Friday, December 09, 2005

That Which Shall Not Be Named

When you're making your way through a foreign land you should be aware that certain words should be avoided. Since arriving in China I've been conscious enough to keep from making even the slightest joke upon the people swarming around me. Being PC is all well and good, but its all for naught here as they either 1. don't understand that a few words/phrases in the English language are derogatory towards them or 2. they actually think its funny; e.g. 'slant eyes' or 'yellow people.' I've never introduced these terms myself, my students blurb them out. I just tell them to shut up.

However there is one word I now actively avoid using at all costs. "Friend." Yeah. Don't say it.

All Chinese understand this word, but it means much more to them than it might to us. Friendship in China is much more complex than back home and a "friend" can pervade every aspect of your life. Some Chinese do monopolize on this belief, I refer to that strain as "Users" and they are horrendously annoying. These are the students who come to sit in my class, state "I hope we can be friends," and if I oblige they immediately ask me to write their application essays for US universities (They also want me to do this for free and have no intention of ever returning to my class). These are the people who sit next to me in KFC and if I consent to a desire for "friendship" I'm barraged with requests to follow them to a disco or party where they'd like to show me off to their friends. These are the situations that I now avoid with my patented variety of vague answer. Ah, to be a politician.

I have friends in China and some are Chinese. I've got a good number of friends back home, all of whom I miss. These are people who don't ask me for anything but who I probably give the most. They certainly arent showing me off like some prize animal or using me to squirm into the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. They also probably realize that this entry is poorly written drivel and will mock me for posting it. Tough. I'm tired.


At 8:09 AM, Blogger Canadian said...

Won't you be my friend?

At 1:06 PM, Blogger Dan said...

Man, I am so with you.

I had a guy at Beijing University ask me to help write his statement for a graduate chemistry program. I had NO idea what he was talking about in his essay, but because we were "friends" and he took me to dinner, I got stuck saying things like "Um, I think it's 'covalent bonds' not... what you wrote".


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