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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cultural Exchange Simplified

It’s come to be the opinion of this humble Ferret that cultural exchanges in China are generally plagued by a kind of Orientalism, a perception of an intractable Other, or a perceived mystery that prevents people from having a meaningful exchange. This happens on both sides of the aisle. Foreigners feel that there are some things about China that are impossible to know; Chinese feel as if there are some things foreigners will never understand. And vice-versa.

Recently, I had a rather truthful exchange. A model perhaps for all future cultural exchanges:

[Ferret walks into a bathroom at Sichuan restaurant. He pees a urinal, thinking perhaps far too much about his expat, Chinese dilettante status. Old Chinese Man walks in as he is zipping up. Old Chinese Man notices Ferret.]

Old Chinese Man

Hello!

Ferret

Hello!

Old Chinese Man

你好!

Ferret

你好!

All things exchanged! All things understood! A four-part exchange where every message is conveyed clearly to the other succinctly and straightforwardly. Oh, that it could be so easy!

posted by ferret at 12:01 pm  

2 Comments »

  1. awesome…

    Comment by 萝卜 — March 19, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

  2. Nice. It seems to me though that the old man’s preconceptions / otherness shoulder chip towards foreigners made him forget that it’s weird to enthusiastically greet strangers in the bathroom. He would no way do it to another local dude at the urinal. That just made me think of something funny. My most visited public toilet is the one on the first floor of the cinema complex by my house. Imagine if it WAS local culture and every time someone walked in and saw someone they didn’t know they made sure to approach them and greet them in a loud and committed way. Imagine a cavalcade of such exchanges at a busy time. Wait a minute … this is not the first toilet drama you have produced lately. Hmmnn.

    Comment by Andy Best — March 21, 2013 @ 3:12 am

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