On 3rd July 1914, as Ivan Chen made his way down the steps of the Summit Hall building in Simla, he must have been aware of mixed feelings rising up inside him. He had done something which would have far reaching repercussions; and which would for years be remembered by many people on both sides of the Sino-Indian border, albeit in very different ways – He had just left the Simla conference.
After refusing to sign the agreement himself, he was made to sit in a separate room, and behind his back, was signed one of the most controversial and bizarre treaties in human history – The Simla accord.
For over a century, the intricacies of the border between India and China/Tibet have baffled scholars. In fact, the plot leading to the Simla conference and beyond actually plays just like a thriller movie or book. The sheer complexity of this problem can be judged by the fact that 36 rounds of negotiations have taken place between India and China at different levels since 1981; but they have yet to reach a settlement.
It seems the long held social custom of Shanghainese to walk down the street in their pajamas is causing some discomfort to the organizers of the Shanghai World Expo scheduled for next year and a campaign has been started by the municipal government to end the practice.
It’s not that unusual to see middle aged women milling around on the street in their pajamas, or even walking to the subway or local shopping mall. So the slogan “No Pajamas in Public – be Civilized for the Expo” has been coined to end what the government feels is uncivilized behavior in a modern, world class city. As China Daily columnist Raymond Zhou said recently in “In Defense of Pajamas”:
“So, it’s not really about whether we like it, but rather about whether we are liked. Again, it’s the quintessential concept of “face” and “saving face”.
Not many Chinese are shocked to see a street full of pajama-wearing pedestrians, but if international visitors feel squeamish about it we should stop doing it. Or so the implied rationale for the crackdown goes.”
The city’s tactic to stamp out street pajama wearers was to create a team of 500 volunteers to use persuasion at bus stops and other venues to convince pajama wearing Shanghainese residents to change their clothes.
Continue reading Shanghai Style: Pajamas in the Great Outdoors
Now that many non-Chinese have moved to China and many native Chinese live throughout the world, cross cultural dating has become far more common. For someone leaving mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong or Singapore and moving to a western country, what are some of the cultural pitfalls and traps you need to avoid and adjustments you need to make? For someone moving to any of those four areas, the same questions apply. Are the “rules” different for Chinese women dating outside their culture as compared to Chinese men doing the same?
My direct experience isn’t too pertinent since I met my wife in Phoenix and she had already been living in the States for nine years, but there were still many adjustments we (mostly I) had to make. She was the first Asian woman I had ever dated so I didn’t fall into the “yellow fever” category. However, when I was living in mainland China and Taiwan, I had a chance to observe, ask questions and learn more from others involved in cross cultural relationships.
Continue reading Cross Cultural Dating
I’m on an extended visit back to my hometown, Vancouver, a Canadian city full of Chinese. Chinese is the second-most commonly used language after English. My wife and I were running around a Chinese mall for fun to practice Mandarin and buy some Chinese DVDs when we overheard Chinese people talking about us in Mandarin saying, “Those foreigners are speaking Chinese!” I thought it was funny that even in Canada, Chinese people would call white people “foreigner” (in this case: “外国人”).
Continue reading (Letter from Joel) How should foreigners feel about being called “鬼子,” “鬼佬,” “老外,” etc.?
NPR once broadcasted an interview talking about why Asian students are better at math (if I can be excused) . The speaker explained that in these mostly agricultural societies, the mindset is you reap how much you plant, hence their greater commitment. In America, there is more emphasis on “working smart” than “working hard”. Translated into educational jargon, he is saying that time on task still makes a difference. Continue reading Numbers as Language
In a recent commentary in the Chronicle of Higher Education (March 6, 2009, A33), Professor Brockmann (professor of German at Carnegie Mellon University) pointed out that the study of foreign languages should not be a zero-sum game.His commentary is a response to the University of Southern California’s plan to eliminate the German Department to usher in studies of Eastern Asian languages such as Chinese and Japanese. I think he has got a point in saying that this is not a zero-sum game.
Continue reading German and/or Chinese?
In a previous discussion on Malaysia’s ethnic politics, I was surprised (and dismayed) to sense the depth of dejection some ethnic Chinese in Malaysia may feel toward the political situation in Malaysia. There however may be hope. Continue reading Can democracy be the solution to Malaysia's ethnic problems?
Just saw a China-related Post Secret (I swear it’s not mine! 😉 ). Continue reading (Letter) A China-friendly foreigner's Post Secret
Let’s be brutally honest… it’ll be both funny and enlightening!
The reality of culture stress applies to any kind of foreigner anywhere, though obviously different people have different experiences. I have no doubt that Mainlanders in North America are just as easily annoyed by Western culture as Westerns living in China sometimes are by Chinese culture. I assume they could easily whip up a list based on their own experiences of how culturally annoying different things are, and provide lots of personal examples. In fact, that’s what I’m hoping some of our Chinese readers will do.
Continue reading (Letter from Joel) Cultural differences: Let’s be brutally honest…