The People

In very general terms, Chinese people were curious, generous, friendly, and sociable. People were constantly coming up to me and my classmates to take photos and ask all kinds of questions about us, and we were treated to meals and drinks by strangers several times. In retrospect, that sounds a bit creepy, but for the most part I’m sure it was just Chinese hospitality.

There was one time where I wasn’t so sure how to deal with this brand of hospitality and curiosity. I had met a Chinese man one night at Sichuan University’s English Corner, which is where Chinese people go to meet native English speakers to practice their speaking and listening skills through casual conversation. As soon as my classmates and I arrived, we were surrounded by Chinese students and otherwise, very eager both to practice their skills and gain some outside perspective. By the end of the night, I had agreed to go to dinner with this man, who really was a nice enough person.

The next evening he met me outside of the dorm building, and we walked to the restaurant he had chose. He insisted upon ordering everything for me, which I’m thinking was either chivalry or that Chinese hospitality, but it was a bit out of the ordinary because I am generally a very independent person. After dinner, which was lovely, he walked me back to my dorm building, and asked to come up to my room. Now, in the US most of us would assume that he had certain intentions, which I will admit I did think, and so I politely declined. We said goodnight and he left, with slightly lower spirits if I perceived that correctly.

The following day he texted me saying that he’d had a good time at dinner, and invited me to have dinner and stay the night at his parents’ house, which was about a 45-minute bus ride outside of the city. Again, I think my suspicion was largely the result of cultural differences, but suffice to say I was a bit wary. I told a few of my friends about it, some who said I should go because such an invitation was considered an honor, some said he really only wanted his parents to be impressed that he had a female American friend, and some joked that they would never see me again if I went. Either way, my American suspicion got the best of me, and I ended up declining.

There were a few times when I thought people were being rude, but what was really happening was just the norm. One many occasions, my friends and I would be standing in line somewhere, say at a fast food place, deciding what to get, and before we made up our minds someone (Chinese) would step in front of us and start ordering. The first time it happened I was pretty offended, because that would almost never happen here. Eventually I chalked it up to “that’s just what happens”, but it’s still odd to think about. The same thing would happen when we would be trying to catch a cab; the driver would pull up next to us and before we could reach for the door handle, someone would come up and get into the cab without even looking at us. Again, I eventually accepted it as a cultural thing, and started doing the same to Chinese people, which kind of makes me laugh because it seems like such a mean thing to do.

Anyway, the Chinese really are great people to live with, just be ready for some cultural discrepancies.

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