Let your yes be yes...
Let your yes be yes...
I try not to let this blog fall into a trap that ensnares many aexpat blogger in China -- namely, becoming a bitch-and-whine-fest aboutvarious aspects of life and society here. Indeed, I think I'm inthe phase of cross-cultural adjustment where I'm starting to roll withthe waves and find contentment, even amusement at the countless quirksand apparent absences of logic I see every day.
But there's one attribute in particular I realizeis deficient here, and that I can't really learn to "justlive with it". Indeed, this realization has made me value and treasure it all themore dearly: in friends, co-workers, my future spouse (whoever she maybe)... namely, direct and forthright communication.
I'mnot evenreferring to outright lying and deception... although it happens, noram I saying to be rude and completely abandon diplomacy; butI'm thinking rather of folks "beating around the bush", presumably to"save face" when they don't have a answer they think I wantto hear.
Casein point: On Sunday, a friend of mine and I were meeting someoneelse for dinner at Isetan after church. We ask the subway personwhether this station was the right one.
She of course, says yes, it's quite close by. After a fewminutes walking, we realize it isn't. Spend 2 kuai to go to thenext station (we were about to drop dead from heat exhaustion at thatpoint, so walking was unfathomable). Repeat the same routine.Ofcourse, then we find out it's actually equidistant between thetwo, after I pull out my trusty Lonely Planet... had either the stationperson admitted she didn't know, I could have looked it up right thereand there. [of course, it also illustrates a fault of our own; had welooked up the map right there and there, we wouldn't have to ask and wecould have just gotten off at the first station...]
Today,at my favorite xiaolongbao place during lunch, I was waiting for about20 minutes for a takeout order which normally should take 5-10minutes. I enquire with more than one fuwuyuan (service person) and they all say, yes, my xiaolongbaowill be forthcoming immediately or at most, in 2 minutes. And theresolution? Well, those who know me know I rarely raise my voice,but today was one of those times... =P
It's not even an xtian thing -- really, just a social value toadopt. The government loves to launch social propaganda campaignscentered around health, civil behavior, anti-corruption, etc. -- howabout if they focus on getting people to speak their minds and giving the straight dope? I've got a strong feeling this is one of the foundational things thatneeds to be addressed first in this society before they tackle most ofthe other stuff.
Andwhile we're on the subject... some other more or less relatedcommunication quirks that kind of annoy me (which are, by far, notendemic to China/Chinese):
* People who don't answer questions I ask them in email. I'm nottalking about "What's up?" fluff, but real questions that should beanswered. A (well... somewhat) hypothetical example:
Me: X, good to see you'll be in Shanghai... what's your schedule like? And do you have a phone number in China yet?
X: Yep, I'll be here from Y to Z.
Me: Sounds good... how can I get in touch with you? Do you have a number?
X: Cool... see you then!
Me (mentally): Arrrrrrgh!
Again, even if the answer is "No, not yet" or "I don't know" --please say so! Yes, I've been guilty of this countless timesmyself. But if I realize I've forgot to address something, I'llquickly fix it.
* Sending emails with blank subject lines, or even worse, blank bodies(ie, containing only attachments). It happens a lot at my work, of all places. =P
* Responding to an email thread (sometimes months old) with acompletely different message, instead of composing a brand new message,and even worse, not changing the subject line.
* Using IM as a substitute for email (eg, long messages that need to becarefully read through) Also, leaving IMs when I'm asleep(Remember, I'm on a different continent than most of you! =P ), and thenwondering why I didn't respond.
Just some minor things that I've been meaning to get out in the open for a while... =)
BTW, if you were wondering, my water did come back after 40-oddhours. Good thing too, as the implications of a extended waterstoppage in 35+ degree centigrade Shanghai weather aren't pleasant -- Imercifully leave the details up to your imagination... =P