问题

I’d love to avoid writing about intercultural conflicts, but, unfortunately, this behavior, from my cultural viewpoint, is impolite. I’ll let my readers judge for themselves. 

I went to Sculpting in Time earlier and spent a half hour trying to connect to their Wifi. I mistakenly ordered too soon when it appeared that I had finally connected, however, the exclamation point identifying no internet connection popped up. I became increasingly flustered and a very helpful and kind server tried his best to assist by restarting the router. After several attempts were made, and I had finished my 15 块breakfast, I hastily exited. The cashier and assistant manager were also kind enough to offer me a discount for my troubles.
As a result, I ventured north on 师大路 to Village Cafe. Wifi working, I caught up with my sister, 大妹, on Skype. I was the only customer until a middle-aged man entered halfway through my Skype conversation. Although I had headphones in my ear, and spoke in manner that signaled I was talking to someone, this man badgered me.
“Excuse me, where are you from?”
“I’m sorry, I’m in the middle of a conversation.”
“Where do you come from…America?”
“I’m sorry I am speaking with my sister on Skype.”
“I just want to ask you two questions.”
“Ok, what are your questions?”
“Can you please tell me the names of these radio and television stations. I only know the [abbreviations]. I will write them down for you.”
He proceeds to hand me a piece of paper with three acronyms of television networks and radio stations. I begin to explain to him that America is a big country with many television and radio stations, and unfortunately, I am unfamiliar with these stations. I also apologize for my inability to assist him. My sister, meanwhile, listens to the exchange as I didn’t remove my headphones.
Move forward 20 minutes later, and I’ve just concluded my Skype call. A gentleman, at least ten years younger than the previous, sits down at the adjacent table.
“Excuse me, can you tell me what this means.”
I explain as best I can, but with little context, and feeling frustrated from the previous interaction, I’m not particularly helpful.
What I would like to understand is whether or not these individuals would likely ask Chinese strangers for assistance or did they merely ask me because I am a foreigner and they assumed that I speak English or come from an English-speaking country?
I’d like to add that when ZJ and I are out together, these incidents are either few or ZJ answers on my behalf in Chinese, establishing a clear boundary regulation.
Readers, have you run into these types of situations, and if so, how do you keep your cool and what do you say?

7 thoughts on “问题

  1. CrazyChineseFamily says:

    Thus far I never encountered such situations in China or to be more precise in Xi’an. All I got so far were some randomns “Hello’s” or some older men trying to test their strenght with me (dont ask me why, I am still confused about those encounters)

    • maklu001 says:

      In the city center, I’ve also only drawn looks or double takes and the random “Hello’s,” however, the cafe, near where I live, is about a 20 minute bus ride south of the city center. The university I’m employed with, along with the neighboring one, have a robust population of international students and foreign teachers, and I am pestered very infrequently. Of course I don’t mind assisting or answering the same old questions, but I do mind when I am clearly in the middle of something, and said individuals don’t consider, culturally, it might be impolite to badger me.

      • CrazyChineseFamily says:

        Somehow a part of my reply was lost, so here it is again:
        Though I have not encountered such situations I heard from some friends that they have been often disrupted in the middle of eating with friends or doing other things by Chinese asking them stuff about their home countries.
        It seems that for a few people the common sense (I just call it common sense now) of giving others their own space while being busy is somehow missing or they just dont care. I believe it has less to do with nationality but with this missing common sense 🙂

      • maklu001 says:

        Yes, nationality has nothing to do with it, as rude people exist anywhere, but as I only reside in China, my interactions have mostly been with Chinese individuals.

  2. Suigetsu says:

    Yeah, from personal experience, I would say it’s common for Chinese (and Taiwanese) people to come up to you randomly to ask questions. The cultural aversion against interruptions and violations of personal space is not as strong for Chinese people. If anything, Chinese people may be less likely to approach you because you’re a foreigner.

    • maklu001 says:

      I’d always thought they were less likely to approach me because I’m a foreigner. I haven’t been approached like I was the other day in such a long time, which is why I felt compelled to write about it.

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