August 27th, 2007
I’ve noticed that in China, friends treat each other differently than they do in the west. Each culture respects their friends but they have different ways of showing it. In the west, it seems to me that it is more important to say words like “please and thank you” even to our closest friends. I’ve noticed that in China, these words are said less between close friends. In China it’s common for one person to pay for an entire dinner, and no one will directly say “thank you”. I’ve been told that if you are really close friends, you shouldn’t need to say these kind of formal words so often. I can understand that, but as a westerner, it still feels strange to me. I always say thank you in that situation and even smaller situations. Even if someone did a very small favor for me such as hand me a dish at the dinner table, I would still say “thanks”. We always say “thanks” in that situation. It feels strange to us to just take it without saying anything. If someone bought me something for less than $1 I would still thank them for it. I would say this to even my best friend. The word “thank you” is too formal, but a simple “thanks” is very much appreciated.
The word “please” is a little too formal between close friends for small favors, although if we ask for something we still try to do it in what we consider to be a polite way. We still ask for permission to do even small things. For example, let’s suppose I went to my best friend’s house and he had beer in the fridge. I know 100% sure that he will allow me to have one, but I would still ask him, “do you mind if I have a beer?” It would feel a little strange if I just went in the fridge and took a beer. I’ve been told by some close Chinese friends that they don’t ask for these things. They share everything and don’t talk about it. It seems natural in that culture to just take things without asking and give things without expecting to hear “thanks”. In our culture we say please and thank you. It’s just a different culture i guess, but I think it’s important to understand both.
Please share your thoughts and experiences.