Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Politeness Factor

A friend visiting Beijing  remarked to me how Beijingers can be rude at times.

She said that when the security guards at her serviced apartment open the door, most people don't say a word of thanks when they walk through.

"If someone holds the door for you, it is common courtesy to say 'thank you'," she said, wondering why it was so difficult for people to be grateful for a simple task.

The same goes for restaurants, where it is not unusual to hear diners shouting, "Fuwuyuan!" or "Server!" for their attention instead of putting their hand up or waiting for the next wait staff to come by.

However, here in China, or Beijing at least, it's expected that a security guard opens the door for you, or that a fuwuyuan bring the dishes that you ordered; they do not feel it is necessary to thank them, and to some extent these service-oriented people are not expected to be treated well either.

How did the culture become like that, that there is no need to thank people even though it's their job?

In the west we are used to being polite to others, and believe this is a sign of respect for others.

When I thank people here for completing the smallest task, from opening a door to giving me something, they are taken aback and say, "Bu rong xie" or "No need to thank me".

Does this mean Chinese people don't respect others? I'm not sure, but they seem to reserve politeness to people they want to impress or value.

This mind-set has to change if China wants to be a harmonious society...

1 comment:

ks said...

after having visited beijing a few times i find bijingers are friendly and polite. some common chinese bad habits are still practiced. it takes time to change. have patience.