China Trip - Shanghai - You are (not) polite

Day 2, Wednesday

I spent all day with the missus taking the subway and walking to 

1) A Chinese hotpot restaurant off of Changshou Rd. station. We had half spicy and half regular flavor. Spicy in Shanghai is SPICY. It was good and they gave big portions of meat and vegetables.

2) Yuyuan Gardens: In old town, not really a garden in the horticultural sense, but a series of old buildings surrounding a man made pond with carp and turtles.

3) Taikang Art District: Small souvenir and art shops. Nice area.

Walking is tiring. It’s a slow burn that hits you in the evening with a wall of fatigue. Jet lag doesn’t help either, so between Wednesday and Thursday, I slept 12 hours.

During those hours I dreamt of a mexican housekeeping lady and excel sheets, probably because my girlfriend was watching “Maid In Manhattan” while I slept and residue from work, respectfully.

Day 3, Thursday

Another walking day through Pudong new area (the place with all those new buildings I took a picture of in a recent post), the Bund (old school European architecture), and did some clothes shopping in the Nanjing West Road area.

Had KFC for dinner to satisfy a fried chicken craving. We were standing in line trying to figure out what we wanted, and this guy cut in front of us pretty conspicuously. My girlfriend then pushed me in front of him and he just backed off.

Afterwards, she told me, “Here in China, unless you push forward, you’re going to be left behind.”

The past few days I’ve been mulling over some of the differences that I’ve experienced here vs Taiwan vs USA. The main difference I’ve felt is in the interactions between people.

At the hotel, I would say thank you for everything: after paying for the room, asking about internet, getting an outlet adapter. I would do these interactions in Mandarin. The staff, would be surprised, saying “No need to say thanks” (这不用谢)。

One time at a restaurant, I was doing the same thing and the waitress just smirked. Then there was this guy next to us, complaining about how his table was too small in a very confrontational manner. I thought a shouting match would ensue, but the staff were professional and moved him to another table without incident.

After lunch I discussed it with the girlfriend, if that guy talked that way to anyone in the states, a fight would probably break out. She’d been living in China for a while now and she said that that sort of directness was common in China. Also, she told me I didn’t need to say thank you for everything. She caught herself doing the same thing when she first got there and was told by a friend who was a local, “Saying thank you for everything is fake.”

In this light, I understood better the cultural differences. There’s a mentality here of getting shit done, without the need of “politeness” to facilitate the action. The politeness is already embedded in the action itself, i.e. if you ask for a larger table, I’ll get you a larger table. 

Anyways, just some thoughts I’ve been thinking about recently.