A Travellerspoint blog

Staring

I'd say, "Take a picture; it'd last longer," but I'm afraid they actually would.

Before we brave fourteen midshipmen left for China, we all took this online inventory of our current cultural awareness and acceptance. I would say that on the "continuum of cultural awareness" (I think that was what it was called), I am in the "polarization" phase, trending toward the defensive side; that is, I see differences between the culture in which I've been immersed and the culture I in which I was raised, and I have an attitude of "my culture's better." It's as though everywhere I look, I see a juxtaposition between Chinese and American culture, and most times, it results in my missing the United States something fierce. I miss American food, American people, American customs, and as this little rant pertains to, American courtesies.

Chinese people stare.

They just stare. Especially since ending up on crutches and with a cast on my foot, I feel eyes on me at all times. I do not exaggerate when I tell you that every time I pass someone in the street, in the subway, at a restaurant, or anywhere else, he or she stares for at least a solid five seconds. Even after passing, they keep their heads turned behind them just to watch me walk by. It is absolutely infuriating; I can't stand it. The worst thing is, even when you meet their gaze, they continue to stare, instead of politely looking away, or smiling, or doing something to diffuse the awkwardness they have created by their nosy gaze.

However, I must consider that if I am the only one who thinks it awkward, then it probably is not awkward in an absolute sense, but rather only within the context of my American culture and upbringing. Every American's mother or teacher told them when they were young, "Don't stare; it's not polite!" Obviously, this is not something the Chinese are taught when they are young. This is not to say that the Chinese are a rude people, without a sense of politeness or propriety; I am sure that there are things that Americans do or neglect to do which the Chinese would consider to be egregiously rude. For instance, in China, the polite way to offer money or other things to a person is with two hands, and the polite way to accept them is also with two hands. This is a difficult custom to get used to, but when in Rome, one ought do as the Romans do. So as for staring, although I find it rude and awkward, and it still makes me mad, I have to stop myself from snapping, giving dirty looks back, or offering a passive-aggressive "Ni hao" to the starers because I would probably just be rude without cause in their eyes.

Still, though...I long for the sound of an American parent quietly scolding his or her child for staring at someone, and cannot wait to teach my own children the same.

Posted by Kevin Deese 05:05

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