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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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Holding a Mirror    

By Garreth Humphris
2396 Views | 8 Comments | 8/1/2012 12:40:20 PM

I had quite a horrible argument with a friend the other day. In passing she commented that she was in Shanghai with her foreign lover walking in a park and they observed another Chinese girl/foreign man. These two were kissing in public, smoking and speaking quite loudly so ’obviously’ the girl was a “dirty chicken”.

Such a harsh label from my friend, it was a little shocking to me to see her intolerance. I pointed out to her that her rash judgement of the situation was unfair. The pot calling the kettle black!
That if I observed the situation from a distance I would see a pair of couples, each made up of Chinese lady and foreign man, enjoying each other’s company in public and that if she was adamantly applying the label to one couple, she should assume that it might be apt for the other - so the use of such a hateful and hurtful term here was not really called for...I mean that if you throw stones then windows will probably get broken!

Well, you can imagine the insecurities that came out then! I had insulted her, I was not her friend, she never depended on a man for anything, her life was hard, she was a good woman because she came from a good family, she had a good education, the battles in her life was a list of ’reasons’ a mile long but overall she was good, good, good!
To which I replied, what do you know of the park post-90s girl’s life? Was she from good family? Did she have a hard life? How can you ’label’ her bad after just 5 minutes observation!

“He obviously buys her things”, she said.
“And does your lover take you to dinner, or take you to parks and gardens and events and pays for it?”, I asked. “he buys you things, doesn't he?”
“Yes, but I bring him fruit and gifts", was her reply.
“How do you not know that the post 90’s girl does not bring her friend gifts?” I asked.
“You insult me, I am a good woman!” she cried
“You insult yourself, by judging others harshly but applying a different light to yourself”, I replied, “your attitude to others insults your intelligence and your compassion.”
“But you did not see her”,she retorted,”she was ugly and wore little clothes and spoke like a farmer”.
“Maybe she was a farmer, coming from the people who provide you those beautiful fruits you buy your lover!”, I replied quietly, “Maybe she has a hard life, not getting much schooling, not having a good job like you, living in a small dark room in Shanghai with 3 other girls, not able to buy nice makeup or clothes”
“But I have a house, I have a job, I work hard”, she cried, “I am dependent on no one!”
“You were lucky, you have an education and a job, you are older and bought a house when they were expensive but affordable! You have luxuries that you earned, but to say you are good because you have this and others are bad because they don’t is a very poor attitude unbecoming to you”!
Well, I may as well have unleashed the Hounds from Hell! After a 30 minute tirade of her insecurity of being with a foreign man and how this was not a “bad woman” situation in any way, I am now labelled “Shit Man” and she will not speak to me for a long time.

Of course, everyone is guilty of this type of situation, least not me! I conveniently clump all people into my own categories so I can talk about my relationships with them - it is a natural thing to do in human nature! 
I also get the “Us good/Them bad" dynamic because this is how we go to war, justify our own ignorance, absolve ourselves from our injustice towards others. 
We set our own pecking order and where we might sit on it - in work, in play, in life - even just walking in the park, it would seem!
My biggest discomfort about living in China us this actual dynamic - wanting to smash other people’s ricebowl so we can scrape a few more grains of rice.
I know that this has an incredible historical precedence in China and that the burgeoning population and rush for resources continues that tradition, but i am also a little dismayed at times when it results in a total lack of compassion toward others. 

Indeed, I am incredibly lucky! I was born in a country that had limited turmoil in it’s growth compared to others. I am from humble stock but I have never been lacking. I am free to travel and essentially do as I please. I had free education, a solid job and have few worries with healthcare, social disharmony or loss. I have never known hunger, uncertainty or fear - and for this I am eternally grateful.
And many foreigners coming to China will be in similar circumstances - although we may have had personal disappointments, we probably have not been deprived as much as the “combined psyche” of China. 

And it is something to keep in mind when we are confronted with the apparent “unbecoming” rationale of our Chinese friends and (hopefully) family.

Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
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(Showing 1 to 8 of 8) 1
#2012-08-01 16:38:09 by Serendipity33 @Serendipity33

Mmmmh... I suppose when goodness is retained within, niceness shows without. Of course this does not only a happen in China

#2012-08-01 23:27:56 by yan112 @yan112

everyone is a mirror for theirself.

#2012-08-05 00:37:32 by woaizhongguo @woaizhongguo

Many things could be commented on here. The one that comes to mind first is the whole notion of "luck". There is big debate going on in America right now, one that will be played out in the upcoming election. It's between those people who think they have earned everything they currently have through their own hard work and labor and those who realize not only luck but the community and society play an important role. The luck people tend to have a lot more compassion for the plight of others, while the others (not sure what to call them) much more readily make the sort of harsh judgments you illustrate in your piece. This latter illustrates the more selfish and unbecoming side of the American character, and goes hand in hand with capitalism, and I fear it is the part of America that China is adoring.

As for your attempt at logic described in the first part, trying to convince your friend of some vesion of the golden rule, Richard Nisbett in The Geography of Thought describes a number of experiments that demonstrate the Asian mind simply does not do a good job with the sort of universal logic required for such a move. I had a similar problem trying to argue with my students during the Beijing Olympics that there was no difference between the Chinese pirating of American movies and Americans who would pirate Chinese Olympic gear and deprive their country of money. They simply refused to admit the situations were parallel. It drove me nuts until I read the Nisbett book.

Anyway, I certainly agree with your prescription of what the visitor to China needs to keep in mind when he/she finds himself ready to criticize

#2012-08-05 10:59:01 by aussieghump @aussieghump

Haha...so many similar conversations - it is okay to rip off Microsoft because they are 'big and rich', but eat my rice cake and you are dead, because I am 'poor'!

Certainly many daily examples of the dichotomy of Chinese application of logic! I wrote about it as a joke in a blog on my friend's driving agility and flagrant disregard for the parking laws - it just doesn't 'apply' to me because I am different from everyone else! But she also believes in 'our China' and abject acceptance of tradition and authority and 'fate'.

The situational application of justice, compassion and logic is a Chinese 'beauty' to behold and a 'devil' to deal with! One of the other 'mythical beasts' of China!



#2012-08-13 16:35:30 by yolandan @yolandan

sorry, I laugh, just can't help.:)))))))))

Well, to understand other people's behave better, I think should try to know more about his or her background, including family ,childhood,youth, experience, and, from all these elements we could find out the shadow of culture.

Culture, such a complex words. it is a race's spirit, a country's placenta and basic, a person's blood, we could see culture's effect everywhere.

Before knowing a person well, it is better keeping watching with compassion in heart and polite smile in face. Similarly, before learning enough the fountainhead and course of a strange culture, I guess it might be better to be patient and learn with respect. Blaming straightly, most of the time, not mean u r right, but means u r too proud, no patience enough, or might be a little lost control :))

Everyone is not perfect, we all human being with weakness and.....temper :))))) so it is quite common to break out into angry, and shot fire from mouth, to PROTECT our own viewpoints or belief, or something else.

U was a swordsman, when protecting ur own viewpoints and minded, but u might be a little devil when ur knife edge hurting ur friend. Anyway, it is not so good to make "your" girlfriend cry, when u protecting other man's girlfriend.:)))))))))))))))-------that made the quarrel a little humor.:))

I appreciate and admire ur honesty and energy in emphasizing and fighting for what u think right, I insist that u have the right to hold on ur own viewpoints and make it clear in quarrel, Ummm, just a little tip :))---------- be tender, be patient, be polite.:))))))))

#2012-08-13 16:48:08 by yolandan @yolandan

I like what u wrote:

I know that this has an incredible historical precedence in China and that the burgeoning population and rush for resources continues that tradition, but i am also a little dismayed at times when it results in a total lack of compassion toward others.

Indeed, I am incredibly lucky! I was born in a country that had limited turmoil in it’s growth compared to others. I am from humble stock but I have never been lacking. I am free to travel and essentially do as I please. I had free education, a solid job and have few worries with healthcare, social disharmony or loss. When I get old, I will be able to live without concern for services! I have never known hunger, uncertainty or fear - and for this I am eternally grateful.

It seems that u do notice the Chinese social issue, and have found the source from Chinese social service, then to social system, and then to Chinese culture, and country history.

well done!

#2012-08-18 00:46:41 by randyteacher @randyteacher

Nicely written, I agree with you and have seen this behavior many times myself but to avoid the grief you are speaking of I usually hold my tongue and go for the "rolled eye" approach.

#2012-09-16 00:00:11 by Aiqun @Aiqun

I think the western man more compassion... I know that Western Europe a lot of people are willing to accept a no blood relationship children, and like a father love the child... This is what I want to get a western man to do her husband's reason..

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