Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Stingy? Who, me?

The other day when we arrived at Suzhou train station and lined up to get a taxi we had to pass the usual line of beggars. By now I have been standing in that line so many times that I recognize those ones that always stand there: one old man with the beard and one old, hunch-back woman. I almost always give the woman some money, she never says anything but her face tells a story itself.

This time, however, the “crowd” had gotten a new “member” namely a small, cute, quite well-dressed Chinese girl that cannot have been older than 8. She targeted us straight away and followed us along the line.

First she asked for money in English:

-Please, please… I can speak English, so give me some money.

Then, when she realized that didn’t work she turned to Chinese:

-Give me one kuai, give me one kuai! 给我一块钱,给我一块钱!

However, when she realized we weren’t going to give her anything her whole face turned into a furious expression:

-You stingy people! I just asked for one kuai! You foreigners are too stingy! 怎么小气! 怎么小气!只是一块钱, 你们老外太小气了!

Right. The well dressed “beggar girl” loses it and calls us stingy… hm… not really the best method to get cash. Sure, I get it. I too understand that she would not be there unless she had to, but sometimes I question the credibility of those beggars. Especially little children who only targets laowais and calls you stingy when you refuse to give them money. The one to blame is obviously the people taking care of them who have taught them to do so. 


Jim said...

I don't usually give any of them anything - except occasionally a genuine looking elderly person. I never give the children money as often if you look carefully you can see their parent looking from a distance as their child goes through their rehearsed routine. A bit like one of those dressed up 'Monkey King' performing monkeys. Do you ever read the stories written on scraps of cardboard held by beggers? One that sticks in my mind was one held by a young guy holding a baby that said (translated for me by my wife) "He says he bashed his wife and she ran away to the country and now he wants to get money for a train ticket to get her back because he can not cope with the baby crying". A worthy cause? I didn't think so but I felt sorry for the baby. Another one I remember is a guy with his face just about burned off (no lips) leering up to pretty girls on the Beijing subway singing (as best as you can with no lips) and the girls pushing money at him to get him to go away. Not a pretty sight.

George said...

I've heard the rumors that these beggars are part of an organized operation. Apparently they are able to pull in millions of RMB by pooling all the money.

Not long ago I was harassed by an older woman begging on Nanjing Lu. When I looked down she was wearing a brand new pair of Asics. Needless to say I didn't give her anything. As a rule I do not give out money. I'd much rather donate my time.

Rachel said...

Hey! I ended up here from a friend's link. Just wanted to add my 2 cents.

I saw this situation when I traveled extensively around Asia and also when I lived in South America (all my childhood), so my recommendation to all those who see children begging is never to give them money.

The majority of the time, these children are "overseen" or "managed" by adults who exploit them, often times their own parents or organized crime gangs. Giving money to the children only perpetuates their exploitation.

If you feel like helping a begging child, I would recommend doing what a lot of people do in South America. They carry little packets of food such as chocolates, crackers, "powerbars", or other items, and they give them to the children instead of money. Then at least the child can have some nourishment and their "pimps" don't get any loot.

Cheers, and nice post.

Unknown said...

Ive only been to Hong Kong and not Mainland China but ecperienced begging mainly in Egypt and also India I flatly refused to give them money as I knew they would encourage their friends, instead if you must hand them food say ssomething small that they cannot get in China or a book .
These parents have children and think they are responsible to make income sad values.

Anonymous said...

whoa, I can't believe I'm reading all this from such unempathetic people. sure, the little girl may not have been using the best method to ask for money. but even if organized criminals were the ones responsible for this, Organized crime probably wouldn't exist if poverty didn't exist. now on a global scale, let's not forget that the ones who are on the top of the hierarchy are White people. it is the White people who own the banks, and charging insanely high interest rates on third world countries to the point of no return. western countries are filthy rich, while the poor countries just get poorer and poorer. and let's not forget about colonialism and how many times the Western countries have tired to take over the rest of the world, taking away people's land and starting many brutal wars.

If you don't want to give change, fine. but don't give yourself excuses and rationalize your way out of it in order to lessen the guilt.

Jim said...

What a silly comment by the last anonomous. "White" people this and that. Talk about racist. There are plenty of rich people in China today, they just don't share it around as well as "white" people do.

The interest rates charged by the World bank are not insanely high and the default rate is such that it would have no chance of being a stand alone commercial venture.