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Q: By being polite, are we breaking, building or reinforcing a stereotype?

I know there is often a stereotype that foreigners are bad, they are only here for the booze and women. However, there are often a lot of foreigners who go out of their way to be as nice as possible and set a good example. Neither of these are a good representation of typical behavior. Rather, I think they are extremes. Should we really be as good as possible all the time? Is it breaking the bad stereotype? Or is it simply creating a new stereotype for some Chinese if we are the first foreigner they have met? What if they meet a bad one next? Will they be more likely to believe the bad stereotype? If we act as expected, do we reinforce preexisting stereotypes? If we act differently than expected, are we breaking stereotypes, or does that particular foreigner just become an exception?

10 years 27 weeks ago in  Culture - China

 
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Jnusb416, some time back I decided to forget totally of what others thought of me, and to live my life according to my principles and moral values.  The idea was for me to be happy with myself, and do not loose any sleep over what others may or may not think of me.

Somehow, since I started that, I no longer have ulcers or high blood pressure, so I must be doing something right.

Now, here in China, in my opinion, there are two distinct major types of foreigners.  One, a single guy, that could be from a youngster to an elder in age, who came to China for a limited period of time, and to have as much fun as possible.  Those spend most of their time either drinking or chasing women.  It is unfortunate, but it is also real.  No way we can cover the sun with two fingers.

And another general type are those who either met prior, or met after arriving, a local lady and started a happy family here, have no immediate plans to leave in the near future, and behave and obey laws and regulations because they value and treasure their opportunity to live in China.

Unfortunately, those in the first group do make more noise, are more visible to the surrounding community, so they get to set the stereotype.  And those in the second group are mostly consider exceptions and a minority.  But I do feel that as the second group expands, things may turn around a bit, at least that is my hope.

Until then, hang in there, on your shoulders is the responsibility of what a few Chinese acquaintances of yours will thing of all of us.   And I know you will excel on that particular job.

Jnusb416:

I'll try my best, but I'm certainly not perfect. I seem to be leaving a good impression though.

10 years 27 weeks ago
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tomcatflyer:

You have got the right idea HappyExpat. I am the same, I try to live my life by the old idea of treat others as you would have them treat you. It works for me and I do seem to make a good impression on most of the Chinese I meet. As to the stereotype issue there are certain Chinese who irrespective of what you say or do have such closed minds that they cannot see past those stereotypes. Well its their life, just leave them with their delusions and move on. I don't think we are either building, reinforcing or breaking stereotypes; there is nothing that we can do to really change that. People see what they want to. Live your life in the best way you can and just hope some will see that not all Westerners are the same.

10 years 27 weeks ago
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10 years 27 weeks ago
 
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Nothing you do will change any stereotype. The power of groupthink in China is a thousand times more powerful than any one individual's behaviour. I could be the most polite gentleman in the universe and they will think of me as a perverted friendly christian china-harming american. I could do the exact opposite and the next day, and they'd still see me as a a perverted friendly christian china-harming american". I've gone for weeks talking to no one at work but my students and otherwise staring at the floor, and the Chinese colleagues still insist that I'm a loud, extroverted colour-wolf who is giving them all flirty glances. They don't need me to do anything but have foreign skin and exist to maintain their fantasies.

 

Living in China is groundhog day, measured in moments: nothing you do matters because everything will be reset within seconds. This is a country where a foreigner's actions mean absolutely nothing, unless he his on TV.  Never worry about what you do, because whatever you do is going to be filtered through endless layers of preconceptions and be something completely unrecognisable by the time it reaches the Chinese people's conscious minds.

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10 years 27 weeks ago
 
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I just cannot ask for something without saying "please" and "thank you". In fact, even when my dog sneezes, I still say "bless you". It is just too  hard wired into me.  My friends understand me, and either tolerate it or see it as one of my idiosyncrasies just like I do ( to a lesser extent) tolerate the spitting bones on the table...

I think THEY are the ones coming up ahead on this point...no

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10 years 26 weeks ago
 
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to be honest there are many different type of people here. (obliviously) we can change stereotypes on an individual level if we are good natured people. this does not mean being perfect. good natured person to me means someone who is for the most part honest , fair minded, loving and caring to those close to them. (over simplified) . i'm a good example of this around my friends i am who i am. they will either accept me for who i am or there is no friendship. with the close circle of about 10 real friends i made since coming here( and with most of the women i have dated or pursued), i have left a good impression. the reason why is i let them know i am not every black person, american, or foreigner. i let them know i am both good and bad. and they see me for who i am. regardless of my flaws , i am honest and forth coming i dont try to manipulate them. sadly many foreigners do this, they try to use culture differences to try and take advantage of people here. example: some jerk that was in a relationship with a friend of mine and told her foreign men are not comfortable with saying "i love you" so  they dont say it. 

(that's the problem with drinking and making a long post, where am i)

you do effect the thinking of those closest to you, good or bad. but i do teach them something about friendship (they can confide in me share their deepest secrets and i wont judge them or tell everyone, we hang out simply because we enjoy each others company not because we are building guanxi) it is a privileged thing to come here and be considered the best friend to 10 different people and simply for being there in their time of need to listening to them.

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10 years 26 weeks ago
 
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It's extremely difficult to break a stereotype in China.

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10 years 26 weeks ago
 
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