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Boring China talk

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realmayo
1 hour ago, NewEnglander said:

Odd that you'd suggest I "get some diversity" by getting out to meet more foreigners. I'm not in China to spend more time with foreigners with differing opinions. I could do that back home for free.

 

Haha!

 

Yes there's a lot of "no-true-scotsman" (apologies to Roddy) comments here! Anyone saying that "their way" of living in China is the only right one or the only authentic one is probably living in a well.

 

16 hours ago, vellocet said:

I don't think summoning a repairman when your floor is flooding with other people's dirty dishwater is trivial at all.

 

I think the difference between summoning a repairman, and getting a friend or fixer or translator to do the summoning, is trivial.

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ChTTay
5 minutes ago, realmayo said:

I think the difference between summoning a repairman, and getting a friend or fixer or translator to do the summoning, is trivial.

You don’t see doing that for yourself as a bit of a milestone? Like the first time you order for yourself, that time the kuaidi understands what you’re saying, when you direct a taxi to exactly where you are. All Chinese learner moments to savour. If these aren’t moments to value as a language learner then what is? 

 

I’m honestly curious what you think. Usually our views on here seem pretty in line 😂

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realmayo

I completely agree that those are all moments to savour, and I also agree with Vellocet when he (quite honestly) talks about how big and not very humble you can feel when other foreigners  marvel when you prattle away merrily in Chinese. They are milestones in language learning sure. But they're not milestones for living in China - unless you've got no one to help you!

 

Maybe someone who hunts and kills his own food would look down on me for going to the butcher, but what can I say, it works for me. So, I wouldn't look down on someone who relies on a translator for their posting to China.

 

Initially, in this thread, I was struck by a couple of things. First, the suggestion that one couldn't respect expats who don't speak the local language - that seemed unkind, for a start. It would like someone saying they don't respect people who don't do any exercise, or don't read poetry, or have never got to grips with Ἀριστοτέλης .

 

Second was the implication that speaking to people about everyday things like plumbing or taxi directions would give you a great insight into China which non-speakers would miss. But it won't! Serious, properly nuanced conversations, will give you insight but until you've got great Chinese, those conversations will be in English or they just won't happen.

 

What would be more interesting - an HSK 2 level conversation about the weather with a taxi driver, or a long chat in the back of the car with a local who speaks your own language fluently and wants to talk about pollution or politics or how their hometown has changed over the last 20 years?

 

If you're assigned to China for three years and you don't need to speak Chinese and you're in an area where there are lots of pleasant interesting people who speak good English, why bother learn Chinese unless you really want to. Most of us here on these forums will want to. But we're the unusual ones. Looking down on other foreigners in China for not being like us is just as narrow-minded as looking down on Chinese people for not being like us  :)

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vellocet
2 hours ago, NewEnglander said:

I suggest you re-evaluate your very narrow definition of an authentic experience.

You are literally imagining things I didn't say, and arguing against a straw man you built.

 

2 hours ago, NewEnglander said:

 I'm not in China to spend more time with foreigners with differing opinions.

Well you're obviously not here to speak to Chinese people, either.

 

1 hour ago, realmayo said:

I think the difference between summoning a repairman, and getting a friend or fixer or translator to do the summoning, is trivial.

I could not disagree more wholeheartedly.  Being able to run your own life as an adult without any help is a wonderful thing.  Being infantilized sucks.  I went through that when I first got here and while at first it was fun, it got old fast.  

 

I never ever thought I would get attacked and dogpiled for advocating the position that speaking Chinese in China was a good thing, and that foreigners who live here as monolingual permanent tourists are to be pitied for the rich experiences they miss out on.  But here we are.  

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889

"Looking down on other foreigners in China for not being like us is just as narrow-minded as looking down on Chinese people for not being like us "

 

A sentiment worth repeating, in bold-face.

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realmayo
18 minutes ago, vellocet said:

Being able to run your own life as an adult without any help is a wonderful thing. 

 

But you can't! Otherwise you wouldn't need a plumber!

 

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Lu

Eh, what? Adults need plumbers. That's literally who plumbers are for, for adults who live in their own house independently. And I completely agree with Vellocet here: being able to run your own life is a great thing. An able-bodied and able-minded adult should usually be expected to be able to order their own food, direct their own cab and call their own plumber, without need for hand-holding.

 

I don't think anyone expects new arrivals to be able to do any of that when they step off the plane. But if you come to live in a country, you should make a minimal effort at least to learn the language. Simply as part of being an independent adult living in the world.

 

And this goes for all immigrants to all countries, as far as I'm concerned. If you've lived in the Netherlands for 20 years and still can't pronounce your own street name, I have a problem with that (and I won't tell you to your face because I can be polite).

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realmayo
31 minutes ago, Lu said:

Adults need plumbers.

 

Expats need translators.

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vellocet
2 hours ago, 889 said:

"Looking down on other foreigners in China for not being like us is just as narrow-minded as looking down on Chinese people for not being like us "

A sentiment made up of whole cloth.  I said I pity them for being so excluded.  You people read this into it and pretended I said it.  

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NewEnglander
4 hours ago, vellocet said:

You are literally imagining things I didn't say, and arguing against a straw man you built.

I need not imagine anything, nor do I need to construct straw men. Let's hop in the not-so-wayback-machine and take a look at your first contribution to this thread, shall we?

 

"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."

 

We'll skip over the first half which I've addressed elsewhere. What, precisely did you mean by "hardly have to deal with China at all"?   Seems crystal clear to me that you're implying that the Tier 1 cities aren't "China" to you. By what measure, precisely?  Enlighten me.

4 hours ago, vellocet said:

Well you're obviously not here to speak to Chinese people, either.

 

And here we go again with assumptions.  From what can you possibly draw this conclusion?  Absolutely nothing. Other than mentioning the challenges I face learning the language at my age, I've implied nothing of the sort.  

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vellocet

This is so strange.  On one hand, you're arguing against engaging with China.  On the other hand, you're upset that I'm pointing out that people don't have to engage with China. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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realmayo
1 hour ago, vellocet said:

I said I pity them for being so excluded.

 

Until you've got great Chinese, you would be excluding yourself if you avoid talking to Chinese people who have good English. The reason is, that if you've got a child's level of Chinese, then you'll only be having childish conversations with Chinese people: your whole life will be infantilized (but, like lots of children, you'd be able to phone a plumber if you needed to).

 

 

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NewEnglander
4 minutes ago, vellocet said:

This is so strange.  On one hand, you're arguing against engaging with China.  On the other hand, you're upset that I'm pointing out that people don't have to engage with China. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I assume this isn't directed at me. At no point have I argued against engaging in China. Verbatim from my first post in this thread:

 

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.

 

Upset isn't in my vocabulary. Entertained, yes.

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889

"If you've lived in the Netherlands for 20 years and still can't pronounce your own street name, I have a problem with that."

 

Big difference.

 

First, I believe you're Dutch. Natives do have a legitimate interest in integrating foreigners into their society. But this discussion is about foreigners' attitudes towards other foreigners.

 

Second, in Holland and most of the world, there are opportunities for foreigners to come, live long-term, and obtain permanent residency, even citizenship. Under these conditions, foreign residents are expected to integrate and shed their outsider status.

 

But those opportunities don't exist in China. A foreigner is never going to become a permanent resident, much less a citizen (propaganda otherwise aside). After even 20 years, a foreigner in China is not going to be integrated into society like a Chinese immigrant after 20 years in the Netherlands.

 

Of course that affects the decision whether to study Chinese or otherwise try to integrate into Chinese society. Why bother? You're still going to be regarded as an outsider, no matter.

 

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Lu

There are opportunities to live long-term in China as well, as proven by the people brought up in this thread who have lived in China for ten or twenty years (without learning the language). Not getting permanent residency doesn't mean you don't live in a country and participate in its society. And as an able-minded adult, that means you should make at least a minimal effort.

 

Anyway I'm done bickering in this thread, I probably won't reply again.

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ChTTay
On 11/3/2019 at 2:29 PM, Lu said:

Anyway I'm done bickering in this thread, I probably won't reply again.

The thread “Boring China talk” has lived up to its name? 😉

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realmayo

I thought it was quite illuminating.

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roddy
On 11/3/2019 at 6:29 AM, Lu said:

There are opportunities to live long-term in China as well, as proven by the people brought up in this thread who have lived in China for ten or twenty years

This is true, but crucially it is next to impossible to ever be able to say with certainty "I can now live here for two decades / as long as I want."

 

If I wanted to move to Amsterdam, I follow a simple and well set out procedure, with some reasonable requirements - live there five years, learn the language, don't break any laws. I'm then a citizen with, as far as I can see, equal rights to anyone born there. I can break the law, lose my job, divorce my spouse, bankrupt my business. I'm still Dutch and I can still live there.

 

China's completely different. I might get a long-term visa through work - but what if I want to quit? I might get a long-term visa via marriage - but what if I want to get divorced? Etc. Residence in China for foreigners is contingent. Numerous people, who would happily have lived there for much longer, have had to leave due to tightening visa regulations. There's no reason to believe that won't continue to happen.

16 hours ago, realmayo said:

I thought it was quite illuminating.

 Agree. I do find myself with a nagging sense of 'but people should learn Chinese', while also admitting it's absolutely none of my business whether someone does or not, and good luck to them either way. I wonder if that plumber thought "why'd he bother learning Chinese, when he could have watched some DIY tutorials on Youku." 

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realmayo

To be fair - and I imagine you'd agree - plenty of the remarks in this thread seem motivated by the sadness that some people might be missing out on cool stuff in China, and indeed the coolness of learning Chinese, if they don't try to speak any of the language.

 

Still, I can't imagine berating an expat in, say, HK for not learning Cantonese, or one in Shanghai for only learning putonghua.

 

I also like the idea that "Chinese plumber" could become be shorthand for, say, HSK3?

 

 

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Balthazar
On 11/2/2019 at 1:24 PM, realmayo said:

Second was the implication that speaking to people about everyday things like plumbing or taxi directions would give you a great insight into China which non-speakers would miss. But it won't! Serious, properly nuanced conversations, will give you insight but until you've got great Chinese, those conversations will be in English or they just won't happen.

 

Wholeheartedly disagree about this part, with the caveat that I'm not quite sure what you mean by "great insights".

 

At least my experience (Norwegian, English, Chinese) is that some of the most interesting insights about a particular culture arise from simple conversations about the banalities of everyday life or with service people. Not insights of the type "What can Hu Shih's interpretation of 红楼梦 teach us about aspect X", though.

 

Perhaps it's an subconscious trick my mind is playing to motivate me to keep learning.

 

I also think talking about HSK2-Chinese kinda misses the point, as if that's the highest level someone can reach without thousands of study hours.

 

But I can also see while people don't find it worthwhile to learn a new language, especially when they get by fine with English. They definitely miss out on something. But those of us who spend a significant amount of time studying Chinese definitely also miss out on lots of things.

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