Not for all the tea in China..

Cultural clashes are a daily norm for me. It doesn’t happen in a major way; it’s not like I whip out the chopsticks in preparation for a three course meal. It is the tiny trivial things which stands out the most to me, which causes my paranoia that others misinterpret my actions as rude or hostile.

Take the ol’ tea and biscuits scenario for example. No matter where I am, be it in a work place, family gathering or anywhere that involves a kettle, my auto response when offered a drink is “no I’m fine thank you”. I forget making tea is an ice breaker and a British norm, so I will nearly always decline out of politeness of not putting the other person out. This often results in an awkward situation where I have opted out, ignoring my dehydrated brain signalling that I am dying of thirst, to five minutes later decide to fetch myself the drink.

When I do get over myself and remember social etiquette, I allow others to make me a drink, or even food, to which I try my hardest to finish it all. To me, scoffing my food in no way resembles the class hierarchy that is very much alive today; we pass judgment on the poor who presumably lick their plate clean, but the very wealthy tend toy with their food, making sure a standard amount is left over on their plate. I do not clean the plate because I am starved and poor, I just simply disagree with trivially leaving waste. From my perspective, someone has taken the time and effort to make that food, so you better show gratitude by eating it.

I am not sure whether this is inherent from only my family or if there is a bigger cultural picture, whereby most Chinese people behave in this way. I do hope it is the latter.


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