Curiosity and privacy

26 08 2011

These post belongs to the new category, called Chinese myths, where I will comment on some stuff that for us, Western people, are a typical expected trademark for Asians. Now, this is only from my own limited personal experience!!! Very possible I will change my mind with after more time here, and I will of course appreciate comments from real Chinese or laowais that have lived in China longer than me!!

Knowing that China is one of the last existing communist states, it is common to extend the thought of lack of private property to the lack of privacy. OK, nowadays it is a little too obsolete saying that there is not private property in China: the process of privatization started in late 70s and it’s continuing on its road, made of experience and mistakes, as any development requires!

On the other hand, personal privacy in general is a concept a little unknown for Chinese people even if you would read several do’s/dont’s in your Chinese grammar about how to respect privacy in general. Given the amount of people that in this industrialization and development phase push toward the cities leaving behind the huge open spaces of the countryside, the personal space decreased drastically! Historically Chinese have always been collective society looking for group affiliation.

A sort of vademecum for the proper Chinese etiquette (written I think by collecting info from books or by a Chinese long moved to Western countries!!) says that:

 [..] In crowded situations the Chinese avoid eye contact to give themselves privacy

And this makes me laugh!

no privacy at the doctor!Just think about a private moment: you go to the hospital, wait to see the doctor for discussing some private matter, that can anything from blood test results for STDs or unwanted pregnancy or pain while urinating or hemorrhoids.. So, it comes your turn and you enter the room: you can see the doctor at the desk, often one assistant and.. at least other 2-3 people around, sitting on free chairs, standing and staring and listening to your “private” talk with the doctor. Maybe they don’t stare at you, then the words above are right!

First time I went to a traditional medicine hospital and then to a normal hospital here in Hefei I was surprised to see so many people together in the doctor room. I thought it was like a family giving company to the sick one, but then 潘蕾 explained that they were just people waiting their turn.. and I admit I was quite horrified!!

The first time in the “normal” hospital I used the fast solution laowai friendly, therefore the doctor came to the room where I was waiting alone, but then at the traditional medicine hospital and during the second visit to the ordinary hospital, I had the experience to share my problems with the doctor and an audience.. OK, my problem is not that personal or embarrassing, but still I had strange feeling having several strangers walking around and listening attentively to what the doctors were asking me and then what they were saying.

I wonder what happens in a Chinese church confessional! 🙂

Chinese express curiosity for anything that can make your day better or different or just less boring! If you stop walking and suddenly look in the sky, you can be sure that after 5 minutes you are surrounded by at least 10 people looking also in the sky and then looking at you (you don’t need to be a laowai for this). And they won’t move for quite a long time, afraid to miss the reason that made you stopping!

But then I have been equally surprised to experience the completely lack of curiosity or interest among university students about what their mates do in the free time or even when they have some kind of behavior that in Western countries would lead at once to heavy gossiping!!

University students live in dormitory rooms of 4 to 6 people. They have to be inside before a given time after which the dorm closes and no chance to get it. Sometimes I know of some friends not sleeping inside their rooms, but sleeping at friends places, often at a regular base, specially when one gets boyfriend or girlfriend. So, I asked which kind of excuses they find for their roommates. My surprise when they told me that roommates never ask!

Also seeing a boy and a girl always together would start quite a lot of talks, especially maybe if the boy is a laowai but not here, not among the university students.

Maybe since they are forced to share a little living space with several other people, then they go the the opposite extreme when it comes to their and their friend’s life.

Maybe this is an unwritten rule among the students, still for much less in Europe you’d get thousand questions and heavy gossiping! I know as a fact that this does not happen here, not even among the girls!

The lack of curiosity extends also to the personal relationships: it is common for university couples, to be officially boyfriend-girlfriend but never kissing! No kidding! I am serious! Holding hands, sharing food, looking into each other eyes is enough since the system (mothers and teachers) said kissing is for when they get older.. married.. have their life..


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