Friday, November 9, 2007

Wasai--- Please listen to me

I cannot tell you how many times what I have said has fallen on deaf ears.

"I don't want to drink, thank you." "Mei guan chee." (沒關係)

"No more food, thank you" "Mei guan chee."

"I can shell my own peanuts." "Mei guan chee."

"I don't like beer." "Mei guan chee."

"But, the elevator is full." "Mei guan chee."

I want to point out that this happens when I speak in Chinese, as well asEnglish. I live in a very small town and virtually no one speaks English.

Because of Chinese culture being what it is, people view "protests" as aperson's way of being polite. When you say "I don't want to drink" for example, people hear that sentence through their cultural filter. In Chinese society, greediness (although rampant) is regarded as impolite. So no one would answer "yes" to any question regarding offers of more food, liquor orwhatever. When you say "no thank you" you are telling others that you are polite and not greedy. This explains why you frequently see a Taiwanese man sitting down with his buddies for the express purpose of getting plastered,and yet saying "no! no! no!" over and over as someone pours him a stiff one.

No one is listening to him.

That is fine, unless of course you really don't want any more of whatever is being pushed on you. That concept seems to be lost as far as I can tell.Once I had to explain what "enough" meant. I had consumed what I consideredto be "enough" liquor for one evening and yes my glass was refilled with very pushy attempts to get me to drink more. My friends and others at my table were perplexed. One guy said "we could learn a lot from you because we don'tknow what enough means."

As far as I can tell there is no way to get out of these situations except to smile and just don't drink or eat any more. Just the other day someone kept pushing beer on me, even after I repeated told that person that I don't normally drink beer, and on that occasion I was drinking rum. He kept saying "Mei guan chee" and trying to make me take the can of beer from him by hitting me with it, basically. "Mei guan chee" and "mei wen ti (沒問題)" were said multiple times.

No one was listening to me.

This kind of thing happens all the time though. Once a few years back, I went to a karaoke place with a Taiwanese friend of mine. A hostess brought some peanuts, in-shell. I love peanuts! I was happily shelling and eating them by myself when one of the other hostesses came and sat down beside me. She grabbed a handful and began shelling peanuts and putting them into a bowl. I wasn't really paying attention to her as my friend was singing, and he’s such a bad singer it was just too funny. After a few minutes the hostess pushed this bowl of shelled peanuts in front of me offering them to me. I told her that I didn’t want them; I had my own, thanks. “Mei wen ti” was her answer(meant that it was no problem for her to serve me, not “no problem” as in “I understand"). In cases like this, because the person saying “no problem” they aren't really listening to what you are saying, and if you are forced to get your point across it will very often result in embarrassment for that person.I replied with a question: “Did you wash your hands?”

Now wouldn't it have been much easier if you had just listened to me?
Contributted to Wasai Taiwan by: MJ Klein

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