Pleasing your loved ones is embedded in Chinese culture

By Nick Compton ( China Daily )Updated: 2013-08-13 11:16:47

I remember the scene vividly:

Late last year, I was having lunch with a Chinese friend who was obviously upset. When I met her at the gate of the student canteen, she tried her best to make small talk, but something was clearly wrong. Her head hung low, her eyes were glued to the floor, and she spoke in one-breath answers, quiet and polite.

Finally, when we'd grabbed our trays and dug into the cafeteria food, she told me what was on her mind.

\been dating for four years, and she could sense he was on the verge of marriage proposal. She loved him, she said, and she was sure he loved her.

But her parents, working-class people from central China, were practical to the bone. They didn't like the fact that he was a librarian in Beijing, or the fact that he was a few years shy of 30 and didn't own a car or an apartment. They asked my friend how he could possibly support her, and what use it would do to start a family with a man who could barely afford to feed himself, let alone a second (and potentially third) mouth. My friend's arguments did not help. Her parents disagreed. That was final.

A few weeks after our meeting, just before the Chinese New Year and a family reunion that would have been painful had she disobeyed her parents, she broke up with him. There was no other way, she told me.

Such is the dilemma in modern China, where young adults must balance cultural and family expectations with the overpowering desire to blaze their own path and do things their own way - touting individualism over collectivism.

I've found that the expectations are fairly clear cut, and the roles are sometimes typecast from a Hollywood movie. Men are usually expected to secure a steady job and then lean on their families to buy a car, an apartment, and anything else that proves handy in landing a wife and starting a family. Women, for their part, are expected to succumb to their gender roles: Marry before 30, have a child, and raise him/her (preferably a boy) to success. In many circumstances, it seems like desperation kicks in if a woman is approaching 30 and hasn't married yet.

The toll these expectations take on many of my classmates from Tsinghua University's graduate school is obvious. As they approach graduation and prepare to enter the struggle of China's vicious job market, the expectations their family, teachers, and


friends place on them is near crushing.

What this leads to, in many instances, is graduates accepting jobs they despise, or aren't good at, and entering living situations they abhor, because it's stable and, above all, what is expected of them.

To an American coming from a culture that places so much value on individualism, on pushing hard to achieve success for yourself above all others, sacrificing so much to make others happy is a hard cultural norm to swallow, but one that I've come to understand as an essential and inseparable chunk of Chinese culture.

Now, to my Chinese friends in situations that require delicate choices, I've learned not only to ask \loved ones want?\

Too much hospitality creates hostility

By Lisa Carducci ( China Daily )Updated: 2013-07-09 11:20:09

Recently, I planned a trip to Tianjin hoping to see the changes after a decade. I thought to myself that I would take the opportunity to visit my old friends there, a couple of retired doctors.

I told them: \will arrive around 12:00 pm, spend the day with you, and stay overnight. The next morning, I will leave your home on my own.\This was absolutely clear.

My plan was to visit Tianjin by myself, gather information and pictures aimed at writing an article, and return to Beijing by the fast train in only 28 minutes.

This new train is a pure wonder! Absolutely clean and comfortable, without radio or other noise pollution on board.

On arrival, I found my old friend waiting for me. Lunch was ready at home: Five delicious dishes artistically displayed, and red wine, though I said I preferred not to have wine with Chinese food, and especially at lunch.

In the afternoon, we went to the grandiose Zhou Enlai and Deng Yingchao Memorial, which was worth the visit. Willing to honor their guest, the couple offered me dinner in a good Jiangnan cuisine restaurant. We were back home by 7:30 pm, and got ready to watch two hours of the TV drama serial Orphan Zhao. At 10:30 pm - three hours before my ordinary schedule - I went to bed.

The next morning, breakfast was rushed; my hosts said 8:00 am was fine to leave, as people were already at work.

I had mentioned I wanted to buy high quality da ma hua (friend twist of dough), a Tianjian delicacy. According to my plan, this was to be at the end of the day, just


before going back to the railway station. But we took a bus heading to the old Wenhua Jie, a famous street which has become still more attractive than before.

My friend said, as a foreigner, I was a target for cheaters. I protested that after 22 years in China, and speaking Chinese, there was no danger. But he insisted, \take care of you!\which I longed for. I paid exactly 30 percent of the starting price. My friend said: \by myself .

When time came to go to Shipin Jie, a street specialized in food products, I would have gone on foot if I were alone. But the old man walked so slowly that we finally took a small electric transporter.

After I bought the da ma hua and some souvenirs, my friend said it was time to go to the train station otherwise I \I intended to visit the Italian-style town with its bridge ornate with golden sculptures, the ancient buildings of the French and the German areas, and observe the changes in the city after so long. All that had become impossible unless I could convince my bodyguard to return home and let me free to visit alone.

\afraid. Please, go back home and have a good rest.\for you here. It's my responsibility to protect you,\

Seeing that I would never win, I decided to give up. My friend didn't know how to go to the station. Again, I - the foreigner - enquired, and we took bus 634 to Tianjin Zhan. I begged him not to accompany me till there. Yet he insisted: \you get your ticket, not before.\

I had secretly planned to buy an evening ticket, say goodbye to my clinging companion, and return alone in the city after his departure. But he followed each of my movements. Finally, I quit Tianjin at 11:50 am, and arrived in Beijing, frustrated and unhappy, 28 minutes later.

This is to say: Those who want to do too much for their friends may impose on them, hinder their plans, and become unpleasant. I also want to tell autonomous travelers, who are heading to a place as tourists, not to announce their visit to their friends, and above all, not to accept their hospitality.

This was the second time I went through such situation, but I swear there will never be a third one.

Lost in translation an everyday occurrence

By Lisa Carducci ( China Daily )Updated: 2013-07-30 08:11:56


When my mother visited China at the age of 73, she said it was the first and would be the last time. Being an independent woman, she liked to go out by herself, without a guide or an interpreter. To her complaint, I replied: \\meaning?\

Two years ago, in ,Ningbo and Wuhan, I was asked my view on the recent standardization of topographic names. Should Minzhu Bei Lu be translated into Democracy North Rd. or North Democracy Rd.? The problem is not there, but what is the use for a foreign tourist to know that minzhu means democracy if he can't ask his way in English to a passer-by or a taxi driver? He could have more chance to get an answer if asking for Minzhu Bei Lu, whatever the tones are.

Another problem is the choice of road, avenue, boulevard, drive, street, lane, alley, for the Chinese %used in translation in , or .

Imposing \to all the non-Chinese visitors creates another problem. Not all the visitors are English speakers, and \

Regarding individual names as well as foreign companies, products and organizations names, I strongly recommend that the original name be kept, between parentheses, following its translation.

For the Chinese, the meaning of a character and its beauty prevail on its sound to the point that it’s often impossible to imagine, from its Chinese translation, what the original name was. For example, Yashi Landai is translated as 雅诗兰黛. I admit that these characters are appropriate for a person who is in the field of cosmetics and beauty. But phonetically, who could guess that Ya-Shi- Lan-Dai is the famous Estee Lauder? It could have been translated 爱丝缇老德儿, which is closer to the original pronunciation. But the Chinese translate for themselves, not for the non-Chinese, and they make a piece of of each translation.

Names of foreign actors in casts, or artists in museums, often become unrecognizable once translated.


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