[the group sitting on a bench with a picture of Chinese landscape in the background]
Welcome to our ASBE podcast. Today we will tell you the story about Lisa and Tom, about their semester abroad in China. Lean back and enjoy!
[key facts are shown on the left side: Exchange student from Germany; not in the ASBE program; no prior Chinese knowledge]
Laura [on the right side]: Hi my name is Lisa. For my next semester I will study in China. I did not participate in the ASBE-program, but I think I can handle that learning by doing.
[key facts are shown on the left side: Exchange student from Germany; in the ASBE program; feels prepared very well]
Julian [on the right side]: Hi guys. I am Tom and I will also study a semester abroad in China, but I participated in the ASBE program. So I think I will be prepared very well for my semester abroad.
[key facts are shown on the left side: Chinese student; lives in the student dormitory; becomes a friend of Lisa and Tom]
Stephan [on the right side]: Hi, I am Zhan and I´m a Chinese friend of Tom and Lisa. And also I will be the moderator for this podcast. Have fun!
Passant/taxi driver/ friend of Zhan:
[key facts are shown on the left side: has different roles in the Podcast; passant, taxi driver, friend of Zhan]
Kim [on the right side]: Nimen hao. (Hello) I am a nameless Chinese guy and due to my split personality you will find me in various roles within this Podcast.
Lisa and Tom leave Germany because they were selected for an international exchange program. Therefore they travel to China, but due to a lack of good organization of Lisa, they did miss to travel together. That’s why Lisa reaches China one day earlier. Overall one could say, that Tom is well prepared for the stay in China. He read a lot about the Chinese culture, typical habits and furthermore even visited a preparation course, whereas Lisa does not really thinks about what will be coming and practices learning-by-doing.
Both face similar situations within their semester abroad, but handle them differently. It all starts in front of the arrival hall at the airport…
Scene 1A Airport arrival
Moderator: Lisa arrived in China one day earlier than Tom. Let’s see how she gets to the student dormitory.
Lisa walks with her suitcase out of the P8 Building (Airport) and asks a Chinese guy for the way to the student dormitory.
Lisa: [Grabs the arm of the Chinese guy.] Sorry, do you speak English?
Chinese Guy: Sorry?
Lisa: Where is the student dormitory?
Chinese Guy: Students?
Lisa: Student dormitory, Do you know the direction? [Points in one direction and asks] there?
Chinese Guy: [Nods his head and points in the same direction]
[Lisa walking besides a field and is lost]
Text: 30 Minutes later and not even close to the student’s dormitory.
Moderator: Now its Toms turn. Let’s see how he handles the same situation.
Tom walks with his suitcase out of the P8 Building (Airport) and asks a Chinese guy for the way to the student’s dormitory.
Tom: Duibuqi. (Excuse me)
Chinese guy: Nihao! (Hello)
Tom: Nihao, wo keyi shuo Yingwen? (Can I speak English?)
Chinese guy: bu shuo. (no)
Tom: Hmmm, Xuéshēng sùshè zai nar? (Where is the students dormitory?)
Chinese guy: Wang qian zou shi fen zhong. (walk 10 minutes long straight forward).
[Tom decides to ask another passenger for the way]
Tom: Duibuqi. (Excuse me)
Zhan: Ni hao. (Hello)
Tom: Nihao, wo keyi shuo Yingwen? (Can I speak English?)
Zhan: Yes, a little bit.
Tom: Okay good, I’m searching the student’s dormitory. Do you know where it is?
Zhan: I’m just on the way to the student’s dormitory. If you want we can walk together.
Tom: Okay, thank you.
[Tom & Zhan walk in the opposite direction than the Chinese guy sent Tom]
Scene 1 Commentator:
In this scene Lisa did several mistakes.
Lisa walks straight to the stranger and grabs his arm. In China you should always keep a physical distance, especially to strangers.
Lisa asked the Chinese guy on English: “Can you speak English?” In China it’s always better to ask on Chinese: “May I speak English?” because then the Chinese guy is not forced to admit that he can’t speak English and won’t lose his face.
Lisa asks only one passant for the way and then follows his instructions all the way trough. And as you could see, she got lost. In china there is a simple rule of thumb. Only start walking if at least two independent persons send you in the same direction.
Moderator: The next scenes take place in the student’s dormitory.
Scene 2A Student’s dormitory
Location: University, students’ dormitory
Lisa is in the student’s dormitory, trying to unlock her door. Zhan passes the way.
Lisa: Ni hao. (Hello)
Zhan: Ni hao. (Hello)
Lisa: Sorry can you help me please?
Zhan: Yes, sure. [Zhan unlocks Lisa’s door] There you go.
Lisa: Thank you. I am Lisa. [violently shakes Zhan’s hands]
Zhan: I am Zhan. [gives Lisa his visiting card]
Lisa: Takes the card with only one hand and puts it into her back pocket without looking at it.
Zhan: Do you live here for a long time
Lisa: Just two weeks. I am from Paderborn in Germany.
Zhan: Oh Germany. How much rent do you pay for your apartment?
Lisa: 3000 Yuan
Zhan: Okay. So it must be a really nice apartment.
Lisa: Yes, it is.
Zhan: Well I have to go. Maybe we will see us later
Lisa: Yes. Thanks. Bye.
The same situation: Tom is in the student’s dormitory, trying to unlock his door. Zhan passes the way.
Tom: Sorry. Can you help me with the door, please?
Zhan: Yes, sure. [unlocks the door] There you go.
Tom: Thank you very much. I am Tom. [waits to see if Zhang shakes his hand, when he does not he just smiles back]
Zhan: I am Zhan. [gives Tom his name card]
Tom: [takes the card with two hands, reads it attentive and keeps it in his hand)
Zhan: Since when do you live in this apartment?
Tom: Just about two weeks.
Zhan: Do you enjoy it in China?
Tom: Yes, China is really great.
Zhan: Nice. And how much rent do you pay for your apartment?
Tom: I pay about 3000 Yuan.
Zhan: Oh. 3000? Do you like it in your apartment?
Tom: Yes, it is really nice.
Zhan: Nice living standard?
Tom: Yes, the living standard is very big.
Zhan: Maybe we will see us later.
Tom: Yes, all right. See you.
Scene 2 Commentator
As Lisa has no experience with the Chinese culture she behaves inappropriately without recognizing it.
Shaking hands. -Traditionally Chinese do not shake hands. Today some modern Chinese adapt to the western culture and shake hands. However, it is better to wait if your Chinese opposite shakes your hand and if he does so you know that’s ok for him. But do not press too tightly.
Lisa is astounded that the Chinese guy she never met before asks directly how much rent she pays for her apartment. However, talking directly about money is a common thing in China.
Not looking at the card and putting it in the pocket -You have to take a name card with two hands and look at it/read it a little while. Moreover, you should not plug the card into the back pocket or the side pocket of your pants. For a Chinese person that is synonymous with the fact that you “sit him” on or at least you “degrade” the person.
You could see that Tom handled the situation differently again. He does not shake hands, when Zhan did not and Tom not only takes the card, put looks at it a little while.
Scene 3A Taxi Drive
The situation: It is the day where the dinner should take place. Lisa is quite excited about her first dinner with all the friends she made so far. As she is in a rush she does not look up the exact location of the restaurant because she thinks to remember quite good the name of the restaurant and additionally she has the name written down in English. Her friends furthermore told her, that it is one of the most famous original Chinese restaurants in town with a beautiful view over the Zoo.
Lisa: [stands in front of the student dormitory and tries to catch a taxi by several ways. A lot of taxis pass by but none of them stops. After a while she shakes her hands in order to finally stop a taxi but again none stops. With regard to the fact, that she was really getting late she desperately tried to stop a taxi. Then she jumped on the street and forced a taxi to stop.
Lisa: Ni hao. Finally I got a taxi, I don’t know what is wrong today but so far all the taxis did not stop, although they were free… but who cares. Do you speak English?
Taxi Driver (TD): [looks helpless, without any sign of emotion]
TD: [Still no reaction and has a puzzled look]
Lisa: [is about to feel desperate again and tries to explain herself in chinese] Xiansheng wo zai Chinese Restaurant?
TD: [Still does not understand where Lisa wants to go.]
Lisa: [has no idea how to solve the situation, he feels the taxi driver has to understand him, finally she starts to imitate an elephant to indicate that she wants to get to the zoo.]
TD: [The TD now gets where Lisa wants to go and shouts out loud] Ahhhh dongwu-yuan! (Zoo)
Finally the taxi is heading towards the zoo und Lisa is relieved until the Taxis is about to reach the zoo.
TD: After a 10 Minute ride, the TD pulled on the side as they were just in in front of the zoo.
Lisa: How much does the ride cost?
TD: [The TD still does not understand what Lisa was saying, but as they reached the zoo it is obvious to him what she wants. He pulls out a pencil and a piece of paper and writes down three numbers: 155 RMB.]
Lisa: [was shocked and got angry] Are you serious, this was just a 10 minute drive. How can it be this expensive?
TD: (just gave a shrug)
Lisa: As she is late and does not know what to do she pulls out her wallet and pays with 200 RMB.
TD: [takes the 200 RMB and puts them in his wallet, than he looks at Lisa and tries to tell him that he has no change] Wo bu huan! (I cannot change)
Lisa: Take the money, I’m already late [gets out of the taxi really upset and starts to insult the taxi driver while he was already driving away]
The situation: It is the day where the dinner should take place. Tom is quite excited about his first dinner with all the friends he made so far. He is ready really early and writes down the address of the restaurant in Chinese letters as he knows that the TD hardly speak and understand English.
Tom: [stands in front of the student dormitory and tries to catch an official taxi. Tom knows the right procedure to stop a taxi and the first taxi already stops by.]
Tom: Ni hao. Wo keyi shuo Yingwen (Hello, may I speak English with you?)
Taxi Driver (TD): Bu (no) [nodes with his head indicating that he does not speak English]
Tom: [pulls out the piece of paper with the address and the name of the restaurant and shows it to the TD.]
TD: [Nodes slightly with the head, starts the meter and begins to drive]
TD: After a 10 Minute ride, the TD pulled on the side as they were just in in front of the destination. The TD pointed on the meter which said: 55 RMB.
Tom: pulls out the wallet and pays exactly 55 RMB. Gets out of the taxi and is happy to be there on time.
Scene 3 Commentator:
If you want to catch a taxi, you should keep some important facts in mind and avoid mistakes like Lisa did. First of all …
Always have the address written in Chinese with you as you cannot expect the taxi driver to speak and understand English. Additionally do not overestimate your Chinese abilities.
[It will save you a lot of strain and problems if you are prepared. A lot of restaurants and Hotels have prepared cards for tourists with all relevant information and in case the taxi driver really does not know where to go, try to remember a sight or something which is near to the place you want to go.]
All taxis are required to have a meter so in case you enter a taxi without a meter, you should leave it instantly. Furthermore always have small money with you, as taxi drivers cannot or pretend to cannot change.
Finally please pay attention while choosing a taxi. Please do only take taxis which are red colored, as they are officially authorized by the city government.
Scene 4 Restaurant
The situation: After the nerve-racking taxi drive Lisa finally arrived at the restaurant. 15 min too late and she felt really uncomfortable when she entered the restaurant where all her new friends and Tom where sitting.
All of them are enjoying the good food and chat a bit
[While the friends talk, Lisa arranges the chop-sticks in the rice to prevent them from falling down. The two friends immediately stop talking.]
Zhan: [does not say anything, but pulls the chop sticks out of the rice bowl and places them the right way.]
While they keep on chatting, Lisa now puts her own chop sticks on the table.
Again both friends look at each other again irritated, wondering whether they should say something or not. [Zhan than takes his own chop-sticks and places them the right way – Unfortunately Lisa did not get the hint and Tom and Zhan did not say something]
Lisa: [pulls out a tissue to clean her nose. Immediately the whole table turned towards Lisa but nobody said anything.] Nevertheless the friends keep on chatting and eating for a while.
Tom: Excuse me Lisa, can I have a tissue please?
Lisa: Yes of course.
Tom: [gets up and cleans the nose somewhere else]
After Tom is back the eating goes on.
Lisa: [eats everything and her plate is empty at the end; whereas the others all left a small rest]
Zhan: Lisa and Tom, I would like to invite you to my upcoming birthday part.
Lisa: [without any hesitation] Oh thank you Zhan I will definitely come.
Tom: [hesitates] Oh thank you for the invitation Zhan, but I cannot accept it.
Zhan: Please Tom, come to my party. It is just one evening.
Tom: [relieved] Ok I will come.
Other friend: For the purpose of today’s occasion, I would like to invite you. Please be my guest today.
Lisa: Oh no this is not necessary. We will divide the bill by four and pay separately.
Other friend: Oh no please be my guest, it would be a pleasure if I could invite you.
Lisa: No no.
Other friend: Alright, I cannot force you so we pay separately.
Scene 4 Commentator:
Arranging chops-sticks vertically in a bowl of rice is associated with death and only practiced at funerals.
Chop sticks shell never touch the table with the part one picks up the food. Therefore a lot of restaurants have small plates for the front part of the chop sticks. The backend is allowed to lie on the table.
Although Chinese people only follow really basic table manners, cleaning the nose is a highly inappropriate behavior. Usually people who have to do so are expected to leave the compartment and use the toilet to clean the nose.
Scene 5A Presents and Birthday
Commentator: After the birthday invitation of Zhan, Lisa and Tom decide to get some presents. Tom decides to buy some alcohol and let’s see what Lisa buys.
Inside a shop, Lisa finds a wall clock and decides to buy this clock for Zhan.
Lisa: Look at this beautiful wall clock. I think it’s a good present because he is always late and it’s nice. Don’t you think so? I think it’s nice.
Tom: Wait, I think it’s not a good idea.
Commentator: The last scene takes place at Zhan’s birthday.
Lisa: Happy Birthday! [hugs Zhan] Here, my present and my card. You have to read it!
Zhan: Xiexie (Thank you). I will read it later.
Lisa: Look what’s inside. It’s really cool. It’s a nice present. Best present ever!
Zhan: Let’s meet the others.
Both enter Zhan’s room.
Same scene, but now with Tom.
Zhan: Nihao. (Hello)
Tom: Nihao. (Hello)
Zhan: Come in!
Tom: Zhu ni shengri kuaile! (Happy Birthday to you).
Zhan: Thank you! Oh, that wasn’t necessary.
Tom: It’s just a little gift.
Zhan: I don’t know.
Tom: It’s nothing much, please take it.
Zhan: Okay. Xiexie! (Thank you)
Tom: Bu keqi. (You’re welcome) Is Lisa already here?
Zhan: Yes, she is already inside, so let’s join them. [Zhan enters his room]
Tom takes off his shoes and enters Zhan’s room.
Scene 5 Commentator:
We have seen that Lisa bought a clock as present for Zhan. But as you might know, this is not a good idea. In China, song zhong means give a clock as present. But, same pronunciation, but different signs means also to pay one’s last respect on someone’s deathbed. So, give a clock as present is closely related to death.
Lisa used white paper to wrap the present. Unfortunately, colors like white grey or black are used for funerals. More appropriate colors would have been red, pink, or yellow.
Gifts for Chinese people would be liquor, chocolate, especially German chocolate, or other things from your home country.
The last mistake Lisa did, was urging Zhan to open the present in front of her. In China, presents are usually opened when the donor is not there anymore. With this behavior it is made sure that neither of the two parties loses their face if the present is not satisfying.
This is the end of our podcast. We hope you enjoyed it and learned a little bit about China. Furthermore we hope that you rather behave like Tom. Thanks for watching.