礼貌 (lǐmào) Politeness

Culture is a funny thing. If you ask enough people, maybe you’ll start getting a negative opinion about Chinese people. Rude, many say. But are they really?

The answer’s not so simple. The answer is no. And the answer is yes.

For the yes: there are rude people belonging to every culture on this earth. Just think of them as uncultured and unlearned, and move on. Rude people are not restricted to one particular culture. So what is it then?

Just like the thumbs-up and the OK-hand-signal is considered rude in some cultures, you might find that there is an absence of pleases and thank yous in Chinese. This isn’t because they’re trying to be rude to you (well, maybe, haha, what have you done to annoy them?) but rather, because politeness is different in Chinese culture.

您好 (nín hǎo) 谢谢 (xièxie)

您 (nín) you (honourific)

请 (qǐng) please

谢谢 (xièxie) thank you

Between friends and family, it’s strange for people to use 请 (qǐng, please) and 谢谢 (xièxie, thank you.) It makes it seem like you’re strangers, that you have to use such words, even as far as making the recipient feel like you’re not as good friends as they initially thought. Why? Because, being friends or family, they already know you’re thankful. You don’t need to express it every single time somebody does something little, like passing the salt. This feeling that every little thing doesn’t need the pleases and thank yous as if they were a grand gesture is the crux of the “issue.”

And when do you hear 您 (nín,) the honourific version of you? You can still hear it with business dealings, or when a younger generation speaks to seniors (as they are older and must be treated more respectfully,) and as a tourist in China you might hear this when you’re dining in a nice restaurant.

Cross-culturally, of course, the topic of politeness can cause friction. Just try to keep this in mind: politeness is different from culture to culture. It can save you a lot of pent-up anger in the future!

But yeah, that taxi driver is probably being rude to you. Sorry. Did we mention public transport is usually pretty good? >_<;

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