10.03.2007

Staring

Firstly let me apologize about the recent lack of posting; my computer has been acting a little strangely for the past week (last night I came home and it was watching TV with the telephone). I'm not sure what's wrong but it has caused the follwing problems: All of my pictures have been erased, all of my music has been erased, I cannot download anything, and the list goes on. I have wanted to include pictures for some time, but the software is not recognizing the files. This being said, I wanted to share some of my thinking about Staring in China. Ken Harvey recently brought this up during a conversation and it has been a topic of concern lately. I will even give it a nice little title...

Staring

One of the most interesting aspects of the Chinese Culture is the relentless staring. Each volunteer (or anyone who goes to China for an extended period) goes through stages related to staring. For me, this has progressed very typically. Before we got to our sites we were told about staring and people saying "hello." This may not seem very strange, but it becomes so when it is incessant. And I notice it more when I'm in a bad mood.

I can classify people who say hello in many ways, but generally there are a few:

Some people will say hello in a friendly manner (especially children).

Some (generally older men) will say hello as soon as they see me just because they see I am a foreigner.

Others will be walking toward me on the sidewalk and whisper something to their friend, who will then look at me. They will stare at me and continue to talk until they pass me. After walking past me one of them will shout "hello!" at the back of my head.

The first two are no big deal. The third becomes a little unnerving. I must say that this is by no means how typical Chinese behave, and it is considered rude to do this by Chinese standards.

Nearly everyone will stare at me if they see me, and many people will generally fall into one of the three categories for saying hello.

Getting back to my main point, the hellos and staring become different as one lives here longer and longer. I have only been here a little over 3 months, and already I have felt many different things.

At first the staring and hellos were a little strange. I chalked it up to a new culture. I didn't worry about it, but found it rather interesting. After awhile I began to love it. The people were giving me so much attention! And it was free, guaranteed attention! All I had to do was show up. At some point, however, it began to bother me. I think this really hit me last week. I have been in my community for a month and people were still staring, pointing and whispering. I felt like this place was becoming "mine" the more time I spent here. It bothered me so much, in fact, that I had to think about it - really think about it. This is because it was causing me to feel like being rude as a reaction to the unwanted attention.

I came to the conclusion that I was internalizing the staring in the wrong manner. By identifying the behavior as staring, I missed the point entirely. The Chinese have no social rules about staring; if they find something interesting they have the "social" right to "stare" as long as they would like. For me to identify this action as staring was unfair to everyone. I am the guest in this culture. Bringing my expectations of how I should be treated is a huge, haughty mistake. It's a bit like walking into someone's house with mud on my shoes because I do that at home. This is not to say that I am feeling much better about the staring, but I more deeply understand my own thinking.

I am interested to see how my feelings continue to change. For now I just smile and wave. Like a movie-star.

23 comments:

#Johnny5ive said...

I feel for you when it comes to the staring/hello issue. As another foreigner working in China (I've been here for over a half a year now), I can understand all to well what it's like. I can see your point about the culture thing, but I don't think that excuses everyone. You can tell when someone is staring because they are genuinely curious or have never seen a foreigner before, but sometimes you can tell by the way they are grinning or snickering with their friends that they aren't just interested any more, they are looking to poke fun. That's where the Hellos come in, I believe that third group you describe are shouting hello just to mock or get a laugh out of their friends. They feign innocence about it, I've asked my students about it and they say that it's just being friendly, but if that were the case why wait until they are well behind us far away to do it?

I know there is nothing we can do about it, but it's good to know we (me and my other foreign coworkers) aren't the only ones frustrated with it.

Anonymous said...

" For me to identify this action as staring was unfair to everyone. I am the guest in this culture. Bringing my expectations of how I should be treated is a huge, haughty mistake. It's a bit like walking into someone's house with mud on my shoes because I do that at home. This is not to say that I am feeling much better about the staring, but I more deeply understand my own thinking."


Do you hear yourself? Man you sound like such a coward, I'm sorry. You need to take a closer look at yourself. You're a guest in their culture, you say? You're a man first aren't you? Aren't you entitled to respect? Have a little audacity and pride. THEY are the haughty ones. What if they think it's a nice gesture to beat you over your head? Would you welcome that and try to understand it? God what happened to us as a race? Cowardice... like the way you rationalize scorn and contempt from people who look down on you. That's why America and Europe is getting shafted by the rest of the world on so many levels, because people like you try to "understand them" and all that bullsh!t. Have you asked yourself this: Are they taking the same care to try to understand you?

Only a fool or a coward would allow others to disrespect him/her and then TRY TO EMPATHIZE with them! Show some pride, man. I'm not saying start a brawl, but don't let those chinese bastards make you feel bad.


"By identifying the behavior as staring, I missed the point entirely. The Chinese have no social rules about staring; if they find something interesting they have the "social" right to "stare" as long as they would like. "

Don't you have the right to demand respect as a man with dignity? They are sticking it to you, and you are trying to teach yourself to accept it? Damnit, why don't you go flog yourself as penance for breathing their precious air while your at it?

Show some pride in yourself. I'm sure you're a nice guy. Nothing wrong with that. But maybe you're being a bit too empathic with these people when you need to find a way to make a stand, even some small one, that can lead to change? Don't internalize their rude behavior.
Peace.

G.S YANG said...

Mr.Anonymous,
Calm down! Obviously, you have never been to China and I understand how indignant you feel when you imagine how the "Chinese Bastards" are shafting one of your fellow Americans or actually YOU, who have got such an overwhelming sense of pride. WOW! Actually,Dustin is respected and admired by both his students and Chinese colleagues here in this college. He has represented the true image of a young American who has done his best to help the local Chinese to understand America better instead of sitting at the computer howling like a redneck.
His being stared at has nothing to do with any intentional rudeness or disrespect. I believe there are rude and disrespectful people everywhere around the world who are so because of the lack of education or proper greeting skills. I'd hate to think that you call us Chinese bastards because you are uneducated or have now idea how to get your ideas across like a gentleman.

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