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Rude Parents?


Pianote
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I was getting food today and a student and her dad were in line in front of me. She saw me, whispered to her dad who I was, he looked back at me and turned around and said "umph"...and the girl laughed.

 

 I noticed whenever I would see the parents (the school is like a military school) they wouldn't say anything.

 

Should I be worried. I am a Black American woman, btw.

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If that's the worst experience you've had with parents, then count yourself lucky.

 

My guess is that the father does not speak English well if at all and he was uncomfortable at being put on the spot by his daughter to greet you.

 

If you had taken the initiative and said, Ni hao! though, you almost certainly would have gotten a warm greeting in return.

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Did you smile at them or/and say “hi” too? If you had done that and they ignored or looked at you and laughed then that is rude indeed. If you didn’t then if it was me I would have initiated it no matter what the response is. Since I expect people to be polite and friendly I would be willing to initiate contact in public, otherwise I wouldn’t get offended if people ignore me. 

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@889   Umm no. I would always speak. I'm from the southern United States. I was always taught to acknowledge people when seeing them. Not doing so  was considered rude.

 I was out with my  mom, we saw my teacher in the mall and we stopped  and had a conversation with her. Common decency.

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You're probably reading into it too much. If there is any racism its generalIy not to your face but it doesn't sound like it to me. I think in these situations its good to initiate a hi to your student to break the ice so to speak. 

Remember many Chinese after naturally conservative compared to other races.

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5 hours ago, Pianote said:

Is that some Chinese thing? Looking back at someone and whispering about them in their face without speaking ?

 

I don't know about China but it's pretty common in HK. I grew up in UK I don't find it good manners. It bugs me but I sorta got used to it after many years.

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The grunting is definitely a Chinese thing. What else is the dad supposed to say when his daughter’s like “omg dad look it’s my teacher lol!”

 

How is your Chinese? If you want to have interactions with people, you’re going to have to initiate them yourself. You could wave, you don’t have to smile if you’re not feeling it. If I have my Southern USA stereotypes right, aren’t you supposed to say hi to strangers on the street and say something like “how are you?”

 

It sounds like you’re encountering norms that you’re not used to and one way of dealing with it is to change your behaviour, and another is to just confidently do what you’d normally do and see how it goes.

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Sounds to me like your insecurity and social ineptness are making your interactions much more troubling and unsatisfactory than they would normally be. 

 

How would the scene have played out if you had taken the initiative and said, loud and clear, "Oh hello Xiao Li. So good to see you here at the grocery store. (Big smile.) This must be your Dad. (Stick out your hand to shake hands with him.) So happy to have a chance to meet you, Sir. Your daughter is really a star. Such a pleasure to be her teacher." 

 

Suddenly, this little interaction would no longer have been about you. It would have been about them. And about your reaching out to them in a kind, warm and friendly manner. 

 

Instead, you went all neurotic, and crawled deeper into your shell, justifying that course of action by silly conjectures about how they should have behaved towards you. That is not the way to succeed here, as a teacher or as a person. 

 

I'd say you need a huge attitude adjustment in order to survive. I realize it may not be possible, in which case you will wind up going home after a year all angry, hurt, and bitter, grousing about the way people mistreated you in China. 

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That diagnosis is a bit strong, isn't it? This isn't really the place for psychoanalysis, and it can be hurtful.

 

I do think from some of the posts the OP has made here that she's probably in a fairly provincial environment and feels a bit out of place there. If she were in someplace cosmopolitan, like Shanghai, I suspect she'd be more comfortable, both at the school and in the community.

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2 hours ago, 889 said:

That diagnosis is a bit strong, isn't it? This isn't really the place for psychoanalysis, and it can be hurtful

Perhaps. But the OP is insisting on applying her culturally-based social etiquette ("rude") to people in a cultural so utterly different than the one she comes from.

 

1 hour ago, hbuchtel said:

to the OP: I would call this normal behavior - nothing personal, no offfense intended. 

Agreed. Pretty simple here.

 

I would point out that the rude one in this story might have been the OP as the teacher and not letting the father know that you recognize your own student. You're gonna need to drop your hard learned lessons on what is rude and what isn't rude from your upbringing. Things you may think are rude are normal here and things you may think are done to be polite might come off as extremely rude here. Time to start reading up on social customs in China, or even better, asking local people in your community since social norms are very localized in China.

 

EDIT: "Black American woman": I'd recommend you connect with other black people living in China. All my black friends in China have encountered gross amounts of subtle and overt racism. You might find a support group crucial to enjoying your time in China.

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Always acknowledge your students and their parents with a friendly greeting if you bump into them outside of school. The parents will always appreciate it, and the kids will, too, even if at the time they appear shy or embarrassed.  My students (young kids) always brag to each other if they see me outside of school. Of course teens wouldn't do this, but I think they appreciate you acknowledging them anyway. 

 

Also, get used to Chinese staring at you and whispering about you as if you aren't there. That's just how it is. Don't assume what they are saying is negative. More often than not, it's just innocent (yes, and sometimes ignorant) curiosity.

 

 

 

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I would also add that "umph" may have been 嗯 (en in pinyin, sounds like "un"). This is the laziest and most common way to say "yes" or "I see" (in acknowledgement of sth) in Chinese. It is pretty much the only way I say yes after learning Chinese many years.  So if she said sth like "that's my teacher" it would be likely her dad would reply with this utterance.

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