Monday, June 29, 2009

Time to go

Just lately, things around here have been bugging me rather too much....

For example:

My landlord is an idiot. I've known this for a while. I've been renting from him for 5 years now, after all. But when I ask him (via a translating third party) if he is free to come around and collect his next quarter's rent during the afternoon on such and such a day when I will be working from home, and he does not make any reply (either to me or the third party).... then I do not imagine that he will turn up on my door at 6.30pm expecting me to be there (and waiting there till 8.30pm!); fortunately, I had already gone out to dinner, and run out of credit on my phone, so was spared his repeated demands for me to return home. I tried later to commiserate with the inconvenience he had brought upon himself; but, you know what, arsehole - we didn't have an appointment!

The cab driver I got on Saturday afternoon was an idiot. He spoke some bizarre dialect that wasn't - to my unskilled ear, anyway - remotely recognisable as Chinese, and - for reasons I couldn't possibly have fathomed even if I'd been fluent in his lingo - was histrionically refusing to drive me to Gongti Beilu (about as straightforwardly central a destination as any driver could wish for). I can only assume he didn't know where it was; or he just didn't like carrying foreigners.

My letting agent is an idiot. She rang me up on Sunday afternoon to ask me to come round to meet a potential flatmate and endure another round of talks with my would-be new landlord. We had arranged a day or two earlier that she would do this. I had rashly assumed that she would have fixed an appointment with the flatmate and/or the landlord, and would let me know what time had been arranged, so that I could wander over unhurriedly (the property isn't that far away from my current apartment - but a 15 or 20 minute walk) and meet them at the property. No, no - she rang me at no notice at all, as an afterthought, when the other potential tenant was already meeting with the landlord. "Can you come right now?" "Oh, yeah, sure. What am I supposed to fucking do? Teleport myself over there??"

The would-be new landlord is an idiot. He's worried that his property has remained unlet for three months. But not so worried that he'd consider sweeping out the yard, cutting back the foliage, or removing all the building materials and old flower-pots heaped up around the place. Or buying basic equipment, like a refrigerator and a washing-machine. Or negotiating down from his original asking price rather than up.

Everyone I walk behind on the subway, in the street, anywhere is an idiot. In the subway especially. I've been using the subway way too much over the past couple of months, and that's never good for the mental health (I have itemised its irritations before, here and here and here). Slow and erratically moving pedestrians in this country seem to function with a perverse collective consciousness that enables them - without even being aware of your presence in any conventional sense - to somehow work together to maximise your inconvenience.

Now, this is all run-of-the-mill stuff in China. Usually, I can greet such eccentricities with a wry smile. Lately, though, I've found my tolerance and humour wearing very thin. Lately, this kind of thing has just been starting to piss me off BIG TIME.

I am overdue for a break. I haven't left the country in nearly two years now. I haven't really had a proper holiday in three. No wonder 'China' is just getting a wee bit much for me. Six weeks of detox, and I'll be missing the place again, I'm sure, and ready once again to endure all these petty hassles with a laugh and a smile.

But right now..... right now......

If I get a taxi driver who doesn't know the way to the airport, there could be an incident.


Anonymous said...

It does sound like you need to be getting away.
Is it the heat?? Is it very hot there??
And also, have you ever thought that the culture and unwritten rules are different every where in the world. So you need to stop getting so upset and keep reminding them, that you are not Chinese and you do not know their ways and the ways you know are different, and you need to learn their ways. Then ask them to explain what their ways are like.


Froog said...

I get impatient with the "it's all just part of their culture" defence, Earthling.

Being dumb-as-a-rock is not part of anybody's "culture". In what possible cultural structure does it make sense to assume that people are going to be where you want them to be, when you want them to be there, when they have no possible way of knowing, and you have omitted to tell them? That's just DUMB!

There may possibly be some "cultural" elements involved - the Chinese are not in general good at forward planning; appointments are always made at the very last minute; there's little respect for other people's convenience, etc., etc. But you know, if that's really your "culture", your "culture" is CRAP - inefficient, nonsensical, disrespectful of individuals. Don't give me the "culture defence".

I am usually very open and tolerant and forgiving - interested in all aspects of alien cultures (especially the non-CRAP ones), and able to laugh off those elements that I do not like.

But lately, there's just been altogether too much of the CRAP, and my patience has been exhausted. Time to recharge, reset...

JES said...

Not to get all faux-psychological, but think a lot (if not all) of these stories can be explained not in terms of cultural dumbness, but in terms of cultural passive-aggression -- like a very insecure person's form of one-upsmanship. "Hey, is it MY fault you didn't show up when I was right where you needed me to be?" "Is it MY fault you can't give simple left-right-stop-slow down directions? I am but a humble cabdriver -- not a clever Englishman!" Etc.

Anonymous said...

I have never been to that country, so I wouldn't know anything about what goes on and who does or doesn't do what. But I actually think that the "culture" fraze/spelling wrong... needs to be understood in a different way, and then, the behaviour does fall under the umbrella term of culture. Froog mentions it and mentions the things they are not good at, and yes that is their culture, and if that is how they always operate, even if the result is less welcomed by the brits, then yes, that is their culture. And for once, I'd like to say, it is not very polite to say their culture is crap -at least not when they are listening.
They are in their right to have what ever culture they wish, it's not a free country, but they are in "their" country and where else can they actually behave acording to their own culture if not within their borders. As long as the problem of their "c" culture does not leak out and does not polute the rest of the wrold, then they can behave as they wish.

I am a big fan of communication and dialoge -even if I cannot spell the word. So if I am faced with cultural things in a country I am a guest in, and it bothers me, I tell the people about the aspects of their culture which does not agree with my habits, and my culture. I will let them know what I am used to, and how I think things function better. It might not be a way they prefer to their own, but I will let them know, that as long as they deal with me, they would need to behave in the manner I prefer, because the situation concerns me. Or if they cannot do things my way, when dealing with me, then they can just forget they knew me.
But I guess with me, it's not a certain country of a certain nationality, with me, beign the queen and all, everyone needs to pick up a handbook when they meet me and do everything my way, or take the high way. That's I guess why I don't have millions of friends in the world, but the very few that I do have are all over and they know me well and behave according to MY personal "cultural" handbook, and in return, I behave according to theirs. So we meet each other mid way. "Den gyldne middelvej"= the golden middleway.


PS, take it all with a pinch of salt. I've been watching a few bad standup comedians and PC-incorrect stuff on TV, I was inspired by those and a bit of the tyran queen was coming out.

Froog said...

Fair point, JES - you do often encounter people trying to 'save face', or getting snarky because of feelings of inferiority, and so on. But in these examples, they were just being DUMB.

Froog said...

You're rambling a bit there, Earthling.

Too much of a melange of points to respond to in detail. I feel I should just reiterate my basic points on this:

1) Elements of a culture are not exempt from analysis and criticism.

2) Some behaviours are so deleterious that they should be excised from any cultures which manifest them.

3) Some - perhaps most - of these severely undesirable behaviours cannot properly be considered as part of a "culture" anyway.

4) "Culture" is not primarily or necessarily dependent on the identity of political entities such as nation states. ('Chinese culture' is the cultural legacy of a people - or a group of peoples - with a common ethnic and cultural heritage; there is no essential connection to the modern PRC, which, like all nation states, is an artificial and relatively recent creation.)