Blogs » Ni Howdy - Chinese for Texans » Public Vs. Private


Have I mentioned that there are two types of behaviors in China? Well, there are. There is public behavior and then there is private behavior. I think this is a cultural thing dating back to our old friend Confucius' time. You know Confucius, right? "Confucius say: Man who fly airplane upside-down bound to have crack up." No really, Confucius was famous for wise sayings like: "Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it."

Of all his philosophies, I feel the least wise was his belief that one should only treat well the people you know - family, friends, etc. Perhaps there was a reason for this back in the BC days. In the 21st century it has been interpreted with less than comfortable results. You see, Chinese people are extremely gracious and kind with people that they know. If they don't know you, however, like you're just some stranger on a bus, well, pardon my French, but screw you. They think nothing of cutting in line, pushing ahead of you or riding their bicycle straight at you even when they are in the wrong. Now, I say this from a very Western perspective. Maybe it's different growing up in a country of 1.2 billion people.

Today we experienced both the public and private behaviors of Chinese people. Less than stellar public behavior was felt as we jockeyed for positions on the crowded sidewalks with our umbrellas out - it rained heavily all day long. Wonderful, friendly private behavior was experienced as we dined with a good Chinese friend I used to work with. It was the first truly Chinese meal my sister-in-law had experienced and I am glad she could share it with such good company, even if she had a heck of a time trying to use chopsticks.

We traveled by subway out to one of the newer neighborhoods of Shanghai, to a mini-business district the likes of which are springing up all over the east coast of China. There companies are doing all sorts of business and the mini-cities they now support are new and comfortable and shiny. We ate a nice meal together and then walked through the rain back to the subway station passing by my friend's new company so she could show off her plush office digs. A small canal and green areas located nearby provide a park-like setting for the many office workers in the buildings. I honestly felt a little envious of the new and optimistic feeling the area provoked. These are the growing middle classes of China.

Tomorrow we will fly south to Guangxi Province where we will see the countryside covered in picturesque rice paddies and limestone karsts. Have a great day!