Monday, May 16, 2011

Have Patience

When I first came to China, one of the things that amazed me about this culture was their ability to wait for ridiculously long periods of time. I often see people in lines 40 people long waiting for things like vegetables or train tickets. I had great admiration for this patience endurance.

But something confused me. I've also observed that when it comes to driving, people have no patience at all. They will run lights, drive around someone who hesitates for a second, even drive down the wrong side of the road to skip waiting at a stoplight. And, my least favorite show of impatience - the person at the door. Just now the woman who brings our milk showed up. She knocked twice every 2 seconds incessantly until I showed up. We have a big house - it takes awhile to get to the door! This happens whenever someone shows up at the door. It's like they think you're just standing on the other side of the door waiting for them to show up.

So why the difference? Well, at some point I finally put it together. The people who willingly wait in long lines are not overflowing with patience - they are motivated by the opportunity to save money, and the fear that if they do not get it this time, it may not be back. The latter is what also drives them to cut queues frequently. It's quite natural when you consider China's history - until recently, there was not an abundance of resources, so a scarcity mentality is deeply engrained.

I still don't quite understand why they are so impatient at the door. Maybe because most Chinese houses are much smaller? I'm not really sure, but as with most cultural differences, eventually I'll figure it out.

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