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suMMit

Boring China talk

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suMMit

I've noticed that so many of the expats i know spend SO much time talking about China. And it seems to always suprise them that things work differently than in their own country. This crap bores me to tears.

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Shelley

Boring......:D

 

Just joking but I understand what you mean.

You have to wonder why they went and what they expected. If they expected it to be the same, you have to wonder why they went.

 

I wonder if you just politely ignored these conversations, or change the subject you might get your message across. Maybe start a new topic before anyone has a chance to say anything.

 

Maybe hang around some different people from time to time?:shock:

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abcdefg

I don't hang with expats. Period. 

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Jim

Even when I was a student I used to get wound up by classmates demanding to know *why* Chinese worked in this or that way, and as a complaint not just intellectual interest. Still, I suppose we're all boring in our own special ways :D

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Lu
3 hours ago, suMMit said:

I've noticed that so many of the expats i know spend SO much time talking about China. And it seems to always suprise them that things work differently than in their own country. This crap bores me to tears.

I suggest finding different people to hang out with. I understand your problem, but I think that is the only solution. Because I also understand why these expats enjoy talking about the differences, and if their conversation of choice is boring to you, the only solution is to find different conversation partners.

 

This advice is assuming that you came here for advice and not just to vent.

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suMMit

Primarily venting, but i will take the advice 😏

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ChTTay

Mostly I don’t hang out with those people who always have some issue with China. I know the type you’re talking about. Better just to phase them out of your life. 

 

I also find it quite quite hard to talk to completely brand new expats. Sometimes I love the enthusiasm and being able to share cool places. Other times the conversation strays to things like spitting or how amazing dumplings are or three wheeled little cars... just can’t talk about that stuff anymore. 

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889

"Then, my first week in China, I went out for a beer with a couple of guys who'd been there for ages.  What a mistake. All they did was bitch about other foreigners in China. Especially newbies, like me!"

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ChTTay
9 minutes ago, 889 said:

 

"Then, my first week in China, I went out for a beer with a couple of guys who'd been there for ages.  What a mistake. All they did was bitch about other foreigners in China. Especially newbies, like me!"

 

Hahahahahahahahahahaha dead on 

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Dawei3

If an expat can give me new insights & perspectives I haven't considered, I welcome them.  However, it's important that can speak Chinese or that they are at least trying to learn.    

 

Most of the expats I meet have close to zero Chinese ability (despite years in country) and not being able to speak means they're aware of superficial things.  They are completely unaware of what they are missing. 

 

Of people I've met, the record holders for longest time in China without learning Chinese was an English woman in Shanghai who had been there 15 years(!) and an American who had been there 10 years.  The latter proudly (???) noted he spoke "no Chinese!".  Likely the exact kind of person Summit is writing about.  

 

I've also met Germans, Canadians & other Americans who lived there for years and have no language ability & no desire to improve......  I just can't understand this....

 

I'm at the other end of the spectrum; even if I'm just visiting a country for a short holiday, I like to learn simple things in the language 1) to be polite, 2) because it's interesting, and 3) locals love foreigners who try to speak their language (#3 is true in any country, except native English speaking ones, since the assumption is everyone should speak English.  Another exception to this is France, since they'll likely be unhappy with any incorrect grammar and/or pronunciation)

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Weyland

😞

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Lu
13 hours ago, Dawei3 said:

Of people I've met, the record holders for longest time in China without learning Chinese was an English woman in Shanghai who had been there 15 years(!) and an American who had been there 10 years.  The latter proudly (???) noted he spoke "no Chinese!".

I know a journalist who lived here for something like ten years, reported on China and could barely say 谢谢. Really. I'll still play nice with such people if they are otherwise okay company, but I won't respect them.

 

And I mean, I get it, you're busy, you have a job and a family and a social life and life China is not easy to navigate so that takes time too. But if you'd learn just one word per day, or even per week!, you'd speak at least some Chinese after a while.

 

On the other hand, I have known several expats who spoke pretty decent Chinese after three or four years, even when that was not a requirement and many of their direct colleagues could barely say 谢谢.

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DavyJonesLocker

In some ways its forgiveable . Many expats come to China for economic reasons only and have no interest in the culture. My brother's ex boss, came to China in the 80s and started a logistics company in shenzhen. Near 40 years later and almost a billionaire he speaks no Chinese . He surrounds himself with English speaking Chinese. 

 

He is right though in that knowing Chinese will not advance your career hardly at all (specific cases excluded) You either need to be fluent or just know a few pleasantries .  A lot of younger people starting out on their career path don't grasp this point. 

 

However for the average person , yes even an elementary level makes life here a whole lot easier. 

 

Contrary to what might people might expect I often see people with Chinese partners to be the worst of all. Namely because they let their partners handle anything related to a required use of Chinese (online shopping, ordering at a restaurant etc), whereas other expats are almost forced into figuring these things out for themselves. 

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NewEnglander

I find it fascinating to read the variety of responses to this thread. Quite a few assumptions being made based on limited experience with whatever finite number of foreigners you may have met in your lifetime. I'm not an expat, however I spend quite a lot of time in China with intent to eventually move here.

 

Here are a few observations about your comments as well as my own limited experience here:

  • Language learning varies by such factors as age and context. I'm a businessman in my 40s. My age alone presents an interesting challenge. It's difficult enough to learn Mandarin at 20, let alone at nearly 50. It's an FSI category 5 language...by comparison, English is a category 1 language. I'll eventually be able to hold some basic conversations, but it'll likely be years before I can engage in lengthier, more meaningful conversations.
  • Yes, any effort by any foreigner to learn a native language is usually welcomed. It's as true here in China as it is in any country around the world, including back in the States.  Natives always appreciate the effort.
  • Most native Chinese (a vast majority) can't communicate with other Chinese who cannot speak either a) Mandarin or b) a shared local dialect.  I've experienced this problem countless times even in China's largest cities.  Walking around with Chinese friends who laugh because they have no idea what some of the locals are saying.  Someone from Beijing speaking Mandarin, is just as lost as I am when trying to communicate with someone from Fujian speaking Min-dialect. Understand that this isn't an issue in English.  I can speak English in Paris, France to a non-native English speaker from Columbia....and we'll understand each other. That means communicating in China isn't as simple as learning Mandarin.  Even fluent Mandarin speakers aren't fluent in the hundreds of local dialects.
  • Many of you appear to write fairly well in English due to the years of vocabulary and grammar you've had since quite a young age. And some of you have been fortunate enough to immerse yourselves in English here or abroad. How well do you speak English? If I encountered you on the street today, could you engage in more than just a basic conversation in English? For some of you the answer is yes...for others, no. Most of the foreigners you meet, especially Americans, are unlikely to have any experience with Mandarin...written or spoken. It isn't taught in most American schools.  In fact, unless someone grows up in a household that happens to speak another language (my father can speak Portuguese) then that individual's first experience with a second language will likely be in high school...and only for a couple years of basic language skills. I had 3 years of French and I can barely speak it today because I rarely used it 30+ years ago when I first learned it.  
  • People are always fascinated by cultures different from their own.  You'd be just as fascinated traveling the States as Westerners are traveling China.  And you'd quickly discover that life in the States isn't exactly what you've been watching on television and in movies. TV shows are generally gross misrepresentations and exaggerations of reality. Which is also why I do not recommend language learners use tv shows as a basis for their learning....not unless your goal is to sound and behave just like a fictional character from a television show.
  • Yeah, after a while the same old conversations can be pretty boring, right? The same question from foreigners, about the same topics, over and over again.  Well, we're not exactly having enlightening conversations in our native languages with native speakers either, are we?  I don't know about your experiences, but 99.99% of the people I know back home talk about the same crap on a daily basis--weather, sports, work, kids, spouses.  Frankly, it's just as boring.  It's not as if we're discussing behavioral economics. I enjoy engaging in conversations about philosophy, beliefs, politics, environment, ethics, engineering, physics and a variety of topics that require a large knowledge base and vocabulary...it'll be decades before I can have these conversations in Mandarin, if ever at all....setting aside the fact that people tend to avoid some of these subjects like a plague even when they can speak the language.

 

So, while I understand some of the frustrations expressed in the comments above, this isn't a simple topic with a simple answer.  And it would be a mistake to lump the entirety of a population or people into the same bucket as the limited number of foreigners with which you have direct experience.

 

Personally, my goal is to learn, understand and experience everything I can about China and its many local and national cultures. I love the cultural differences...it would be extremely boring to me to travel thousands of miles every few weeks only to spend time in a country identical to the one I've left.  😉

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Lu
2 hours ago, NewEnglander said:

Quite a few assumptions being made based on limited experience with whatever finite number of foreigners you may have met in your lifetime.

You seem to make a pretty big assumption as well, though, namely that the people griping about foreigners in this thread are Chinese. That is not the case.

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abcdefg
3 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

Contrary to what might people might expect I often see people with Chinese partners to be the worst of all. Namely because they let their partners handle anything related to a required use of Chinese (online shopping, ordering at a restaurant etc), whereas other expats are almost forced into figuring these things out for themselves. 

 

I've noticed that too. 

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NewEnglander
2 hours ago, Lu said:

You seem to make a pretty big assumption as well, though, namely that the people griping about foreigners in this thread are Chinese. That is not the case.

Hi Lu,

 

No assumption on my part. My post is directed at those who aren't foreigners...a point that I baked right into the sentence that you had quoted.

 

The spirit of my post is simply that any frustration with the same old conversations and language skills is more nuanced than the opinions expressed in their comments. Based on your experience, do you disagree with any of what I had written?

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Lu
5 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

In some ways its forgiveable. Many expats come to China for economic reasons only and have no interest in the culture.

Sure, but they still have a life, no? Even if you don't care about Chinese cuisine, you still need to buy Chinese groceries; even if you don't care about Chinese literature, you still need to read the Chinese bill your landlord slipped under your door. Sure, you can outsource that if you have enough money, but most people don't have that kind of money, or not straight off the plane.

 

And even if speaking some Chinese won't help your career, it will help you find your way around. If you never learn any Chinese, you basically isolate yourself from your surroundings, so that you never really live in China, while also not living in your home country anymore. I'd think you get a stunted life that way.

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realmayo

I admire long-term expats who can barely speak a word of the language. Think of all the time they've saved doing stuff they enjoy. Most people who study Chinese spend years not getting very far at all.

 

The OP complained about certain expats always having the same China conversations with each other (which is fair enough). But I've had countless conversations in Chinese about where are you from, how many children do you have, do you like China, etc etc. Very superficial conversations - they're not going to provide any kind of deep insights which the monolingual expat is denied.

 

If you don't speak English or Chinese then sure, life in China would be pretty unrewarding. But as long as you speak English, I don't think Chinese is a big deal, until you're rather fluent. And most expats with proper jobs won't have time for that.

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vellocet

Lots of foreigners hate China and only came here because they have to pay back their student loans, and they chose a major that made them unemployable back home.  That's why they stick to Shanghai and Beijing, they are the most Westernized cities in China and if you live there you hardly have to deal with China at all.  They live in the English bubble and despise everything that's different from their home countries.  You're right about them being deadly dull to talk to.  They feel frustrated and want to vent their unhappiness on others.  

 

"A tourist is someone who, when going abroad, takes a small piece of his country with him and stays therein.

 

This matches the traditional definition of tourist quite well in some cases. Most people in Northern Europe who go to the Mediterranean for their summer vacations aren't very interested in the countries they go to. They want sunshine, some good food and a pleasant week of relaxation. Perhaps they go visit some famous places, but the point is that during this time, they don't do anything differently from what they do at home. They talk mostly with people they know, arrange activities the way they would at home and think the same way. In other words, they are tourists.

 

You can live in a foreign country for years and still be a tourist."

 

-- Olle Linge, www.hackingchinese.com
 

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