Friday, February 26, 2010

When reading between the lines get tricky

Don't suffer in silence

Sometimes the “don’t want to lose my face”-culture in China simply makes me laugh. Like the other day. We were a big group of friends (mixed, Chinese and laowais) going for dinner. Some acquaintances were new, some old. We met up on the street and started talking about where to eat.

Being a spice-loving gall I suggested a Sichuan place, and received good feedback from everyone except for one western girl who said she didn’t like to eat chillies.

Eager to find a place that everybody enjoyed we continued talking until we came up with a new, spice-free option.

We went, ate, and everybody were happy.

The next day I was chatting to the western girl who didn’t like to eat chillies and we were talking about the restaurant where we had gone.

-Yeah, good we went there, the girl said. After all, one of the Chinese girls later confessed to me that she doesn’t like spicy food either.

In other words, had the western girl not said anything, the Chinese girl would have sat there at the Sichuan place, smiling, hating the food.

Or... hang on a minute...

-Hey, she told me she loved spicy food!! I said. I suddenly remembering a conversation we had had over dinner where she had asked me if I liked spicy food (me: "Yes, I love it!") and she had gone: "Yeah, me too!"

Now the million-dollar-question is: 

1. Did she say she likes spicy food to please me?


2. Did she say she hates spicy food to please my friend?


Martin said...

Oh, the age old question!

조안나 said...

I know people like this in America too... it's not a Chinese thing..

Nerissa said...

When they say that line that they dont want to loose face, sometimes I don't know if I would smile or cry. ha! Hey I have been reading your even before I came here.Keep on blogging... nice!

Pingu said...

it all depends on her tone of course :)

if I can hear her voice when she talked to both of you, it'll be easier to figure out :p

But yeah, this isn't about 'losing face'. This is a case of 'pleasing everyone' - politicians does it every day in every country as it's their job ;)

Brad Farless said...

People that try to please everyone, or people who are overly apologetic about having an opinion, annoy me.

Pete In Syracuse said...

OK it's time for the taste test - You've got to put two dishes of food in front of her one hot & one cold & see which one she of course without her knowledge... :o)

Anonymous said...

This is an age old Chinese cultural trait of getting along with others. It's both good and bad, IMO. Westerners, on the other hand, can be self-centered when everyone has to voice their own like and dislike so obviously.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip said...

Aha, but when politicians do it, nobody is pleased.

...because they're politicians ;D

Anonymous said...

This case is not about culture. Instead, it's about the personality of the Chinese girl herself.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Funny things about this post -some say "it's not a cultural thing" and some say: "it's because of culture!" Don't u guys just love it when there is no right or wrong?! :)

I think Pete's suggestion was pretty good. Take her to a spicy joint and order both spicy and non-spicy dishes and see what she prefers. Or, just laugh about it and forget it. Until next time it happens :)

alan said...

Let me tell a story. I swear it is true.

A faculty member in my department offered us free Jimmy John's. I ordered the gargantuan--the most expensive selection at Jimmy John's. My American office mate kindly reminded me that I violated "Social tact." The other day, he ate the sandwich I ordered before I got to the office.

I was not mad at him and I would prefer to interpreter it as a personal behavior other than a culture.

Dr. Heckle said...

I think this requires intense interrogation. Probably unconventional torture tactics such as arm-hair plucking and purple-nurples as well...

WoAi said...

I reckon she's never had spicy food and has no idea if she likes it or not. It's a very Chinese thing when they don't express their own thoughts or opinions but rather say what they think you want to hear. Even in job interviews.

On the topic of spicy, you have to try Sichuan Citizen. We like it so much last time we had a guest from GZ and we asked if she likes spicy food. She said no, but we took her there anyway. Yes, selfish, but 9 of us loved it and she managed to eat the 2 dishes that weren't spicy so no harm done, LOL!