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Gareth is an Australian who has lived in JiangSu, SuZhou (Heaven on Earth) for a few years - he is a keen observer of the Chinese people, Chinese culture and the changes that are occurring in China at break-neck speed. He can often be found on his a nightly 'perch' in front of his bar in the famous Bar Street in Suzhou, talking to the locals in his bad Mandarin, teaching the 'flower-selling girls' English, eating street food and smiling at the local chengguan (neighbourhood police). Gareth also has several other businesses in China around Business and English training. His experiences have been varied and interesting and his years in China have taught him to be wary of promises but excited about prospects, not a bad situation to be in!
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Perils of China: 'In China...!'

By Garreth Humphris
3820 Views | 20 Comments | 6/26/2014 3:37:35 PM

Grumpy Thai Girl - Khun

I have just passed a milestone in my life - I realised last week that I have lived one third of my life in China! Quite a shock really! To think that I have spent that amount of time in one place - and that place is so different from my home!

 

It is also a little disappointing too - having spent such a long time in one place and one community and not assimilated very much...at best I have a rudimentary grasp of language - I find that I understand a lot of what is said to me (in context) but I don't have much insight to add to the conversation. 

 

To be fair, it is quite difficult to speak to Chinese as an outsider - there is a sort of snobbishness in Chinese speaking that is related to culture, history and experience - a ’Chinese ideal’ that is difficult to crack! I don't mean this in a rude way - it is just that many Chinese people do not have much of a world-view and they do not easily entertain that there might be alternatives in the world that are different to their own. There is only black and white, very little grey!

 

Yes, I know there are reasons for this - wayward or challenging thinking was dangerous a few years ago (and still is in many situations) and there are many taboo subjects! There are truths that cannot be questioned, situations that cannot be changed, opinions that cannot be fought and ’face’ that cannot be lost. Any deeper assessment of Chineseness is met with hostility as if it is a criticism rather than an exploration and there is a reverting to ’This is China, so that is how it is!' circumstance rather than Western logic and reasoning!

 

In general, Chinese people don't make it too easy to understand them. Sure, they are friendly and happy for you to speak a few words of their language...but the deeper mysteries of the culture and traditions are almost unexplainable. Like learning the characters - it is a matter of memorising forms and functions, rules and regulations and applying them to life rather than understanding the intention or logic of the task. There just ’is’ and there is no comfort or change attributable to ’why’!

 

Of course, the real situation is that I am reverting to a ’tradition’ that I know and rely on - that is, my education, family situation and experience has taught be that ’logic and reason’ is the appropriate response to crisis and confrontation and that blind faith is not. I am culturally-programmed to allow for some leeway in situation - to be happy with ’gray’.

 

Culture is more ingrained than understanding - when the chips are down, culture and 'relying on the known' in thought, word and deed is more likely to occur, no matter how assimilated you may be on the surface.
In the protection of self-interest, we are more likely to refer to 'effective actions' in the past. These are usually culturally-based. Of course, experience comes into play - but tradition/cultural norms is the biggest indicators of behaviours and actions.

 

So living somewhere for a long time is no pre-requisite to becoming localised! Especially if the culture is significantly different to yours...I have lived a quarter of my life in China! And I am still very much Australian in my thinking! 

 

To be able to accommodate 'Chinese thinking' in a stressful situation it must be an active choice on my behalf! In fact it is a hyper-active choice that goes against all my logic and gut-feeling. I have to fight my curious nature and try to restrict my thinking to a 'it can only be this way’ scenario. It is a lesson in ’thinking inside the box’ rather than being expansive and encompassing and extending. There is no ’possibility’, just what ’can and cannot be done’. The gap between family, society, acceptable behaviour and oblivion is small and seemingly inflexible - and if you want to live in China or with a Chinese person, you have to understand this fact! But more than understand it, you have to embrace it in your thinking!

 

The precursor to the lesson is the phrase ’In China, ...'. If you hear this you are being told one of the ’restrictions to comply to’. And in fact, it is a warning that you have actually crossed the line and there is no compromise! You cannot negotiate back from this point! It is ’the truth’ of the situation and no amount of negotiation or diplomacy will budge it! The person is no longer open to discussion or compromise - the stone is set in concrete. You will be met with either a stony wall of silence and a sullen scowl, or a mass walkout that will take a few hours to clear and an understanding that this topic will never be spoken about again!

 

So this is really the dilemma that many foreigners face in China - the conflict between expansive possibility and traditional conformity. It is very difficult area to cover because your partner and their family will be viewing the situation from a completely different viewpoint than yours! You cannot even see the barriers that they do - it is all smoke and mirrors!

It is also the dilemma Chinese people face when leaving the country - a world of possibility is daunting and difficult - with no anchor point of culture or tradition, your boat is drifting in a vast ocean! It is difficult to embrace for it’s expansive possibility when the strongest impulse is to huddle in the bilge with your possessions clutched tightly to your chest!

 

Now, some people might view this as an indictment on cross-cultural dating, but it is not intended in that way...what I am trying to do is highlight a major difference in outlook of individuals within their society and the types of thinking that might be needed to gain consensus, even if it is only for a few minutes!

 

So for people contemplating coming to China to live and marry, the message is clear... “It’s China way...or the highway!”

Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
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#2014-06-27 01:03:39 by woaizhongguo @woaizhongguo

Another great column, I recall the first time I heard the phrase "In China." It was in the context of a discussioon of one of our Socrates Cafe and the topic was responsiblity. Someone said, the difference between China and America is that if someone falls in a store in America it is the store's fault but IN CHINA, if someone falls in the store, it is the person's fault. As you said, no discussion, no explanation, no dialogue. This is simply the way things are in China. Although I only have four years' experience I long ago lost count of the time I have haeard that phrase, and as you say, there is a point at which one must realize logic and reason simply do not apply

#2014-06-27 01:14:22 by panda2009 @panda2009

本篇博文讲得太抽象,我硬着头皮翻译了一下。总之,GARETH先生顾虑太多,人太聪明,中国有句话叫做:“聪明反被聪明误。”有位哲学家就曾想过结婚对他没什么好处,再等他想清楚“如果是自己没经历过的事情,不妨经历一次。”于是想去娶那位他曾拒绝过的女子,那女子已是三个孩子的妈妈了。好了,闲话少说,进入正题。我的翻译全文如下:

险境中国之“人在中国...!”

我刚走过了我生命中的一个里程碑——截止上周我已在中国度过了我生命的三分之一的光阴!真是震撼人心!想想我呆在一个地方的时间总数——而且此地与我的家乡是如此之不同!

还有点失望的是——如此长期地呆在一个地方甚至一个社区但仍未被同化......至多我对语言有点基本的领会——我发现我明白许多别人跟我说的话(联系讲话背景)但了解不深以至不能加入到谈话中。

公平地说,跟中国人说话就如同跟外星人说话一样困难——在中国人的说话中有某种依赖于文化、历史和经验的世俗的东西——那是一种很难打破的“中国人的思维”!我并不以为这是一种粗鲁的行为——那就是许多中国人没有一个多元的世界观,他们不易接受世上还有许多与他们固有之不同的选择。他们的选择非白即黑,少得可怜的一点灰色!

是的,我知道这有很多原因——刚愎自用或挑衅的思维在几年前是危险的(在许多情形下仍然如此)并且有许多忌讳的话题!有的真理不能质疑,有的局面不能改变,有的意见不能反对,有的面子不能丢。任何更深层次有关中国性的评判都会遭遇敌视,似乎它是一个批评而不是一种探讨,最终回到现实情形‘这是中国,所以能怎样呢!’而不是西方的逻辑和论证!

一般而论,中国人太不容易去做逻辑论证以至于不理解它们。他们的确很友好并且对你说几句他们的语言感到高兴...但有关文化和传统的更深的奥妙几乎都是费解的。如学习汉字——它是一种记忆形状和功能,规则和章程的物质,且应用于生活之中而没有理解意图或逻辑的任务。它只表示“存在”而没有可归咎于“为什么”的慰籍和变化。

当然,实际情况是,我正在重回一个我理解并依赖的“传统”——即,我的教育,家庭情况和经验教给我重“逻辑和论证”,指的是对危机和对抗的适当反应,而不是盲目的信仰。我被人文地编程为:在现实处境中留有余地——对“灰色”心安理得。

文化是比理解更根深蒂固的东西——当炸薯条倒下,文化和在思考中“依赖已知”,话语和行动更可能出现,不管怎样被同化,你可能只停留在表面。

在对自身利益的保护中,我们更可能参照以往的“有效的行动”。这些通常基于文化角度。当然,经验也会登场——但是传统/人文准则是行为和行动的最大指标。

所以生活在某地很长时间并不是变得本地化的先决条件!尤其如果是其文化与你们的显著不同...我已经住在中国超过了我的生命的四分之一的时间!并且我仍然认为我是十足的澳大利亚人!

为了在紧张的形势中能够适应“汉语思维”,它对于我来说是一个主动的选择!事实上它是一个亢奋的主动选择,以致于与我全部的逻辑和本质的情感相悖,我不得不与我的好奇的天性抗争,并且试图去约束我的思维到达一个“它只能是这样子”的场景。它是一个在‘盒子里思维’的教训,而不是坦坦荡荡,包罗万象,扩展的思维。没有“可能性”,有的只是‘什么能做,什么不能做’。家庭,社会,可接受的行为和赦免之间的间隙很小并且表面上看似乎很强硬——如果你想在中国生活或和中国人在一起,你必须了解这个事实!不只是了解它,你还必须在你的思维中信奉它!

本课的引导词是短语:‘在中国...’,如果你听到这一被告知的‘需遵从的限制条件’。并且事实上,它是一个警告,你的确已经越线了,并且毫无折中!你不能回头去交涉!它就是‘真实的’处境,即使再大的谈判或交际手腕也无法憾动它。此人不再有商量和折中的余地——石碑已被混凝土焊住。你将要么面对一面沉默的石头墙和一个阴沉的怒容,要么急流勇退花几小时跳过,并且永不谈论对此话题的见解。

所以这真的是许多外国人在中国所面临的困境——在坦诚的可能性和传统的一致性之间的冲突。它是一个很难涵盖的区域,因为你的伴侣和他们的家庭将从一个与你的完全不同的视角去看这个情况!你甚至无法看到这些障碍——他们做的全是烟雾和镜子的反光!

它也是当中国人离开这个国家所要面临的困境——一个可能性的世界令人生畏——没有文化或传统的抛锚点,你的船在一个浩瀚的大海上漂流!当最强的冲击连同你紧紧抓在胸前的财产一起将你挤进舱底,皈依坦诚的可能性是多么困难!

现在,一些人可能看到这篇有关跨文化约会的控诉,但这不是我的本意...我试图做的是强调在他们的社会和思维类型中的个人愿景的主要差异,这种差异需要获得共识,哪怕只是几分钟!

所以对想来中国生活并且结婚的人,信息是明确的...“这是来中国的路,或者说是捷径!”

#2014-06-27 06:31:37 by anonymous10671 @anonymous10671

Great article and fairly spot on! I have found that most Chinese people I have met in my own country are this way, fortunately that China way or the highway does not work here

Most of the Chinese women I have chatted with here have same thought process, once you let them know there is another way to look at things they open up quite quickly to western way of doing things or should I more accurately say "a blended way of doing things". This alone is a huge step in cultural understanding and the ability to open one mind and adapt.

I personally feel this is a big step for Chinese women to get out from under the stifling situation they face, to open their wings and soar!!

Keep up the good writing, I have learned so much from you brother!

#2014-06-27 16:12:50 by aussieghump @aussieghump

@anonymous10671, while agree with you that some people might want to ´get out from under the stifling situation they face´, we have to be careful that this is in fact the case - to you it is ´stifling´ and to them it is ´normal´.

Same situation, subjective viewpoint based on culture and experience. You know the alternatives so therefore the situation to you is intolerable - but when the other options seem so far away from the reality, they are hard for someone to reach for, much less attain.

I think that ´on the surface´people are happy to entertain the ideas - especially if ´on the surface' has some benefits that both cultures believe (money, less work, beautiful clothes and travel, good food). But deeper down, where the relationship is formed and evolved, I am not so sure that both partners do not revert back to their own cultural standards and expectations without conscious adjustment of thought.

#2014-06-28 00:01:06 by panda2009 @panda2009

@woaizhongguo
Thanks for your explain of the phrase IN CHINA. I did misunderstand the key word of this blog. So" The precursor to the lesson is the phrase ’In China, ...'." should be translated in Chinese:"本课的先行词是惯用语‘中国国情‘...’’I got it.

#2014-06-28 00:18:31 by panda2009 @panda2009

@anonymous10671
"fortunately that China way or the highway does not work here"
Your words "China way or highway" here helps me understand the meaning in this blog, “It’s China way...or the highway!” should be translated in Chinese:"这就是中国方式...或者说是主流!"

#2014-06-28 08:44:02 by aussieghump @aussieghump

@panda2009
Thanks Panda, for the late night translation!

#2014-06-28 18:20:45 by weiming @weiming

A good article, I spent some time to read, although I can't totally agree with your point of view, but it's very apropos, similarly this applies to all people, not only Chinese.

#2014-06-29 15:05:53 by panda2009 @panda2009

@aussieghump
Your many articles are summative studies, so many ladies feel hard to understand. I tried to translate your this blog, the job ever more challenging and difficult.

"smoke and mirrors", I found the best Chinese phrases of four-character after I attached my translation which is:"雾里看花".

#2014-06-29 19:14:37 by aussieghump @aussieghump

@panda2009
Yes Panda, it is true that the style of writing is cryptic because of the content and the viewpoint I am taking! In these types of articles, I tend to write from a 'visiting foreigner' viewpoint (using that language, logic and prose) rather than a good communicative style that is easy to translate!
Sorry for this, but it is challenging practise for you to convert the exact meaning of the phrases into Chinese prose and idiom! Woaizhongguo does a pretty good correction! Just remember it needs to be a literal translation of phrases and meanings rather than an exact word-for-word one! Good luck

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