Friday, September 29, 2006
Don't Stand So Close To Me

I hope you don't mind the large graphic. I just love Sting.

Nonetheless, he has a point. And in China - Laiwu especially - it is completely overlooked. The "it" I'm referring to is personal space. The Chinese have no concept of its existence. In the States, the individual has rights, needs, and desires. Also built into our culture is the concept of each individual's "bubble" of personal space. Unless on a crowded subway or in close relations with another person, that space is not to be invaded at all costs. At the very least, we distance ourselves as much as possible, adjusting for the movement of people given the amount of extra room we have. People try to avoid each other walking down the street, and bumping into someone usually results in a harried, but apologetic, "excuse me."

Not in China.

In Beijing's tourist districts, beggars tug on your clothing. When walking down the street or waiting in line, people bump, push and shove. There isn't even an appropriate Chinese translation for the term, "excuse me." There's duibuqi, which roughly translates as I'm sorry. That usually refers to a larger transgression, but is about as close as it gets.

The thing that spurred this little rant was an invasion of privacy, somewhat innocuous, but which took me rather by surprise. As I was sitting and typing an email to a friend, a co-worker who was talking to my assistant walked right over, stood behind me, and began (trying to) read what I was typing. Not just glancing to see what I was up to, but actually staring, trying to make sense of the English on the screen. Interest in what I'm up to is one thing, but this is on a whole different playing field. I had to clench my teeth and fists to stop myself from leaping up in front of my screen and telling this co-worker a thing or two about respect for privacy.

I stopped myself because this is the way the Chinese are. It's in the way they're raised and their culture inculcated. Privacy and personal space are nothing to them because, in a country with overpopulation and no space to spare, they have no boundaries. They wouldn't understand my objection to reading over my shoulder or staring or tugging on my sleeve. Because if it doesn't bother them, why should it bother me?

I'd like to think that if increased building occurred in now underdeveloped areas - an increase in space - and there was an increase in focus on individual rights, it would it lead to a change in their behavior over time. I don't know if it's possible, let alone anytime soon. But it would certainly be nice to have some breathing room.
posted by Rachel @ 5:17 PM  
THE WILD WILD EAST: Everything you never knew you didn't know about life on the other side.
In China, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups. The Chinese, who call this land "home," and the expats who migrate here. My name is Rachel. I am an expat. These are my stories.
What You May Have Missed
A Brief Disclaimer:
This is a satirical site intended for the entertainment of an online audience. None of the features on this site are real (except in my own distorted view of reality), nor are they intended to harm the subjects mentioned. This site uses fictional names in all its stories, except in cases when public figures are being satirized or when I choose to use this site as a platform for someone's public humiliation (usually my own). Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental (or purposeful, but with good reason).

Despite the trivial nature of my random daily (sometimes weekly) musings, I hope you enjoy your stay at my site. If there is anything you need, don't hesitate to ring up the concierge, because I just travel in style like that. Have a pleasant stay and I hope that you will come see us again soon!

Thanks To
Free Blogger Templates
Blog Directory
Travel Blogs - Blog Top Sites
China Findouter
Ferienhaus Kroatien
Personal Statement Of Purpose
web page counter
Get a website hit counter here.
#1 Free Link Exchange Directory On The Web - Link Market