Photo: Matthew Stinson
Say Japan is better than China
For your personal safety, it’s best you stay out of any discussions about China’s rivalry with Japan. Many of us are still bitter about the Japanese occupation of China during WWII and the government’s refusal to apologize for the Nanjing Massacre. The continuous debates over the Senkaku Islands only add to the dispute. To suggest that Japan is superior will instantly stir patriotic feelings and very angry protests. At the very least, you’ll be treated as an ignorant laowai and be given a three-hour history lesson.
Complain that there are too many people
Really? Where are they? We hadn’t actually noticed!
Sarcasm aside, I’m well aware that there are 1.3 billion of us and approximately 44,000 more enter the world every day. We went to elementary school with eighty students in our class and we hate waiting in long lines as much as you. We also hate squeezing through people to get on subways and cross the street. But we’ve been dealing with this since we were born, so we don’t want to hear your complaints. In fact, when we travel or move abroad, we often miss renao, the warm feeling of being surrounded by a lively and noisy crowd.
“I love Chinese food! Let’s have sweet and sour pork, fried rice, and fortune cookies.”
There’s no such as thing “typical” Chinese food. We have four main styles of cuisine — Chuan, Su, Yue, and Lu — each with its own favors, traditions, and cooking methods. I’d never heard of sweet and sour pork before visiting Canada, and while it’s influenced by Cantonese cuisine, it’s barely recognizable in comparison to the original. Fried rice is cooked from leftover rice, and we avoid it, preferring to spend cash on braised lobsters, spicy hotpot, or dim sum. And fortune cookies were invented in America, by the way.
Assume we must be from Beijing
Beijing might be the capital city of China, but that doesn’t mean we’re all from there. Even those of us who live in Beijing are often beipiaozhu, visitors who have “migrated north” to the city for work or study. If we name a place you’re not familiar with, don’t be surprised, and please, don’t ask us if it’s “a tiny village.” With rapid urbanization, China has hundreds of cities you’ve never heard of, and a small town can be home to a million people.
“Do you really eat dogs?”
We’ll roll our eyes when we hear this, because you are the hundredth person to ask it. Let’s make this clear: we love dogs. They’re adorable. If you walk around our parks, you’ll run into pugs and Chihuahuas everywhere.
Yes, some Chinese people eat dogs. Others find it disgusting. It’s a personal choice, not a cultural one. But either way, we don’t fuss over it. With centuries of war, famine, and unrest, we’re not picky eaters. Stir-fried frog’s legs? Check. Stewed pig’s feet? Yup. Roasted lamb on a stick? Great.
If we invite you to try delicacies, that’s because we want to give our guests the best. Five Flowers Beef and Tingly Madam’s Tofu don’t sound appetizing, but blame that on the translator’s terrible Chi-nglish. The dishes themselves are savory and delicious.
Make us diulian
The surefire way to make a Chinese person your enemy is to cause them to diunian, roughly translated as ‘undergo humiliation’ or ‘lose social status.’
Some ways to make people lose face include criticizing someone’s personality, upbringing, or work ethics in a front of a group, or without asking for permission, reveal people’s secrets or embarrassing personal details (think ugly photos or break-ups). And never, ever rant about poor hospitality or complain about someone’s cooking skills.