The Bride of the First House (bride) wrote,
The Bride of the First House

"Chinese People Ask Stupid Questions"

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Re: Chinese people ask stupid questions

In Western culture, if a friend tells us bad news, we respond with something like "I'm sorry to hear that" or "*hugs*" or something like that.

In Chinese culture, we ask questions about the situation. We're actively thinking about what you've just said and asking questions shows we care. It's not to be nosy or to pry, nor do we always honestly really care what the answer is. We just don't express care, concern, support and sympathy the same way.

Sometimes, we do this in English as well. Usually, closer friends will ask questions. And moreover, North Americans don't always care what the answer is either. We'll ask people "how are you doing?" but it's just a canned PING-ACK protocol to which the response should be "Fine, thanks" and nothing more. The perception is that we don't want to know how you're really doing. I've seen and heard countless people complain about that.

But in some of the simpler cases in Chinese, it doesn't translate well and it sounds downright stupid in the context of Western culture.

For example, you're living with family and you come home from school. In a Chinese home, you'd be greeted with "are you home?". You may think, "DUH, yes I'm home, I'm RIGHT HERE AT HOME aren't I?" But we don't say "hello" in that situation in the same way that we do in English.

It's a cultural protocol. It's a natural response. It doesn't mean we're redundant, senile or stupid.

Tags: chinese
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