Saturday, October 20, 2012


I was thinking back to the trip that my wife Cathy and I took to China last year, and there's one particular experience that I want to share.

In the second city we visited, we spent time with a few of Cathy's relatives that she hadn't met before. They were very overbearing. Some people say that in Chinese culture, it's important to be hospitable, so people will push more food on you than you want, etc. But in every culture there are variations, and this family took it to the extreme. It felt like a struggle to stop getting food even when I felt very full. They say body language says more than spoken language. I couldn't understand the language, but there were times when their body language seemed to say, "We're going to be generous to you whether you like it or not." While I appreciate their generosity, it made me weary. Cathy felt similar.

And then we went to Cathy's home city and stayed at her grandma's place. Finally, I felt like I could breathe. She was generous, and she did encourage us to eat more than we really wanted, but she didn't push us to the point of being uncomfortably full.

With the other relatives, their generosity made it feel like they had something to prove. With Cathy's grandma, her generosity felt grandmotherly. It had been a year-and-a-half or so since I lost both of my grandmas, and they hadn't been doing well enough to be all that hospitable for a while before that. So it felt good to experience that grandmotherly hospitality once again.

Once again, body language said more than spoken language.

Now if only we could have a conversation...

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