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?