About Lorraine Liu

Major in accounting, but dont worry, I am nothing like the old-fashioned accountants who suck at everything else but adding numbers. Im working at building up the images of chinese people by unveiling every "weird behavior" you saw on us:-P check out@ watchingthechinese.wordpress.com

Festivals!

  Soon it will be Christmas!! Yes, in Chinawe have Christmas. Though we don’t celebrate it the same way as yours, we celebrate Christmas like every other western festival imported to China– we eat and get together with friends, after work.
  Although I cannot shake the idea that I’m going to have one extra day off on Christmas, it’s better to introduce to you some traditional Chinese festivals first.
  Spring Festival — This is the most important festival for Chinese, and probably you have already heard of it on news before. Basically it’s the lunar New Year and every family get together at the New Year eve waiting for a brand new start to begin. It’s a 15 days of firework, by the night of the Lantern Festival (15th day of the 1st lunar month), spring festival is officially over and everyone goes back to work. In 2012 the lunar New Year will begin on January 23rd. It’s impossible to write down all the details in one post, but I’m thinking I will give you daily-posting from the day Chinese begin to prepare for this big festival!

  Dragon Boat Festival (the 5th day of the 5th lunar month) – It’s a festival commemorating the ancient poet Qu Yuan. Chinese celebrate this day by eating a traditional food – Zong Zi. One of my friends has told me about his first time dealing with Zong Zi: “Aw…It’s sticky!” There are dragon boat competitions in southernChina which represents the way people search for QuYuan when he committed suicide in 278 BC.

  Tomb-sweeping Day (usually around 5th day of 4th lunar month)– On this day, Chinese go visit their relatives who passed away by cleaning their tombs and putting fruits and food beside the tombs (in this way those who passed away can have a nice meal in the other world). Amazingly, it is always raining on this day, it’s like the tears from the above world.

  Mid-autumn Festival (15th day of the 8th lunar month) – It is said the moon is the roundest at this time of the year. Round shaped is always standing for something fully fulfilled and perfect. Family members get together and share moon cakes (which are also round shaped).
  Besides all the traditional ones, Chinese also celebrate the Christmas, New Year (Of course!), Valentine, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day.. Sometimes when it gets so real that I can even have a day off on Christmas! You might ask what’s my plan on this day, well, I will treat it like every other Sunday in this year, but thanks to the Christmas discount I might go shopping!
  Western festivals became so popular since early 2000s, retailing companies introduced them to Chinese when people have extra money to spend on things other than necessities. Honestly speaking, most western festivals equal to shopping festivals to Chinese (while at the same time, you can also find out people in church who really believe in Christmas spirit). Friends get together after work and have dinner together then they spend some time together.
  But as more and more Chinese begin to pursue a work-life balance, I believe there’s still huge potential for further development with more and more festivals being introduced to Chinese. On the other side, Chinese, especially those aged between 18 and 30, show a great interest in and positive attitude towards Western festivals. I believe it won’t take long till Chinese begin to appreciate the meaning of western festivals other than just consider them as shopping discount day.

Invitations for peeking!

Chinese keep an eye on everyone else.

In traditional Chinese culture, there was no such a word as “Privacy” before it was imported in China from western culture. Collectivism gives us a moral responsibility to keep an eye on others, to look out for the neighborhood, and to help them out when needed. So Chinese all naturally have a sense of sharing and caring, to make sure no one is left behind or forgotten. I remember when I was on my first day of internship, I sat in a corner of the whole finance office. Nobody could see me from unless they intentionally made a U turn and came to where I was positioned. But surprisingly, our head manager of this whole department came to my desk just before lunch break and int roduced me to a colleague, with whom I could have lunch with.

But a drawback in this genetic monitoring system is that Chinese sometime pay too much attention on others but less on themselves. If one has too much attention like this, s/he must be living in other’s expectations instead of his/her own. This explains why most of the teenagers want to go to colleague without having a slightest interest in their majors. And, of course, an extra amount of unwanted attention. Last week when I managed to make a progress at my last piece of WatchingTheChinese writing on my laptop during lunch break, two guys sitting by my side all put on their glasses and tried very hard to figure out what I was doing. And they didn’t even bother to keep it secret, because later on one of them just asked me in a very LOUD voice: “Can you tell me what is the writing about? I can’t quite see it from here.” If stare leav es a burning mark, the back of my sweater must be in ashes.

Hey, is that Chinese behind you peeking at this blog now?

Standing-Out & Fitting-In

In the last three weeks, I almost used up my lifetime volume of group study and group work during company training. My Intercultural Communication teacher once taught me about Collectivism vs. Individualism, stating that westerner emphasis more on expressing individual opinions while Chinese love about fitting-in. Although this is not always true in a highly accelerated nation like China, everyone is fighting their head off to catch every opportunity — nobody pays attention to whether do it in an old fashioned and artistic way. But in occasions where no personal benefit related, you can easily identify or trace back to those lovely fitting-in attitudes.
The basic definition of fitting-in is to play at average level. That means, not too bad, not too good, everyone is just like everyone else. Ancient philosophy promotion of being modest has everything to do with it. Standing out means drawing all the attention on one single person, and since Chinese value collaborate work more than individual talent, standing-out could be mistakenly translated by other Chinese as “Oh, s/he wants all the credit!” or “S/he is so proud. S/he doesn’t care anyone else but her/himself!”. Of course, if this shinning performer doesn’t delivery a good speech, the audience will definitely bring the heaviest rock they have while aiming it at the stage (Only mentally.).

Another reason why fitting-in is still popular in 21 century China is that Chinese don’t like the confrontation between different ideas. It’s always faster to get to a conclusion with everyone agreeing on one thing. And Chinese always think and consider what are the other options proposed by group mates. So unless what the majority voting for is totally silly and absurd, Chinese will think about it, convincing themselves, and finally, accept it. For those disagreements, Chinese will bring it up in a peaceful way, either in the form of a question, or kindly suggestions.

But every group has its strongest muscle. What this piece of poor thing should do to avoid this inherent disaster? Keep in mind the two points above and provide personal opinions in a delightful and uncertain way: “I have an idea, I don’t know if it’s the best solution here, I will just walk you through my thinking patter, correct me for anything you noted, please interrupt me anytime.”

Another important notice under fitting-in is that every Chinese has some unique yet smart ideas, they are just too shy to express them all out. You will just have to dig harder to find out.

(BTW, WordPress has been blocked in Mainland China. I will have a very hard time crossing that firewall in the future:(…..)

The I-Don’t-Know-You-That-Much-Code

    Sorry, it’s been a while since last time I updated. I didn’t mean to take this long to finish this one, but things just kept popping up all the time!

 

    The I-Don’t-Know-You-That-Much-Code was first noticed on my Facebook account.

    The thing is, there is a twin website called Renren.com in China. Since Facebook has been blocked in MainlanChina, the RenRen is quite popular here. And if you have a Facebook page, you will know where to check out how many “Friends” a person has on Facebook. I did a very simple survey today (Actually I’m afraid it is not even qualified as a survey, it only cost me 10 minutes..), I picked out 8 random people on Facebook and Renren each, then calculate the average number of “Friends” for the two websites. The results show that Facebook scores high by 792.5 “Friends”/person, while Renren only has 407.2“Friends”/person.

    Well..This “survey” is obviously biased, due to the number of sample size and the manual selection method. But it is a fact that Chinese people have a narrower circle when it comes to friends. And I believe one of the reason contributing to this fact is that Chinese people don’t get close to others that easily. It takes extra efforts to shorten that distance in between. You may argue that most Chinese are pretty friendly and warm hearted, yes they are. They will give you a full explanation of how the Seven-day National Holiday works, they will give you a ride home after a late working night ends, they might even volunteer taking care of your cats when you are planning to travel for a long time. But let’s face it, what is really going on under that fancy “CARPET”?

 

    Ok, let’s take a look at how many ways a Chinese can make a new friend:

People I know from University: This one could be easier since universities are basically where youth catch up with peers. But under this scenario, the new guy has to be REPEATEDLY presented to us before we enter a new contact in our phones.. Ie. The two are both stuck in same research groups or study activities, thus have to endure all the painful tasks or celebrate any success they manage to achieve.

People from Work: Normally, people from work are ALWAYS people from work. You don’t want them to mess up with your careers by spreading out who’s your one night stand last weekend. But there are exceptions, you can meet your best buddy in the bathroom while trying to sneak out having a cigarette. Generally speaking, you should always put up some guards for your colleagues. Among Chinese, it’s more than just true. I’ve been told more than 5 times by different people that I should keep a certain distance from colleagues. Bleeding examples of confronting a passive-aggressive colleague are countless. Since colleagues are going to work together on an everyday basis, it is required be friendly above the “carpet”.

People from Clubs/Bars/Pubs: I have to say: Most Chinese don’t go to these places that often. It’s a social rule that people in Clubs/Bars/Pubs are bad.(Stupid, I know, but still..Oldschool concept passing down from our mums and dads.) If you must say “No! They definitely DO go to bars all the time!”, well, I really can’t think of any of my friends who’s such a party animal except those works in a band.

People I know from public places other than Clubs/Bars/Pubs: Such as restaurants, Café. Except the fact that Chinese food can be really tricky sometimes (ie. Noodles with half in my mouth and the other half hanging down from my chin),I’d love to have a nice conversation during a meal. Actually, food is a really important part of every Chinese. InBeijing, we even say “Have you eaten or not?” instead of “How was your day?”. It is a very convenient way to build up a close friendship in a comparably short time. (My high school teacher even called it “effective and efficient”) So if you want to know more about a certain Chinese: Invite him/her to dinner.

People introduced by my friends: This could be the most reliable way meeting with new friends. The “agent” is someone close to us which can make we feel safe and easier to drop that invisible “Great Wall” to have a soul-handshake. But still, it depends on a lot of things other than just this “agent”.

    It all lies in the big word TRUST. Chinese can “like” you very much, but deep down they might not trust you at all. We spend a lot of time judging whether a certain person is trustworthy enough to be “under our carpets”, so that we can share the most intimate feelings and secret stories hidden below. While at the same time, we spend an equal amount of time making ourselves look good to those “above our carpets”, by warm greetings and helping hands. It takes a lot for us to “know” someone, even when we act like “you are my best buddy”. Yes it does sound code, and if someone breaks this code by crossing the line, it is time for us to act weird: Oh, sorry I can’t. I don’t think I know you that much.

My Most Favorite Spot in Beijing, China

    Finally got through all those preparation work for my new job this week.. Actually I felt bad about me hating my new job, considering I haven’t even started it yet. So I decided to take myself out for a short-yet-magnificent trip today:BeiHaiPark–My Most Favorite Spot inBeijing.

    If you ever been to Beijing, you probably already know all the places foreigners love so much – Sanlitun, Houhai, Liduo or Xiushui. You can grab a beer and have a wonderful afternoon with your friends at all these places. But, every now and then, you might also want to stay away from alcohol, work, skyscrapers, or even those chinese ladies who like foreigners so much that they can literally be glued to your coat.. BeiHai is the place you would LOVE to go.

    For those who likes to know a full introduction of BeihaiParkand its glamorous history, pls. check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beihai_Park . But to normal people, here’s all you need to know:

    BeihaiParkis one of the largest imperial parks inBeijing. Located within the second ring ofBeijingcity area makes it lot easier to get to, compared with theSummerPalaceor other royal parks situated in or on the mountains… If you want to enjoy somewhere green and refreshing inBeijing, but are too lazy to get your ass on a car driving at least for 1 hour to get to a decent park, then Beihai is your best option. There are basically three parts in here, the general area, the White Dagoba tower, and the Circular Wall. For the general area, ticket is RMB 10 (around $1.6), and a discount price of RMB 5 for students (They even accept student cards for exchange students and those in grads school!). With an extra visit to the White Dagoba tower and the Circular Wall, ticket is RMB 20, and RMB 15 for student. The joint ticket is highly recommended coz it’s SO cost efficient. Forgive me for being too “accounting” at this point, but RMB 5 more could give you the best spot ofBeijingcity: once you get on the top of the White Dagoba tower, it would definitely catch your eye for the views of Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and even ZhongNan Hai (The military and political centre ofChina)! Ha! Who doesn’t want that!

    Alright, I think I’m done with all those talking. Let me show you some of the photos I took today. Considering I don’t have a first class professional camera (According to my research, which is positively related to the quality of photos taken..), hope they dont turn you down. 🙂

An overview of Beijing City, sorry that its been so foggy today.

Shhhh, it really is part of Zhong Nan Hai, the only part which is visible to civilian.

The White Dagoba tower.

Hey! An accidental Chinese hippy! Haha! But secretly, I think his bag rocks.

 

 

(Adding photos to this blog can be really exhausting! Hoo…)

SEX

This blog is a supplement to previous blog “Chinese Love Life”. Check out more information at https://watchingthechinese.wordpress.com/2011/08/07/chinese-love-life/

 

    Firstly, I really do wanna slap myself of being such an idiot: How could I possibly forget this very special ingredient of the “Love Life”—SEX!!

    OK. As a well known fact that Chinese people are very conservative, so basically there’s no need to explain why Chinese are also VERY conservative when we come across “sex”. Even the last generation (ie. People born in 1970s) consider “SEX” forbidden before legal marriage. “Virgin” seemed to be much more important and glorious than being a good wife and a good mother. At that time, people didn’t talk about sex in public and (I guess its probable that) they might not even talk about sex with their partners. For some reason, society had considered sex was something everybody should be ashamed of. You could do it privately but you were not supposed to say it out loud, much less you should enjoy it. The direct consequence of this awkward way of considering sex as nothing but a “baby machine”, is that kids usually have absolutely NOOOOO idea where they come from…

    When I was between 6 and 8, curiosity drove me to ask my dad this question which everybody else must had a same experience.

    Me: “Daddy Daddy, where do babies come from?”

    After staring at me for a very long time that it felt like a century, he finally said, emotionlessly: “Go away.”

(This is actually a very good example of the Social Awkward Code. Chinese often find a way to ignore or pretend to overlook a very awkward question/situation to avoid the embarrassment. I know I know, it’s ineffective and totally childish. But in our defense, we do it for our benefit: To erase the uncomfortable feelings which is eating us up during the ice cold silence… Hahaha, maybe a little bit exaggeration here, but doesn’t make it less true.)

    But I might have told you so many times that things have changed a lot in the past decade. Youth now know pretty damn well about sex. In fact we know more about safe sex than our parents. When two people at their twenties, they both know they should be responsible for their behavior. So enjoy the pleasure brought by a spectacular sex or stay virgin (which is still the symbol of purity) are all available options. But the decision is very hard to made since moral standards is changing every time in everyone’s heart. Some couples may have sex after 3 or 5 dates, while others may keep away with it until one year later, or even after marriage.

    But the truth is, there are “limitations” on sex even in my generation. For example, usually when good boy had sex with a good girl that means the boy should be responsible for the girl; we never talk about sex with our parents, in fact even if our parents ask “Are you still a virgin?” (which normally wont happen in chinese family, coz our parents automatically think we don’t have any sex life.) we nod our heads and assure them their baby daughter are still pure white as the wedding dress.

    Well, as the next generation is getting more and more crazy. I bet they would come up with some brand new ideas about this topic. Maybe in their twenties they can be 100% honest with their parents and the society that they have sex and the sex feels pretty good. So, I say, lets see. Ha.

Chinese Love Life

    Yesterday is the lunar date of Chinese valentine’s day. Girls have been expecting the gifts from boyfriends since weeks ago. Rose-selling people started marching up along the street at the lunch time. Word on the TV said thousands of couples getting married yesterday. Being single made me the only person who hung around on the Internet, wondering when is the so called Mr.Right gonna arrive on his pure white horse back.. Nahhh..Lets just talk about something not-so-dreadful. Hmmmm. How about Chinese Love Life?

     Generally speaking, LOVE is pretty much the same in all countries. But the way of people meeting their love and the way people expressing their love are quite different. Being Chinese makes us pretty shy at expressing our undying love fire to other people. Although as the world is becoming “flatter and flatter”, the new generation is having some fun at their love life/affair. One night stands, cheatings, twisted relationships, etc. Amazingly, Chinese really catch up with the international level. But what I want to tell you is a more traditional process of “Falling in love with a good girl/boy”.

Date:

    Usually, Chinese don’t start dating until the two know each other very well. For example, being classmates for years or he’s-a-friend-of-my-best-friend. Until recent years, “Dating” was still considered to be events happen during relationships. Once you start dating, that usually means you are about to be in a relationship soon. I think it shows a sign of responsibility, at least avoids the awkwardness of “Lets not meet each other any more” after an undesirable first-date. You don’t fool around and date several persons at the same time even before you get involved in a relationship. Dating several persons at the same time is considered cheating, even for now.

    And another thing is about age. Teenagers are not allowed to be in a relationship or dating or having anything to do with the opposite sex before colleage. The wild teenagers are often called to the principle office together with their mums. They may even get suspended from school for holding hands with a young man. All you should do at this age is studying.(See more in previous blog: Education)

Relationship:

    Ok, nail down the first date and several dates after that. You are good to go to the relationship. I’m not quite sure about this part. Coz from what I’ve heard and what I’ve been through, this is what usually happens: After several dates, the two are feeling quite comfortable being with each other, feeling warm when thinking of him/her, with no further difficulties in sight (ie. Long distance, religious problem, difficulties related to money and income.), well, basically you are in a relationship. What matters is give a title to the two people and that’s it.

    But what is the difference between a date and a relationship? If the “commitment” is the answer, then I don’t think I see it on chinese people.(Maybe it rarely exists.) I mean, most chinese wont draw a line of commitment and discuss it with the partners. Then some of chinese may not even know what is commitment, coz when something going wrong, they believe a simple word “sorry” could solve all the problems. Abortions are really common nowadays (although the promotion of one child policy partly contribute to it), and people can even get married with only aiming of reproduction. I think that’s one thing we chinese still have to learn in our love life.

    Anyways. The rest of the story goes very similar to your story. Getting married, have kids, live happily ever after(will it?).

Marriage:

    Marriage is a big part of everyone’s life. If a woman at her 20s still have no sign of having a boyfriend, the parents and grandparents would be really asking about the same question every chance you see them: “When do you give us some grand children?” or should I just type in “Child”. And with the old tradition of bringing more kids means bringing more prosperity into the family, so almost every couple is having a baby or two(If the couple are able to pay the fine of the second child). And divorce rate inChina(0.79 per 1,000 people 2004) is way below the international average(1.3 per 1,000 people), which shows the commitment do exist in the marriage. Parents are normally very responsible for their child. Being collectivism makes parents forget about their individual benefit and think more for the Big Family. Take my parents for example, they have lived for 24 years. When I was a child, they used to fight a lot. But amazingly, after enduring for twenty more years they are getting along with each other better and better! Although one must say their love has become family-love already, but I still think its good.

    Its Love after all.