Thursday, December 3, 2009

Failed confrontation

Train rule number 1: keep quiet

I made a huge mistake last night on the train from Shanghai to Suzhou. I was feeling tired and a bit fed up and all I could think about was to get out of my tight pants and high heels and into a pair of thick, soft socks and PJs… Since I didn’t want to end up at the end of the taxi line I went to line up by the door when the train approached Suzhou (2 years ago I used to laugh at those people lining up, thinking to myself: “Geez guys, relax for a bit! We’ll all get off eventually!” Now I am one of the first one by the door… ha! Talk about contradicting yourself!). On my way to the door I passed two middle aged Chinese men. As soon as I walked by I saw one of them notice me, openly push his friend and say something: “look, look at that laowai”-like. I ignored them, but since I had to stand next to them I couldn’t help but feeling annoyed over their staring and comments. It was “laowai this and laowai that” and then the constant and shameless staring. I simply wasn’t in the mood, so I lost my face and said (in Chinese):

-What are you guys looking at? (你们看什么?)

This comment obviously triggered an even bigger interest. At first, they went silent, played oblivious and looked away, but as soon as I got bored of waiting for an answer and turned my back to them, they started to repeat my sentence (with a fake, female voice):

-What are you looking at, what are you looking at?! Hihihihi, Laowai understands, laowai understands! What are you looking at!

I decided I had already said enough and since the train had come to a halt I quickly got off. Only though… so did the guys. And despite my quick march to the taxi line I couldn’t shake them off:

-What are you looking at?! Came from behind me. Followed by:

-Hello, hello! Miss, miss, hello!

Since I refused to turn around they eventually switched to English:

-Yeah yeah yeah… Hello hello!! Yeah yeah yeah… Hello, hello! (don’t ask me what the “yeah yeah yeah!” was all about? I am just as confused as you guys).

The comments didn’t stop until I finally escaped into a taxi and drove off.

MAN! That’s a mistake I’ll never do again! I know I should have known better. A countless number of Chinese speaking laowais have warned me NOT to try and confront people speaking about you behind your back. The speakers will just think it’s funny and will continue to tease you. Best thing is to play oblivious and pretend you are just a “stupid laowai who don’t understand.” Anyways, that’s what I’ll do from now on. Especially at late nights when I’m not in the mood for smiling.


BioniKat said...

What a pair of dummy's. You get that type of person everywhere in the world and it IS the best thing to just ignore their stupidity!

Mountaincat said...

:) Well, for me it’s opposite - in most cases I enjoy that kind of attention. It was confusing at the beginning, but then I thought - when I will go home nobody will ever notice or care about other people around. So, it is better to enjoy this little celebrity status and people are just naturally curious.

flyingfish said...

Sorry you had to go through that, Jonna!

I agree that it's usually best to just ignore jerks like that, but I have sometimes seen the silent-cold-stare-approach work. It makes clear to your "audience" that you do actually understand their nonsense, and it gives you a chance to vent your irritation, but it is somehow not quite as amusing as a laowai speaking Chinese, so it is less likely to backfire.

Hope your next ride on the subway is more pleasant!

Bagman and Butler said...

I've always tried to be more subtle about ogling. And, changing the subject quickly, I hope you are saving all your blogs because you are writing an incredibly good travel book on China. When I come to your autograph signing, I will be careful to keep my eyes averted and innocent. Of course, I will fail.

Unknown said...

Ah, sorry that you had a bad train experience :/

I just finished taking my first semester of Chinese (Elementary Chinese I for beginners), and I actually understood all of the characters in your Chinese sentence! :) (and was way too excited, so I thought I'd comment...)

Jonna Wibelius said...

momcat -yeah u r right. There are odd people everywhere. Nothing to care about. I just needed to get it out of my system :)

Mountaincat -I wish I could embrace it the way u do... Unfortunately all the staring just annoys me. I guess I don't like to be the center of attention.

Flyingfish -yeah I know.. when I told my bf about this he was like: "Oh, but Jonna, why on earth did u say something? That's like breaking the golden rule".. so I know, it's best to keep quiet and turn up the volume of your iPod and simply not care or listen... I'll try to remind myself of that next time.

Bagman -hehe, thanks, that's quite a compliment there! Well, I am not really saving my posts to be honest w you.. there are just here in my blog and that's it. To be completely honest I don't know if I will continue blogging next year. I don't feel that it is as much fun as it was when I first started. But let's see. Thanks anyways for your compliment :)

Jonna Wibelius said...

Emily -way to go girl! :) Glad to hear u had a good first semester. Yeah a train ride in China can be everything from exciting to daunting... but at least it never gets dull! ;)

mantse said...

the tireness make you lose your temper... so bad....
nextime just bring your iPod with you and you will find your own world!

Chocolatesa said...

Maybe you didn't take it far enough, maybe if you had yelled at them in Chinese till they left they wouldn't have followed you :P

Carl said...

Hi Jonna. I hope you continue to blog next year, as I look forward to all of your experiences there while in China, and it helps me to start to understand the culture without actually being there. Also, you do a great job of writing about all sorts of subjects - not just a recap of your day, but how you feel (happy, frustrated, sick, strong, etc), and it really lets you reach out to us blog readers who follow you here. Thank you for sharing with us, and I hope you can continue to blog - it is a real pleasure to read your writings!

Anonymous said...

Here is a possible free stress reliever for such a situation. Look at the humourous side, via this Link

"Life in China IS Reality TV"


Anonymous said...

Sorry that you had a bad time at train station. When I was a young boy riding train from Chendu to PanZhiHua, I suffered similar experience, people can be quite annoying sometimes. Are they teasing you? I never thought that they would actually tease a Laowai, at least I will not.

Jiang :)

jam said...

Ya, you should have not confronted them. Just pretend innocent but laugh at them within your heart. By the way, you write both English and Mandarin (phrases). Perhaps you should think of writing a full post in Chinese in the future!