It's amazing how much or how little the Chinese know about the west.
And after having lived here for a month shy of two years, some things still leave me flabbergasted.
Today a colleague that I don't work with directly and I walked to the canteen together.
I try to do my environmental bit by bringing a plastic container and chopsticks that I dutifully wash after lunch.
She spied my chopsticks and exclaimed, "Oh! You know how to use chopsticks?"
For someone who has used chopsticks for almost my entire life, it was a shock to hear.
"I've been using them since I was three!" I replied exasperated.
"I thought people in the west use forks and knives," she said sheepishly, assuming that everyone regardless of what ethnic background they were, sat down to eat with these western utensils.
"Many people in North America know how to use chopsticks!" I explained.
If she said this to me during my first few months in China, I would have smiled and let it go.
But two years later you're making that observation?
These kinds of blanket assumptions are not only naive but also ignorant. Where they get these perceptions I'm not sure, but it's sad to see them have tunnel vision rather than look around and absorb the world around them.
Only through daily interaction with foreigners will some even begin to change their ideas about the west. And even then that's a small percentage of the population.
There's a huge divide between foreigners and locals, and bridging the gap is a difficult task. For the most part many foreigners are reaching out. It's up to the Chinese to rid themselves of their old-fashioned perceptions and take the leap of faith.
It's a win-win situation... if they only knew.