Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Culture clash

We have a friend here who tried an experiment in China. He went into a KFC and ordered a sundae with half chocolate, half strawberry. He was told that was not possible. "Yes, you can do it" he told them. "It won't taste good" was their reply.
"I'll be the judge of that. Just give me half chocolate and half strawberry." It was a lengthly battle finally won. He did it to test a strong cultural bond in China - the whole idea of changing the rules, thinking independently. It's extremely hard for many of them.

I find the same kind of thinking here as well sometimes. Yesterday I was shopping and wanted to try on a white shirt. I got the old stonewall, "Cannot."
me: Why?
Shoplady: Cannot. Cannot.
me: (let's try Chinese) Wei shenme?
Shoplady: (Don't insult me, I can speak English) Company policy.
I thought, "Now of all the colors I feel like it's safe for me to try on, it's white. That's the one color I won't get deodorant on." But then I reasoned, "Well, maybe it's to avoid getting make up on it," but I was still a little perturbed.

Later, I wanted to try another white shirt, so I asked her again, this time hoping for an actual REASON, "Why?"
"Cannot. Company policy." But WHY? That's the thing that gets me - they won't tell me the reason beyond what has been told to them.

I realize this isn't quite the same as what my friend encountered, but it grates on the cultural nerves because it's the idea that I should be satisfied with this level of reasoning. The rule is there, so you should be content with that. Curse my American upbringing which taught me to question everything!

In another store, I found their encouragement of this rule amusing. It simply said, "Please don't let our clothes ruin your make-up." Now we're getting somewhere.

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