Be nice to the people that are nice to you...
Yesterday I went to visit a Chinese artist. A quite highly ranked artist, who still was so nice and down-to-earth that I just wanted to hug him from the moment we met. His whole face was smiling and I knew it was going to be a good day. That was, until I met his wife.
Now, since I got here I’ve heard a lot of tales of the “strong Shanghai woman” and the wimpy man who carries her bag, buys the groceries and does the housework. Now tales are tales, and since I’ve never seen it in reality I haven’t taken it too seriously. Until yesterday. Because here they were, a living example of an unhealthy twosome: a strong (although I’d rather refer to her as mean) wife and a nice but weak husband. The wife was so sour that there simply was no end to her bitchiness: she complained about everything! About how other people drove on the street, about the parking lot we got at the restaurant, about the waitress asking us if there would be more people joining our table (“Of course there will not, are you blind? Don’t you see that we are five people!?”), about the way other people looked, acted or spoke. Once the waitress put a large plate of fruit on our table she was furious, screaming that it was too soon for fruits, as we hadn’t finished out meal yet. I was doing fine in terms of avoiding her comments, until she suddenly fixated her eyes on me and started telling everyone what a “large nose the laowai girl has got!”
Until then, I had been sitting there listening on her offending everyone from the cat walking outside (“filthy animal! I hate animals! But they all love me, hahahaha!”) to her very own husband sitting next to her (“oh he’s OK although I wish he was taller and more handsome! If it wasn’t for me he wouldn’t have any friends at all in this town, he doesn't have any social competence”) but then suddenly I thought: “No. I’ve done my deal of listening and I’ve been here for 4 years now. I’m not going to sit here and listen to yet another useless and shallow discussion about my nose –especially not when it’s being triggered by this horrible woman!”
-You know what?! I said. I don’t like when people comment on my nose, my weight, my height or my look. It’s considered rude where I am from. When I first came to China I had a hard time dealing with it. Now I have come to a point where I understand it, but I still don’t like it. So can you please stop talking about my nose?!
Silence. You could have cut the uncomfortable tension with a knife.
Until the husband saved the situation:
-Yes! Of course! It’s culture difference… it takes time getting used to…
Sure, culture this, whatever. It’s one thing to be curious and another thing to be rude. I’m happy I actually said something to this woman (I’m also happy that I don’t have to meet women like her every day) Also, I think there’s a fine line between talking about differences and simply being rude.
Gosh. What a woman!