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Rude Parents?


Pianote
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I never got spontaneous nods & smiles from people in Beijing (or never that I recall, at least), but I found nodding & smiling an effective reply to people staring. It usually got me a nod & smile back. It's not entirely alien to the Chinese, I think they just don't bother in big cities (can't blame them). @Pianote, what happens if you are the first to nod & smile at the parents? If you don't know, perhaps you can experiment with this a bit.

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To be honest a nod and a smile between strangers is probably a once a year event where I'm from, but cities are often like that. 

 

@889

I'm never sure whether to take especial note of other non-Chinese or to pretend like it's just normal. I do remember once sharing a knowing smile with another very tall guy whilst standing head and shoulders above the crowds on Nanjing Road in Shanghai, but other than childish jokes people just keep to themselves.

 

(Disclaimer: I know Chinese people aren't really that short, but the particular crowd we were in happened to be hitting the stereotype bang on)

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Get loads of friendly greetings round the village, and can always strike up a chat with anyone hanging round the shop where a couple of old folk sun themselves and watch the world go by and people come to pick up couriered parcels. In my experience China is like home, there's not some over-arching set of national cultural behaviours, things vary by class and community and the rest, and situationally too of course - if I'm out with my daughter it's even easier to get chatting or smiles mostly for her. 

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Not that I can vouch for this first-hand, but it's always seemed to me that a dog would make a good icebreaker in China. Take it down every evening to the local walk-your-dog-place and chat about while your pooch is cavorting about.

 

Actually, you don't even need a dog. Just hang out a bit there, admire the dogs, and ask for advice about the breed you should get. You'll make some new friends, And maybe end up with a companion.

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It's true - I took in a dog at my old place in town and neighbours who'd previously just nodded now would stop to shoot the breeze, ask how old she was etc. She used to walk down the pub with me at night too and was a hit there as well.

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11 hours ago, LiMo said:

I do remember once sharing a knowing smile with another very tall guy whilst standing head and shoulders above the crowds on Nanjing Road in Shanghai,

I once shared a knowing nod & smile with a tall local guy on a Taipei metro. We both stuck a full head over the rest of the carriage (which included his girlfriend). It was a fun moment for me. I often felt freakishly tall in Taiwan, but in that moment I shared my tallness with a Taiwanese.

 

Dogs are an ice-breaker everywhere, I think, but if you don't know whether you'll settle in a country, it's probably not wise to get one. They live over ten years, after all. Best option might be to borrow one from a friend, if you happen to have dog-owning friends. But even then there is a risk that OP is nervous and appears closed-off and the other dog owners don't react warmly. It should be possible for OP to develop a smile & nod relationship with the parents of her students and other such acquantainces.

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I sometimes have the same feeling. And I'm white, so it has nothing to do with race. I think we are used to big smiles and exchanging pleasantries, while it's not part of their culture. They can also be very straightforward. I got asked a couple of times whether I'm married straight after being introduced to the parents. Found that a bit odd, but just smiled and answered. In general, a smile on your side is always a good idea to break the awkwardness. It will likely cause them to smile back, so I would go that way. 

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While I appreciate that the perceived coldness of students’ parents may not be much different between the two of your experiences, this doesn’t discount OP being black as a factor, as that will always be a factor as long as people have eyes and discriminate. How much it contributes to this particular interaction is difficult to say, but either way, the difference in norms is what is probably most significant.

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My kids are the ultimate ice breaker!  Some people will see that I'm a foreigner and so just mutter 好可爱啊 on their way past, but then I always laugh and it sparks a conversation.  The other common question is whether or not they are twins.  I've also had a few times when people openly stare, especially old people.  I found it quite disconcerting at first, but then I realized that if I look at them and smile they tend to come over and start chatting.  So, if you want the best ice breaker, and are willing to commit to even more than a dog, have kids in China hah!

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