share some (sometimes) funny stories.

TC -thanks for sharing, and whoa, what a story u had there! Sounds like u guys had an awful experience, sorry to hear that. I have lived in FI for one year and I have never ever experienced anything like that, and neither have any of my foreign friends here (then I bet they would leave straight away!!) but different people perceive new places differently, that's just the way it is. The whole dressing up thing is really strange though, I never wear any fancy clothes, actually, I don't think Finns do either in general (a lot of them dress quite badly and don't care at all?!), so it sounds a bit weird that people were rude to u just coz u weren't in a suit? People in Scandinavia don't really small talk the same way as u do in America/Australia.. I guess that can also come across as rude to people who are used to it. Anyways, I hope u have better luck next time! I really wonder what that poster said though!! Oh well, we'll obviously never know.

Pete -yes I am! Starting in September, as soon as I get back from my trip to Yunnan. Yey!

Brad Farless said...

I would be a bit disturbed to get some random call about a personal matter from a person that works at a business that I gave my contact details to. I don't even like getting wrong number calls or texts.

I suppose that it could be a problem with national mentality catching up to the reality of privacy concerns, but I would still expect more than that. I wonder, if that's the case, how long it will be before identity theft/fraud starts becoming a major problem in China?

@TC: Hey, sorry to hear about that. I've never been to that part of Europe, but based on how you describe the sign it reminds me of some signs I've seen before that were advertising food. Rough guess though.

Annoymouse said...

this is not the same anonymous but i have to say im totally with the other one, her/his use of the word "caveman" may have come a little too harsh though.

not to quibble too much over the fine points, but being a Chinese myself i have heard more than enough of this "5000 yrs history" talk growing up and ive always been wondering when can China wake up and start to study history in a way more sophisticated than counting numbers. if you had the same history text book as i did then im having a hard time understanding why you just cant see the simple fact that the real Chinese civilization only started in Confucius's time and didnt get a whole lot improvement after that. and what little "cultural legacy" there is, every Chinese should know what happened to it in the first few decades of the PRC. IMO, the social conventions in China pretty much went back to the drawing board after the cultural revolution. in fact during the early 80s the government had to urge people to use phrase like "谢谢(thank you)" and "不客气(you are welcome)" as openly as lecturing on People's Daily. as far as im concerned that kind of education is still necessary on a number of levels even now.

the link below is a recent article on this topic by 何怀宏, a professor in the Department of Philosophy at PKU

BTW, i dont like the CCP either but that doesnt automatically make me a member of Falun Gong.

Anonymous said...

"So you don't like the CCP, but out of curiosity, are you a member of falun gong??"

Nope, but I have a feeling that you have an ax to grind with the FLG followers. No? In fact, I have been asked the exact same question by many Mainland Chinese in the U.S. whenever I mention the TAM Square Massacre or persecutions of political dissidants, such as the recent Cultural Revolution era style of prosecution of 3 Chinese professors who were crtitical of the government's role in the Sichuan earthquake a year earlier. Most of those Mainlanders whom I encountered have been living in the U.S. for about 20 years or more, but they are still so brainwashed by their former communist, atheist education. They simply despise FLG followers because according to them, the FLG followers practice "superstition." The concept of spiritual faith is still a void to the Chinese under Communist education. Sympathy towards other persecuted follow human beings is nonexistent to them. That actually is another one of my observations about the people in China today. Sorry, I don't want to get political, but it just gets my blood boiling whenever I hear pro-China hacks attempting to use the FLG line.

In a civilized society, people are allowed to be dumb like the FLG followers. But they are allowed to be persecuted.

Little Tiger said...

God loves a trier!

Anonymous said...

Hello Jonna Wibelius.
I´ve find your blog, wen i have made a search about blogs from china, and i have to say that is very interesting.
All the best, have a nice day.

José Filipe 25/08/2009

TC said...

Hmmm...All so political...

Anonymous said...

Sorry for missing out an importanr word in the last two sentences of my previous comment. They should read:

"In a civilized society, people are allowed to be dumb like the FLG followers. But they are NOT allowed to be persecuted."

Hey, the other Anon, I am so glad you are out there. I am originally from China as well and had received a "wonderful" Communist education from the 60's through 80's before coming to America. You will like CND dot org if you are not a reader already.

胡崧 said...

"Most of those Mainlanders whom I encountered have been living in the U.S. for about 20 years or more, but they are still so brainwashed by their former communist, atheist education."

Dont you think you are being a little judgmental here? Just because they dont share the the point of view with you does not make them "brainwashed". Thats such a foolish thing to say.

Essentially you are complaining about them being judgmental while you are doing the same thing.

胡崧 said...

Secondly, the idea of there was little improvement after the Confucius time only demonstrated how little you knew about Chinese history in the first place.

Even Confucianism underwent at least three significant changes in the last two thousand years, let along other things.

Jonna Wibelius said...

OK, guys, can people we just stick to the topic of the blog post here and not start bringing in F.G to this? As much as I would love to have this as a platform for any kind of discussion, this blog is always going to remain blocked in China if people write about F.G. I have chosen not to write about political stuff 1. Because I don't think I possess enough knowledge to write about and 2. Because I want my blog to be accessible from China. So, from now on I won't publish any comments brining up F.G. And geez, don't start giving me shit for that, it's not that easy to keep a blog un-blocked in China!

TC said...

I agree, and I would also like to add that politics spoils a blog IMHO, unless it was a political blog to begin with. Let the others do the hating and genocides, that's for losers. Peace and prosperity to all :P

Anonymous said...

HA! Aren't you the one who first brought up F. ~ G.? You thought you were so much smarter than others. You have to attack others, don't you?

Sorry, Jonna, for veering to the politics with my comments. It just frustrates me to no end that today people don't understand the ultimate price that so many college students and BJers paid in 1989 to bring about the change that led to the prosperity in China today. It's your blog. I respect that. It's a great cultural blog. But do keep in mind, though. Some cultural elements are political. You can't please everyone.

MJf said...

Let's just say, I disagree with your view TC. Political or cultural, your views are shallow at best, touched only surface.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Anonymous -I do understand. That's also why I decided to say something about it. I am not after pleasing everybody, but I get a bit annoyed when people take things too far. All good now, from now on I'll just b a bit more selective when it comes to comment publishing.

Harvee said...

Joanna: are you a teacher in China? And are these posts hard to find?

Jonna Wibelius said...

Book, bird, dog -nope, I am not a teacher in China, but I have been offered several teacher jobs (to teach English) here still... so no, I wouldn't say it's hard to find a teaching job in China.