Sunday, August 17, 2008

Olympic Differences

I love the Olympics. I love the competition, I love the patriotism, and I love the background stories. And the Chinese? I love them, too.

The other night I was transfixed by a special interest story that followed two American softball players into a Chinese spa. The scenario was odd in nature (and stature) and reminded me of Will Farrell in the movie, Elf, minus the green tights and pointy shoes. It never occurred to me until that very moment that I come from the land of giants, which means, if you’re from the U S of A, you are a giant too.

(I worried for those Chinese women in the salon, wondering if they were going to throw out their backs while giving pedicures to feet that were as big as the owner’s body.)

It did make me wonder about what the Chinese must be thinking about their giant visitors from America. Our customs and traditions are vastly different, and none as distinctly opposite as compared with those practiced in the South. After researching a bit more about Chinese customs and traditions, I compiled the list below detailing the differences in cultures between the Chinese and the Southern’ese.

(The following customs and greetings concerning China were taken from a website called ChinaTeach. However, the customs and greetings pertaining to the South is bonus joy from me to you. )

“When meeting for the first time, a handshake is the most common greeting. But even a handshake can be a different experience in China. First of all it may be held for a longer time than Americans are used to and sometimes it may be in a flimsy manner. In order to show special respect, such as to elderly people or government officials, a slight bow might be given.”

Flimsy handshakes are frowned upon in the land of Dixie unless one is a female in the age range of eighty. In the event one lingers during the shake, it is considered an immediate invitation to engage in arm wrestling or competitive thumb war. Bows are only utilized during deer season.

Public Behavior:
"The idea of saving face (both one’s own and that of others) is strong in Chinese society. Frankness or abruptness, especially in offering criticism of any kind, is to be carefully avoided. People are generally reserved, quiet, refined, gentle and friendly. They respect a person who is friendly and who carefully avoids hurting the feelings of others. Loud, untactful or boisterous behavior is usually regarded as very poor taste."

These types of Chinese restrictions in behavior render a Southerner unable to communicate. Reserved, quiet behavior is observed only when Dale Earnhardt’s name is mentioned (peace to three) or in moments of silence related to the King. Maximized decibels are ordinarily used by those from the South and on more than one occasion, Chinese eardrums have been blown out of the ear canal with a single, “HEY YA’LL! HOW’S YOUR MAMA AND THEM?”

"Guests wait for the host’s directions as to where each person is to sit around the table. For more formal banquets, there are very specific rules as to who is to sit where around the table. Conversations often concern the food, how it was prepared, what the ingredients were, and where they were obtained."

Most often dinner occurs on trays in front of a wide-screened TV. On race days, talking is not permitted until there is a commercial break or Danica Patrick emerges in her hip-hugging jumpsuit. Food preparation is not discussed as the process is always the same: you shoot it, you skin it, you fry it.

"Chopsticks and a soup spoon are common eating utensils. Food is not passed around the table, but remains in the center. The host usually chooses the food for his guests and serves it to them from the central dishes on the table. It is acceptable to reach for food and if a little is spilled on the table cloth it is looked upon as a festive sign of abundance."

Takeout delivered from restaurants like A Wok On The Wild Side, will often provide chopsticks with their meals. Southerners stab the chopstick through the center of the egg roll to take a bite, leaving one hand free to monopolize the remote control. It is acceptable and expected that the ingredients of one’s plate will end up on the abdomen area of the threadbare undershirt worn to dinner, although the dark dress socks accompanying said shirt remains unaffected.

Dining Etiquette:
"At a restaurant, the Chinese host always expects to pay. The guest may also politely offer to pay but should not insist. Business is not usually discussed while eating. If a toothpick is used, the mouth should be covered with the other hand. Napkins are not common, so it wise to always carry a handkerchief or a pack or tissues. Eating food in a public place, i.e. while walking down the street, can also be seen as somewhat impolite."

Business is only discussed if threatening someone to mind his or her own. Food can be consumed in parking lots of a variety of stadiums or from a lawn chair in the bed of mama's truck. The bottom of one’s t-shirt can suffice for a napkin, but it is considered impolite to use that of a friend’s. It is also commonly accepted to retrieve errant food particles from one’s teeth with a toothpick, displaying proudly those large remnants that are particularly impressive. After digging is complete, the toothpick remains in the mouth to savor and appropriately appreciate the lingering aftertaste of KFC.


JMom said...

You make me laugh...big laughs. Thanks!

wendymom said...

You crack me up. That was good.

Tricia said...

Peace to 3!
Can you see us trying to eat in China? Our loud and boisterous laughs would have us not only kicked out of the restaurant but immediately deported back to the great USA!
Good one...

elizabeth said...

That was hilarious. Thanks for the laugh today.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for a few weeks Mom stumbled upon it and has found great inspiration in your writings! I was telling her today that if you aren't a professional writer then you certainly should be with your imagination =) I think you should start a book and simply call it "Joyisms"!! Thanks for the great and inspiring stories!

Joni said...

Thanks for the comment. No, I'm not a professional writer, but I do play one on TV...

Praying for a safe return for your husband.