China 2006

Getting around in Chongqing

Yu Xiumei Jan 6, 2006


It’s always embarrassing for Chinese translator (me!) to explain Chinese-style hospitality to foreign colleagues.

Let me start with a story about my former bosses at German TV Beijing Bureau. Like last time’s etiquette lesson, it has to do with food and “face,” as in face saving.

This time, it happened during a road trip with former German TV boss, several Chinese colleagues and Chinese government media handlers. During a road trip, the German Boss suddenly took out an apple and started to eat. He didn’t offer it to anybody, which was really embarrassing. (Sometimes even if you do offer, nobody would take your only apple, but it’s polite to show you care about others.) In order to show the German Bureau Chief what is REAL hospitality, later the government media handler took out sweets and offered to everybody except the German… to show The Rich Foreigner is a Miser; See Even the Poor Chinese Knows How to Share.

Something similar also happened during the Marketplace scouting trip. We drove along the Yangtze River to talk to poor farmers dislocated by the Three Gorges Dam. The drive on the bumpy dirt mountain road was quite long and tiring. Crew members got thristy, and stopped at a small shop. Foreigners took off and just bought soft drink and fruits for themselves! Our local Chinese activist guides were shocked to see these foreigners simply ate fruit and drank in front of them without offering to share! Of course they would not say anything, but they were very upset. They poured out all their complaint to the Chinese interpreter (me.) How come these Americans are so selfish? Firstly they did not want to pay the cheap lunch (see last time’s story!), and now they just buy drink and fruits for themselves and leave the Chinese guide standing there thirsty and angry.

In China, during a road trip, the host should provide water and snacks. Or at least share what they have.

Do you want lesson three? Tell me if you do, and I will find something more to SHARE with you.

Xiao Yu, Beijing Bureau Assistant

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