Cultural Differences

One day as I was walking back from work when I passed a food pushcart and a couple of Chinese people called me over. They were students at the local university and wanted to hang out with a laow-why (a foreigner/outsider). They spoke really good English (for someone living in Qinhuangdao) so I sat down and joined them while two of my other friends, Matt and Sam, joined us. In China it is customary that if you invite someone out, you pay for everything, so they paid for everything that night. I guess they enjoyed our company because they asked if we wanted to hang out the next day. We said we did.

The next day we met up with them at Wu Gong’s restaurant. By the time we got there they were already there and had already had some drinks and we joined them in drinks. Their names were Hen-Ree (a girl), Shaow Yo, and Bi (pronounced Bee).

At one point during the night we exchanged phone numbers, Bi gave us his business card to show us his phone number as his English was not as good as the other two. I took his number down in my phone. Later that night as we were all joking around and having a good time when I playfully threw Bi’s business card and it fell on the ground, not thinking anything of it. Soon after, I got up to go to the bathroom. In the bathroom I heard someone screaming “F%@K America, F%@K America.” I thought it was Shaow Yo making a joke, because he was kind of the jokester in their group, but when I returned to the table thinking I would make a come-back joke I saw out of the corner of my eye my friend Matt giving me a look. Matt told me that Bi was super upset that I threw his card on the ground. Matt told me that Hen-Ri (Bi’s girlfriend) had to physically restrain him when I left for the bathroom.

China is all about respect which they call “face”; keeping face, losing face and saving face. It is a big deal. Fights have been started over smaller slights then what I did because someone felt that they had lost face.

Apparently I really disrespected him by tossing his business card and it falling on the ground. I immediately apologized citing cultural differences as the reason. But as quickly as Bi got upset he became happy and even apologized to me. He then poured me another beer to drink and things were back to normal. Crisis averted.


About JoelS

Spending a year teaching English and saving the world in China
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