[PICTURE: A sculpture in the Tingly Museum, Basel which is how I image us Country Garden teachers look like while waiting for the bus on a Monday morning….]
Flattery – excessive and insincere praise, especially that given to further one’s own interests
Flattery is either something you’re comfortable with or not. I can’t remember a single time when I felt comfortable while someone said anything even remotely close to flattery and aimed it in my general direction.
Flattery is strange in China. Friends and co-workers from last year would sometimes make comments which they intended to be a compliment, but, somewhere from the Chinese to Western culture, the flattery was lost. For example; the Chinese typically do not like to tan. They hide away from the sun taking any opportunity to whip out their umbrellas and shield them from the suns evil glare. So when my friend, co-worker and fellow tea break skiver came back from a week in the Philippines earlier this year, proud of her slight colour change and burnt thighs (okay, maybe not so proud about the lobster legs but you get my drift), you can imagine her dismay when she was told; “Oh I thought you went to the Philippines? But you are still so white, you are still so pale, it is great!” Her heart sank and “tan” seemed to fade away instantly. It’s just a different standard of beauty and expectations right? Neither is right nor wrong, just a clash of cultural preferences.
Another example, involves myself. I mentioned in an earlier post that I somehow found myself drinking Chinese spirits celebrating Mr Chen’s 20th year at CG School. Well during this alcohol fuelled evening, poor Vivian spend most her time translating the comments and questions of our tipsy/drunk Chinese co-workers for me. Again, as I mentioned, I don’t deal great with flattery or compliments, anyone who has ever been in the same room as me knowns I go various shades of pink and red with the greatest of ease… The McDonalds crew I worked with most frequently (going back a few years now…) even made a game of it. “Who can turn Charlie the pinkest in the quickest time?” As you can image, with my [at the time] other half also working there, the opportunities to make me flush red were ample. The game was easy and fun for them, and resulted in multiple trips to the chiller for myself to cool my boiling face. Add alcohol to the mix and I’m basically just a tomato faced Westerner sat at a table of Chinese. So, back to the meal… Vivian translated, multiple times, that they think they are very lucky to have a “beautiful and young lady on their team to work with.” This obviously made me pink and clueless as to how to reply. I simply smiled, laughed, and nodded while taking another swig of beer. These comments however, I could deal with slightly better than what was to come next. Instead of just leaving it at telling me they think I am pretty, they took it a step further and explained to me why, in their culture/view, I am pretty. Well, it’s because of my “big nose”. Yep, that’s right, they got Vivian to translate to me that they think I’m pretty because my nose is “bigger than normal”, which, to the Chinese modern standard of Western beauty, is a good thing. For me? Personally, I could have gone without that extra comment, maybe next time I’ll be more thankful for bog-standard normal flattery!
This is the Chinese way though, most Chinese, stereotypically, are very blunt and have no filter between brain and mouth. Kids especially. I mean, kids lack that skill of controlling and thinking about what comes out of their mouths in any country, culture or language. But here in China, it’s not frowned upon or corrected. While participating in a student activity designed by Vivian a few weeks ago, we were encouraging the students to verbally use different quantity amounts. (Example; too much, a lot, just enough, very little, too little) We were doing this by asking each other how much we eat at home, and the students would go around, ask 5 friends, and write down their answers in full sentences. One group I was working with only had 5 students in total, so I was playing as Student #5. I answered with different choices from the list provided for each kid to make sure they all had something different written down and practiced using them all. One boy, who I have grown to like again since this incident, came up to me and asked the question written on the top of the page: “Miss Charlie, how much food do you eat at home on the weekend?”, looking at his worksheet, checking which he had already written down, I chose my answer from the 2 that had been untouched from the list. “Well ****, at home I eat very little.” His face changed instantly, a look of shock spread across like wildfire. Pen in the air in frozen motion. “But Miss Charlie… If you eat so little how are you so fat?!” Now it was my turn to look shocked. It took me by such surprise I let out a small pathetic laugh, a chuckle one might say… [casually throwing in some of the kids vocabulary words there 😉 ] Like I said, this is not strange, rude or jaw dropping for this culture and age group. They speak their mind and that’s how they like it. I tried to resist, but the shock had taken over my brain for a second or two and I couldn’t let it slide, I told him that was a rude thing to say and for the remainder of the exercise, I kept my answers to just enough….
It’s unusual for me to do a cheeky midweek blog post, big or small, so it’s nice to have bashed this one out just because the mood struck me. Why the mood struck me I have no idea. I say “midweek blog post” and I’m now realising that yes, it is only Monday. How? I cannot fathom! It may be due to the fact that despite it being Monday (which means flag raising ceremony), it was actually our 3rd day of work back after the holiday. The past couple of days have been beyond tiring for me and my pals. Our little WeChat group (now named Bambi and the Ladies) consisting of Kim, Danielle, Kyle and me, has just been a platform for us all to vent, rant and get out all that pent up anger or arguments we know we can’t let explode in the workplace. I had a nice chat with Dad & Nat last night, but sadly, due to my sleepy state and the 7 hour time difference, I don’t fully clearly remember the whole conversation… We’re all so unbelievably drained, and like I said, it’s only Monday, 3 days after our holiday, and 3 months until our next break.
Grade 5 curriculum is a bit of a sh*t show at the moment, we keep thinking we’re getting a handle on things and incorporating all the different aspects, curriculums and units they want us to cram into roughly 3 hours a week. Then we have a message form the head of the international teachers calling us for an emergency meeting to pass on crap load of urgent information that needs to be dealt with right now. We’re a pretty good bunch though, we’re a mix, definitely a mix, but I think we’ll work well together this year. It came as a shock to me, but I actually feel like a useful and beneficial part of the team (even if my benefits are just me come up with our Flag Raising Ceremony script involving a fish called Bubbles to teach the kids about water conservation…)