Friday, October 30, 2009

Keeping track

"Spotted, on a bike, somewhere outside the city..."

Some weeks ago I met my Swedish friend C here in Suzhou. We often go to a certain restaurant together and the previous night she’d been there, although without me. C told me about a rather interesting conversation she’d had with one of the waitresses that both of us know.

-Hey! I saw your friend today! The waitresses said. She had lunch at a Sichuan restaurant.

-Oh really, so did you see me too then because I was there with her!
C said

-Eh… no. I only saw your friend, the waitress said, looking suspiciously at C.

-OK. Maybe I had my back against you?

-I’m pretty sure it wasn’t you who was with her.

-Eh… well I was. Anyways. Later that day we checked out the new H&M store in Suzhou! It’s quite good,
C said.

-That cannot be true… the waitress said, now looking even more suspiciously at C. After finishing eating I saw your friend ride her bike towards Sing’an Plaza, where I know she lives.

-Yeah well, she went home in between H&M to get some stuff…

-Well it looked to me as if she was going home…

-Eh… well she wasn’t.

C caught herself in the middle of the conversation thinking: “what on earth are we doing?! We are discussing what Jonna did earlier today, and since I was with her I don’t need to sit here and prove anything to this waitress who claims she knows everything.

-Maybe next time she is here we ask her what she did, the waitress said.

-Eh… yeah, sure. Whatever.

I was wide-eyed when C finished telling me this story. Geez, they sure keep track on you over here?

Turns out, however, I’m not the only one.

Some days later at the gym when I was leaving I saw Rocky (alias “the Hunan boy”).

-Hey Rocky how are you? I said and went up to him.

-I’m fine. You are wearing new clothes today!

-Eh yeah I am. I bought these new running pants at Decathlon, what do you think?

-Nice, but the top you are wearing isn’t yours is it?

-Yeah, it’s a bit big, I know, it’s my….

We said, at the same time.

I was rather surprised, thinking, how did he know? It’s not THAT big?

-Yeah, I’ve seen him wear it before so I know it is his, Rocky admitted.

There we go.

What we eat, where we live, where we were. It’s not only Big Brother who's watching.


BioniKat said...

You didn't think your life was so interesting to everyone else now did you!

Annika said...

Det är rätt långt från Skandinavien, där alla skiter i vilket och är upptagna med sig själva.
OS-Kina är lite annorlunda än vardags-Kina, märker jag...

Bra blogg, för övrigt! Väldigt intressant.

Anonymous said...

Happens to me often here. Since the area where I live only has two supermarkets, people seem to keep tabs on what I buy...

Kikho said...

You are being watched! Bam bam bam...
Although the scary part is when they start to follow you around as well. Let's all hope that won't happen ;)

Unknown said...

Too funny.

马麟 said...

You are tracked because you are unique in that area, visually. Do you beleive they also gossip about you everyday? We call that 八卦. In the contrast, I am not special in Lund--Chinese everywhere. I spent last summer in lund, when we traveled by bus, most travelers on board are Chinese, only a few local people. That view is odd.

George said...

I noticed this too and asked. It was explained by my Chinese friends that in school they are encouraged to tell on each other. If they see someone cheating or misbehaving, they are to report it. If they do not report it but are a witness then someone may report on them -- for not reporting it! This creates a lasting habit that continues in adulthood.

Rest assured that if you do anything "subversive" that it will be reported. It won't amount to anything, but I'm sure you have a file.

Jonna Wibelius said...

momcat -nope, never did, and probably never will do either!

Annika -hehe, ja, miiiiiiltals från... OS-kina var en fin fasad som städats upp för att göra ett snyggt intryck på världen. Vardagskina är mycket rörigare... Men jag måste säga att jag föredrar vardagsKina! OS-Kina kändes bara stelt o oäkta.

Kanmuri -hehe, yeah, for some reason it is really interesting to see what us foreigners are cooking for dinner.

Kikho -yeah, having a stalker is much worse! When I lived in London there was a guy that tended to show up everywhere I was.. outside our building, at the pub where I worked, in the metro...Never saying anything, always just starring at me. One night I got so freaked out by him I refused to serve him. He then started being rude to all the pub staff and they eventually threw him out. He never showed up again.

flowgirl -funny but strange.

马麟 -I would buy that argument maybe 5 years ago. Nowadays there are so many tall, blonde laowais here in Suzhou that I refuse to believe I am unique. About the bus thing... veeeery strange. I have never seen a Chinese person on a bus in Malmö! And that's not far from Lund. A lot of Swedes travel by bus even though it is kind of expensive.

George TP -uhhh that's kind of scary!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Joanna, Im the Malaysian guy who did my engineering degree in Melbourne, i did my year 12 in Perth. Welcome to Big Brother society with NO PRIVACY. This situation could seems strange to any westerner, but it happen here in Asia in most place except big cities where people are too busy to check on each other.

Joanna, you are being tracked daily not because you are unique, and George T.P-your friends reason is exactly the same as the gossiper in my area. LOL, encourage to tell each other when someones misbehaving. These are just those gossiper是非精 excuse.

Here are a few typical normal questions u will hear from them.
1. Have you got a boyfriend/girlfriend?
2. If yes, then when are you going to get married?
3. If yes to 2, when are you going to have baby?

If you feel a invasion of privacy? How about the next few question.
-What is your father's job? What business is your bf/gf/husband/wife' family in?
-Where do you/they live(exactly address)
-Who is your neighbour? What business are they in?
-How many property you/your family owns?

Those people who always check/gossip on other's privacy never realise what they do is awful, cause 80% of the society is doing such thing in these area. They actually thought this is part of 人际关系. As typical chinese saying 好事不出门,坏事传千里, good news never goes out of door, bad news spread thousand miles. They ask you many question cause they wanna congratulate you for getting married/having a baby? No, they just wanna dig into your privacy that they finally found the bad things about you that they can spread. You can always hear who is divorce, have a fight with husband/wife, getting sack, etc.

I bet most of you already experience such things, here's another familiar thing, you should always hear people talk about a gossip about bad news on other friends, others will response they are the one who heard it first, zzz, I dont understand why they feel so proud and claim they are the first one to hear bad news on others, as if they have got first hand/insider information on stock market.

I totally agree with a China TV host, 胡一虎 said, this is certainly not a culture thing, and PRIVACY is not a western concept, its because western countries have gone through revolution/civilisation a century ago while China only open to the world 3 decades ago. As 胡一虎 said, in order to become civilised on par with advanced nation, one day Chinese will need to realize PRIVACY as well as INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY PROTECTION. From my point of view, this is certainly not related to education, as i have seen many colleague more interested to check on others rather then looking for new knowledge. Unlike you Joanna as you have jogging/traveling/gym as interest, they do not seems to have any interest/hobby beside gossiping.

From business point of view, please do not open an classy business such as restaurant/coffee shop where people can relax quietly and have privacy, your business is doomed to fail. As what I have observed from friends and colleague, people prefer so called noisy/热闹 places cause they can collect gossip/收风 even from strangers, ODD isnt it. And I myself do not buy the concept of people from rural area乡下人 are more warm welcoming热情 and city folks are cold hearted冷漠,as least most city folks are busy with life filled with lots of activities rather than checking on gossip of neighbours,relatives/friends/colleagues.

Joanna you can ask any of your friends in China about another friend, you will be amazed how much they know about that person( his family,relatives, family business traced all the way back to his ancestor) as if everyone is naked and no secret.


马麟 said...

Jonna- The 'many' concept is not the same in China cities. Don't forget Suzhou has a population of 7 million. That's near Sweden right? And how many foreigners live in Suzhou? Besides, tourists are different from you, because they live in hotel, you live in local community--just near their daily life. Gossips always rise there. Can you tell me how many persons like you are the similar situation? That's your unique.
Anonymous Malaysian guy- Nah, we don't think career, income, age, family member or these sort of things are privacy. So we talked freely with friends. And sometimes we also 吹牛 about these, then don't believe all things you've heard.
In another word, diary is privacy, those things above are not.

Little Tiger said...

I got this a bit too in China. For example, I'd get chatting to some random person in a food court or wherever and they would know which street I lived on!

Anonymous said...

I can understand why alots of things are not considered privacy in certain society, as myself is living is such society. I am not passing judgement here, as there is no right or wrong but just observation. Please see the humour side of my story, its just differences in way of thinking. "When all think alike, no one thinks very much"-Walter Lippmann.

As I said if 80% are doing such things, so such behaviour are considered "normal" at that society as such time. I was told that my Great grandfather was buried alive together with other fellow LANDLORD in China in period after 2nd world war long before cultural revolution. Being rich is considered ashamed during that period. So during this era, being rich is not "normal".After one of my favourite Chinese leader Mr Deng XiaoPing came into power afterward, he said: getting rich is glorious, during his era and there after, exactly the opposite thing happens, being rich is "normal". Don't get me wrong, no judgement here either, we see history as it happens.

Here are 2 more humours, one day I was about to go out and my neighbour approach me, She is an anutie," I saw you watching xxx tv shows last night without wearing shirt at the living room last night hahaha". She and her family have been reporting my activities to me for quite some times, well Im not interested to hear from from her at all, but she seems to enjoy it, i must do something to stop it. I told her I would stand at the same spot in front of her house that she peeps me everyday to peep her, and watching her activity. Surprise she response and say " You are crazy". Mmmm...What she and her family did was considered normal, while if I do the same thing its considered crazy. But since then I seldom see anyone peeps at me.:) She has realised its annoying when people do that.

2nd story, another auntie i bump into on the street," I saw your girlfriend, and her father is xxx, right? and her father is running a xxx business and she lives in xxx. Me: How do you know all that? She replied with proud tone : Of course I know, I know everything. Mmmm......I replied: do you i have been going out with your daughter quit often lately?( actually just as friend), I also can get alot of info about your family from her. Then she seems so piss off then go away. As I know she told her daughter not to join me for any activities. Gossiping and checking on others' privacy is fun, but its funny that they dont enjoy people do the same thing to them.

马麟- yes i know about 吹牛, here we call 吹水 same as Hong Kong, I certainly do not believe anything I heard from them, as myself do it quite often with friends when I was teenager, 喝茶,吹水, 讲是非 = yumcha + make up stories + spread rumours. Thats quite fun for teenagers. It can do alot of damage to adult. As it happened in my company, someone saw my male boss having lunch with a female manager in my company,( both of them are married), and spread the rumour they are having affair,( mmm i do go out quite often with other female friends, zzz I am worry they make up stories too). And finally the rumour affected both families, the female manager left the company, and the town. What happen to her marriage and family, well Im not interest to follow up people's privacy. We do need very high EQ to survive is such society.


kosmo @ The Casual Observer said...

I'd recommend using disguises. Perhaps a fake mustache and a wooden leg.

Esdras said...

Being of chinese origin i find your stories very funny...
I travell to China 2-3 times a year to visit factories, sometimes different suppliers of one product. And believe me, many times the factory i'm visiting already knows that i have been to this and that company... How do they know that???