Archive for August, 2007

Politeness amongst close friends

Monday, 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.


Giving opinions

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

Lately I’ve noticed another cultural difference that I thought I’d point out. This difference doesn’t bother me personally, but I’ve heard many people I know comment on it. This difference is regarding when and how to give other people your personal opinion. I think westerners are cautious when giving their opinions, if the opinion is negative. (Of course I am not talking about everyone, but just in general). The example comes about when I tell people about this website. I tell many people about it, both Chinese and western. The responses are quite different.

I’ve noticed that in general when I tell a westerner about this website, they say, “Oh that sounds like a good idea” or something very general. If they seem more interested they ask “How’s it going? Are you making money?” “How many people visit the site?” or “How much money was it to start?” If the person is very close to me, like a best friend or a family member, they will ask me many more questions and talk more about it. They might give me their negative opinions as well. I’m just talking about westerners who I don’t know very well, or I just met.

When I tell asian people I just met, they almost always give me their opinions, even without me asking them. It doesn’t bother me. I like it actually because it gives me ideas. Some people tell me they love the website. Some people tell me its ugly. Some people tell me it should be in other languages. Some say I should pay for advertising. Some say they believe it will be a big success. Some say they don’t think this will work because of some reason. I’ve heard hundreds of different things. I know that all of these people are trying to help me, so it doesn’t bother me. I’m used to it done this way. Its just an interesting cultural difference.

I’m sure that the westerners have many different opinions as well about the website. In my experience they seem to keep their opinions to themselves, and just ask questions. We have an expression called being a “know it all”. This is a person who always shares their opinions without anyone asking for them. In our culture this is generally seen as a bad thing. This is why we are very cautious when giving our opinions. I think that our culture says we should keep our opinions to ourselves unless someone asks us for them. Of course we don’t always do this, but I think that is what we believe we should do. If we really do have some advice for someone, we are very very sensitive about how to mention it. We often say something like, “I’m sure you know much more than me about this but I was thinking that maybe paying for advertising would be a good idea. What is your opinion about that?” We would think it is a little rude to just say, “I think you should pay for advertising. Well that’s my opinion” If someone just said that, we would feel that person thinks they really know a lot. This is especially true if you are commenting on something that you don’t really have a lot of personal experience with. If I asked a westerner who already made a very successful website, it is more likely that he or she would just give their opinion because its a topic they know about. We would see it as somewhat disrespectful if some person who doesn’t make websites just freely gave their opinions. We would wonder, “Why do they think they know more than me about this. They don’t even have any experience with this”.

So remember, I don’t really care and I love to hear comments about this website. I just want to say that in general, if you don’t want to upset anyone or sound like a “know it all” then you should be very careful before giving other people your opinions if they don’t ask for them. If you really want to share your opinion, then its better to ask a question. If you ask, “what do you think about paying for advertising?” you are showing that you respect them. This way still shows your opinion without acting like a “know it all”. A question like that is a much safer way to give your opinion. This is especially important to remember in a business environment.

Please share your thoughts. Ha ha. See, I asked for your opinions so feel free to share them.


Hot Toddy

Sunday, August 12th, 2007

These last few days I could feel a cold coming on. You know the feeling. Right before you get sick you start to feel a little tired and your body just doesn’t feel right. Add has been sick this past week and I was afraid I might catch it. I decided to try something that I’d never tried before to keep me from getting sick. A hot toddy. A hot toddy is a hot drink that you are supposed to have before you go to sleep if you feel like you might catch a cold soon, or you already have a cold. I really liked it and I recommend that you try it the next time you are in this situation. Here is how to make the drink.

How to make a Hot Toddy

1. You squeeze some lemon juice into a glass.

2. Add a tablespoon of honey.

3. Add some boiling water and stir. Wait a minute or two for it to cool down a little.

4. Add a shot of whiskey into the glass.

5. Drink it.

Its easy and I personally think it tastes pretty good, although some people disagree. It should warm you up inside and help you to sleep. Hopefully in the morning you will feel better. This is a drink that has a long history. I’m not sure how common it is today but its the kind of thing I’m sure my grandma would still have. I think a lot of people today would just take medicine.

I’d like to know what kind of traditional things people in your country do when they have a cold. Here is a link on the discussion forum where we can talk about this:

Hot Toddy Discussion

I’ll try your recommendation the next time I get sick.


University student life

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

I think that university life is quite similar in many different western countries, but I went to school in Canada so I’ll be talking about that. I think in Western countries, many people view university as the first chance for a person to become independent. It’s the first time a student lives away from home, the first time they have to do their own laundry, the first time they have to solve problems on their own. Of course we understand that the student must study hard as well, but we view studying as just one of the many parts of going away to university. Becoming intelligent, mature, independent, and responsible is a very important part of going away to school. Most parents try not to interfere too much with their child’s personal lives. The society sees these young students as young adults and gives them the chance to make their own decisions. Many people I’ve met in China find it surprising when I tell them that the dormitories are co-ed, which means that boys and girls live together. Some people tell me that it is the west being much more “open” to this sort of idea. I personally think that since we view the students as adults, we need to allow them to make their own adult decisions. Many parents don’t really like the idea of their son or daughter staying at their boyfriend or girlfriend’s house over night, but they see it as all a big part of growing up. They realize that it is not a good idea to control them. Western thinking is that it is ok to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. We value independence a lot.

Socializing, meeting new people, going to parties, participating in different clubs or activities, and playing sports, are all important parts of university life. Students learn to balance work, rest, and play. With that said, there are many different types of students who have all kinds of different lifestyles. Some people study really hard, go to all their classes, and keep to themselves. Some people go drinking all the time, stay up late every night, and then sleep in and miss most of their classes. Some people are seen at the gym playing basketball and exercising a lot. Some people seem to hang out all day in their dorms, socializing and playing video games with their friends. Most people do a variety of these things.

We have no such thing as a “headmaster”. If you miss all your classes, no one will say anything. No one will call your parents if you are out late drinking at the bars everyday. You are free to make your own good or bad decisions. You are encouraged to try new things, meet new people, and learn as much as you can about life. It is not seen as a good thing to stay in your room studying all day. Most people value a balanced life with studying, friends, maybe a boyfriend or girlfriend, hobbies and activities. If you apply to graduate school after your four-year degree, they will even ask you about your hobbies and interests. They also want a complete and “well-rounded” person, and not just a book-worm.

Please share your thoughts on our discussion forum.



Sunday, August 5th, 2007

I was asked how to use “get” in the sense of “get nervous” or “get drunk”. Thanks for your question IOIO. You said in your question that Chinese people say, “when I nervous” or “when I drunk”. That is incorrect. You can say “I am nervous right now”, or “I get nervous when I see snakes”, but you can’t say “I nervous”.

Here, “get” means “become”. We almost never say “become” in this way but that’s what it means. It is used with states or feelings that change. We can use it with “nervous”, “drunk”, “tired”, or “excited” because these are states that change. We aren’t always drunk for example, but we “get drunk” when certain things happen. ie. drink alcohol. We aren’t always tired but we “get tired” when we don’t sleep enough.

You could say, “I get really drunk if I drink too quickly”. Another is, “My friend gets nervous around beautiful women”.

You use “got” for the past tense. “I got really tired the last time I went running”. Or, “Sarah got really excited when she met that famous movie star”.

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