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Mijin

Social faux pas regarding "huang dian ying"

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I'd very much just keep my mouth shut and move on. Otherwise you'll make them feel awkward for having made you feel awkward. 没事儿!

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2 hours ago, Mijin said:

BTW topics that these colleagues have brought up in the past include periods, abortions and let's just say sensitive events in China's recent history. But just mentioning the word porn is too much... go figure.

 

I think it takes years of association to make that sort of joke. Of course, a bit variable between different people and circumstances but years. I found this to be the case in HK. Sometimes, it’s a case of having shared some hard times on work projects will make people open more. I have certainly made a number of faux-pas in Hong Kong. In the end, if at work, I think being conservative about jokes on other people is a good option. 

 

However, if you want to lighten the mood by making a joke about yourself, that’s pretty ok. 

 

 

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Mijin

There is no joke in this thread on other people.

Or were you just giving general guidance?

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roddy

I really really hope they knew it was a joke and are just messing with you...

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TheBigZaboon

Maybe I'm coming a bit late to this discussion, but my experience in a number of Asian countries leads me to the conclusion that we Westerners would be better served if we realize that what we consider irony or sarcasm is quite a bit different from what is expected or acceptable in Asian culture.  There can be lots of reasons for this. For example, we may think we're being hip, cool, edgy, or whatever, but our listeners don't always see it the way we do. Sometimes, in fact in my experience, most times, they don't realize we are being sarcastic, or pointing out the irony in a situation at all. They take what we say at face value, and then they don't really have a way to deal with the fallout. A wink and a nod don't have much mileage here. At other times they might feel we don't have the seniority to say what we just said. Or maybe we come off as downright disrespectful.

 

But they're not the outsiders, we are. Saying that they often talk about gross things that make us feel uncomfortable, so why should we be singled out for a little raunch now and then, misses the point. They know what's acceptable, and when and where. So, by definition, they aren't going to be the one who makes the mistake. 

 

There's been lots of good advice to follow to avoid getting a bad reputation, or to avoid stepping on your tongue. I wouldn't contradict any of it. But I think the reason for the problem in the first place is simply "living in China, with Western characteristics (read: expectations)." Whether you're speaking Chinese, or not. It would behoove all of us to realize that the pitch is theirs, and so they get to make the rules, even if they don't explicitly reserve that right.

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Mijin
1 hour ago, TheBigZaboon said:

But they're not the outsiders, we are. Saying that they often talk about gross things that make us feel uncomfortable, so why should we be singled out for a little raunch now and then, misses the point. They know what's acceptable, and when and where. So, by definition, they aren't going to be the one who makes the mistake. 

 

I don't think that's fair. I am not saying I'm right; they're wrong, or whatever.

The whole point of this thread is for me to try to understand exactly the error, so I don't repeat it again. Some in this thread have said essentially that the answer is obvious -- porn is not acceptable in western offices either. But even putting aside that it's not actually a joke *about* porn, many of the topics my colleagues have discussed in the past would not be acceptable in western offices, so that logic is not foolproof. I am just trying to learn, that's all.

--------------------------------

I think I start to understand this now though. Because I just realized that when my colleagues are discussing taboo topics, it's always in English. 

So for them, I think there's a clear difference between hearing those kinds of words in their native language. Had I simply said the whole sentence in English, there perhaps would not have been any issue.

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陳德聰

I also... I don’t know, I can’t even really imagine a 黃電影 in this day and age. I’d call it a 黃片 or 色情片, or WAY more likely an “AV”. I didn’t see anyone mention the fact that online porn is technically illegal in China too, btw, which might factor into people thinking it’s weird you’d mention it in relation to 春晚

 

Edit: I am still trying to think through this scenario in my head and it honestly just seems like a big combination of things, including possibly just it being a not very funny joke, biased thinking on the part of native speakers when speaking to L2 speakers, chosen terminology, intonation, other potentially missing cues that would signal a joke, etc. I don’t think there’s any use in chocking this up to a cultural difference, it sounds like a simple socially awkward interaction that may have been less awkward if everyone was at the same level of the same language.

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imron
9 hours ago, TheBigZaboon said:

leads me to the conclusion that we Westerners would be better served if we realize that what we consider irony or sarcasm is quite a bit different from what is expected or acceptable in Asian culture

I used to have this opinion too - until my language skills improved and then I realized that the same things exist equally well in Chinese too.  I agree with previous posters that this is likely a language and a familiarity issue.

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Dawei3

Mijin, I like your sense of humor. :)   Several years ago, Singapore established a government agency to get people to have more kids.  I've never read how they thought they could do this.    

 

A slight tangent is that my Chinese friends with good English skills feel very comfortable talking about sexual topics in English.  In contrast, even just to say one sexually related word in Chinese makes them very very very uncomfortable.  It's a striking difference.  To me, this is fascinating from a cultural perspective.  That is, it appears that the concept is not uncomfortable, just the words.  

 

In Western countries, the prohibition against talking about certain things often has a religious basis.  I wonder how this thinking came to be in China..... 

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Mijin
5 hours ago, 陳德聰 said:

including possibly just it being a not very funny joke

 

Well I wouldn't really call it a joke in that sense. The same conversation, in English, I would expect the other person to maybe smile and then clarify what he meant. Not ROFL

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