Why are Chinese people so nice?

I talk about the kind people I meet in China often. I have made a friend in the countryside that even invited me to his mother’s funeral because he feels so close to me.

There’s a wonderfully kind little old lady that sits in her wheel chair outside the main gate of my apartment complex every afternoon and she always smiles and waves at me when I pass. There is a nice family on the 18th floor of my building that has invited me for dumplings more than once. The first friend I ever made here has been more than kind to me in showing me around town, introducing me to his friends, and being a nonstop help with my Mandarin needs.

I’ve had little old men get up from their seats on the bus and no matter how many times I insist he remain seated he makes me take his seat. The shop owner where I buy my fruits and vegetables always compliments me on my speaking.

There’s a little boy in my complex that always runs up to me and calls me 老师(teacher) even though I’m not his teacher and I teach him at least 2 new words every time I see him. There’s a restaurant owner that every time I go in she puts her grandchild in my arms and seems the happiest woman ever to see the way I hold and play with the baby.

There’s a bar owner that knows my name, knows my drink, and is always happy to laugh and joke with me.

IMG_0505I understand why Chinese people are so kind. They are a collectivist society. The group as a whole is the most important and since we are all a part of the group we all must be kind to each other. If one member of the group falls the group cannot function properly. Being unkind to one is being unkind to the whole. Confucius wrote “Act with kindness, but do not expect gratitude.” Confucius also said “To practice five things under all circumstances constitutes perfect virtue; these five things are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.”

So I’m curious. How many people are going to send me hateful messages for generalizing Chinese people today? I think probably none. No one gets upset when one generalizes in a positive way. Generalizations apparently are only a bad thing if the reader does not like them.

What kind of world are we living in if we can never point out the negatives of life? If we pretend everything is perfect and there’s nothing wrong with the world how will we ever achieve world peace? China is not a perfect place. Nor is the United States or Switzerland or Angola. If we are forced to accept, like, and even respect the very worst of every society in fear of angering others how will we ever change?

I believe that it is our job as humans to make the world a better place for the next generations. How can we make the world better if we don’t admit there’s anything wrong with it? If we have to pretend everything is perfect and we love everything around us at all times?

I can talk about how nice and kind Chinese people are all day long and never have one person call me out on generalizing but oh my god you say something bad about Chinese people and it’s immediately you’re a racist! You’re generalizing! Fuck generalizations! If you don’t like it just leave! We don’t want you anyway.

Sorry people, but generalizations go both ways. If all you want is to read about my positive experiences then you probably don’t want to read my blog because I write about the negative ones too.

This isn’t about me vs. China. This is me vs. the world. Wherever I am living or traveling I write about the good and the bad. I have loads of happy positive things to say about people and places but to leave out the negatives would not be true. For those of you that get angry with me for generalizing about negatives, but not angry with me for generalizing about positives perhaps, just perhaps, the problem lies with you and not me.

I leave with one last quote of Confusius:

“The faults of a superior person are like the sun and the moon. They have their faults, and everyone sees them; they change and everyone looks up to them.”

 

Why are Chinese people so mean?

I complain about this a lot but Chinese people are mean and I hate it. It’s days like this that I have to chant to myself over and over again one more year, just one more year and it’s a different culture, they don’t mean to be mean, it’s a different culture.

IMG_20160428_093326By using the standard US sizing chart the average Chinese woman is a size 2. That’s the average sized woman. The woman pictured here is a woman I saw a couple months ago. She is the standard of beauty here.  The thinner you are and the more skeletal you look the more beautiful you are. You only think it is bad in the States. A girl I know here is a size 6 and people call her fat. Her own mother calls her fat. She calls her almost everyday and tells her no man wants to marry a fatty and she’s going to have to lose weight. Size 6!!!!

I am a US size 12 today. That’s a full 6 times larger than the average Chinese woman but the average American woman is a size 14. When they call a size 6 fat just imagine how they treat me. I am brought to tears on a regular basis. Strangers walk up to me in the street, grab my arm and call me fat. In restaurants people at other tables joke that the owner should tell me I can’t eat anything because I’m fat enough, I have even been called a whale more than once. One time a group of children surrounded me pointing and laughing at me while calling me fat. Another time a complete fucking stranger sat down with me at a café and told me I was too fat and too ugly to be out in public and I needed to stay home. I’ve been window shopping before, just window shopping, and the employees come out and shoo me off while yelling at me that I’m too fat and they don’t have anything for me. That has happened several times.  This is me. I took these pictures last week:

megym1megym2

No one in the US would ever call me fat.

The same thing always happens to me. I always start crying on the spot. I have been brought to tears in my two years in China more often than ever before in my life. But today something happened. I was finally able to get angry instead of sad!

As many of you know I had cancer 9 years ago. The tumors themselves weren’t really that bad of a problem but there were many complications with my surgery and I was left with a very serious health problem. VERY SERIOUS. While no one can look at me and see that I am sick I really am. No need to get into details here but my illness prevents me from raising my heartbeat too much which prevents me from exercising too hard or I could oh yeah, you know, die. And I’d kinda rather not do that. I can exercise but I can’t push myself too hard and it has to be light stuff. I walk on the treadmill, I use an elliptical, and I lift weights. I go to the gym 5 days a week. Before my sickness I was a size 7 and while a size 12 is not huge I am very sensitive to it and I don’t need to be reminded 5 times a day that I’m fat and ugly.

Well today I was at the gym on the treadmill and one of the trainers approached me. She didn’t waste any time. The first thing she told me was “你胖了” you’re fat. She didn’t wait for me to speak she just laid into me. You’re fat, you have to run or you will always be fat. You need to work harder because you are so fat. You really are very fat. Run faster. You are fat.

I told her exactly what my Chinese teacher taught me to say. I have a health condition, the doctor says I cannot exercise too hard. This is the most I can do. But she just kept repeating I was fat and I had to run faster. I thought maybe she didn’t understand me so I pulled out my phone translator I typed up that I have a serious illness and I cannot run I can only walk. She told me I was wrong and I needed to run. She told me I was sick because I was fat. She kept saying it over and over again. Of course you are sick. You are sick because you are so fat.

I walked away from her 2 times and she followed me. She kept saying that I was sick because I was fat and I had to lose the weight. You’re fat. You’re really fat. Work harder. You’re fat. You will be sick your whole life if you stay so fat. You are so fat.

Finally I snapped and I said I’m leaving and I stormed out of the gym. She followed me and kept asking what was wrong and why I was leaving. I told her to fuck off. With that she left me alone. I have only cursed at a couple people here in China and they have all been taxi drivers. I do curse often but I do not curse at people. That is different. I must be very angry to curse at a person.

This behavior is very common here in China. If you don’t know about it  and you live here it’s because you’re not of a size they consider fat or ugly, or if you don’t live here no one talks about it with you for fear of being called a racist. Well fuck that. By a Western standard Chinese people are fucking mean.

With that being said I understand that I am coming from a completely Western biased opinion. Don’t forget my degree is in sociology and I understand this stuff. I get it… collectivist society and all that jazz. I had a long conversation with a Chinese friend of mine about it today. He is a sociologist. We agreed that it is a collectivist thing. No one here gives a fuck about the individual, only the group matters. No one cares about others’ feelings and no one cares at all about what they say or don’t say to an individual. Children are not taught to be considerate of others’ feelings. The feelings of the individual simply do not matter and are never brought into consideration during conversation. That’s just how they roll. They don’t realize how awfully mean they come across as to Westerners when they say such things and I’m at least fairly certain that if they knew how mean we thought it was they wouldn’t say it but OMG some days I just can’t take it.

I once read a very interesting article on how traveling the world can make one more elitist and I have to say it’s happening to me. Ever since I was a kid I have been that uber lefty super open-minded accepting and loving of everyone person but living in China is changing that about me.

I cannot say I am disappointed about coming here. I really have enjoyed learning the language. It is so very difficult and I love the challenge. And I have done loads of academic research on the culture. I understand it and from an objective standpoint I can write about what they do and why the do it but on a personal level I do not have to like it. I can absolutely without one hesitation for even a split second say I do not like Chinese culture.

I am not required to like everyone and everything I encounter in life. I fully understand why they do the things I hate so much and I understand that I hate it because of my Western upbringing but that does not change the fact that I hate it. I understand that allowing their kids to take a shit in the elevator is only wrong by my standards and not theirs. I understand that when they hold their toddlers over the swimming pool to let them pee in it it is not because they are bad people but uneducated people. I understand that spitting on the floor of the restaurant is only wrong by my standards and not theirs. I understand that when my housekeeper spits loogies up on my living room floor she thinks it’s perfectly fine because she will mop it up later and it is my Western bias that thinks that’s gross. I understand that calling me fat and ugly is only wrong by my standards and not theirs. But the simple fact is I am Western and when I am called fat and ugly at least 5 times a day it does take a toll on me.

I get it. I came to their country I need to accept their standards. But I can’t. I just can’t. I am ready to go. My two years here have turned me into an angry, cynical, overall not happy at all person when this is not who I want to be.

And before any of you go and write me and say I shouldn’t let it bother me I assure you my answer will be fuck off. If you lived in a society where at least 5 times a day you were called fat and ugly I imagine you would struggle with it to. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Yeah. Fuck that. Words hurt.

 

Funeral in a rural village in China 坡头村

So my friend texted me after midnight last Wednesday to tell me that his mother had died. He asked me if I would please come to the funeral. I said of course I would not only because his mother died but especially because of my interest in death rituals around the world. My friend lives in a rural village about an hour outside of the city so I was really curious about what the funeral would be like.

As far as I know I may be one of the only foreigners that has ever been to a rural funeral in China. Of course that is only through my own anecdotal research but I have asked everyone I know here and no one has ever been or even knows anyone that has ever been to a funeral in China and I do know for a fact that I and my family are the only foreigners that have ever visited this particular village.

When I arrived I immediately felt out of place because I was wearing black. I had asked a couple people what I should wear and I was told to wear black and white, or black, or white. I don’t have any white clothes other than a white Tshirt so I wore an all black kind of nice outfit. I was the only person in black and I felt I stood out like a sore thumb. Everyone else was in white. I think a crappy white Tshirt would have been more fitting than my black outfit.

Family members were wearing white robes and white pieces of cloth tied around their heads that made them look a lot like extras from a kungfu movie. Word spread immediately that I was there, and I mean like I had not been there 15 seconds before my friend came rushing up to me. He escorted me into his house where they had an alter set up to his mom where I was made to kneel, light incense, then bow to a photo of her her. Then I was taken to the guest gift registry room where there were several old men sitting around a table and one had a long scroll in front of him and a paint brush he was using to record gifts and names. I gave 200¥ (about $30USD) and everyone seemed pleased. Minimum wage in China is $181USD a month and these people live significantly under minimum wage so $30 is a lot of money. IMG_20160617_093211

I sat around for a bit waiting for things to get started while everyone was staring at me, touching me, and asking me a million questions about who I was and why I was in China.

Soon we all paraded to the burial place. The casket was inside a really neat looking litter with a big dragon’s head and tail.

IMG_20160617_094646Music was played, there was much weeping, so much in fact I would believe they were paid to be there,

and a bit to my surprise much celebration. It was like a mixture of an old times Spanish funeral with all the wailing and a good ol’ Irish wake. The family was wailing and the friends were having a grand ol’ time.

At some point about halfway to the burial place we all stopped. Immediate family members were guided by some leader type guy in how to pray in front of the casket. They had to hold their hands in a proper way, kneel a proper way, and bow a proper way a proper amount of times. Some guys teased me and tried to get me to go do it too. It was so weird. I was trying to be all somber and respectful but they were all teasing me and having loads of fun.

We got to the burial site and the hole was already dug. The band set up and played music the while time. The hole was different than we do in the west. It was dug about 10 feet down but then they dug in. So the casket was lowered down and then put into the ground kind of like a drawer. Then they made a wall of bags of dirt where the casket was. Then, and this part apparently is very important because everyone made sure I saw it. A guy took a huge gulp of xi feng jiu (rice liquor local to this province), spit it in a small opening towards the casket, and lit it on fire and a huge flame burst out while they scrambled to get out of there.

 

Then the music stopped quite abruptly and everyone walked back to the house.

My friend requested I wait with him. We hung back for about half an hour and were the last people to return to his home. Apparently at Chinese funerals the immediate family are supposed to be the very last people to leave the graveside. I am definitely not immediate family but he wanted me there so I stayed.

When we got back to his home there was a huge feast. There were at least 200 people there and a lot of xi feng jiu. At things like this everyone wants to drink with the foreigner so by 11:30 in the morning I was very, very drunk.IMG_20160617_112529

I left by 12:00.

After the funeral my black taxi driver (illegal taxi) and I went to explore some old cave dwellings people used to live in during the War of Japanese Aggression, better known to most of you as World War II. I will write about them later.