Fight Over a Check?
It’s a common scene in a Chinese restaurant here or more so in China that people fight vehemently over a check to pay. I’m sure many Westerners would be baffled by this. Why on earth fight to pay when you can relax and let the other party take care of it?
Deep down, it’s a cultural difference between East and West. In Chinese culture, people want to be perceived as “giving” and “generous” when it comes to pay for a diner. “Go-dutch” is more of a contemporary notion and it may be practiced among some younger people in China. I know for sure that it is a common practice in the West regardless of the ethnicity and age group.
Responsibility of A Good Host/Hostess
The other similar tradition is that the host/hostess should be picking up the tab for dinner. For example, if I go to Seattle to see my friend, my friend should pay for dinner or better yet, invite me over to her house for dinner. In return, when my friend comes over to my place, I should repay her hospitality.
With thousands of years tradition, I can’t begin to attempt to outline the different social etiquette. Of course, with vast geography in China, each province and region would overlay additional aspects of their traditions and sometime superstitions.
Superstitions? Enough Already!
Admittedly, some of the traditions and customs are just gestures of hospitality and kindness that may be observed and practiced anywhere in the world. Other customs, in my own assessment, are just absurd.
For example, in 1991, when I was getting ready to come to the U.S. for graduate school, my aunt asked me to pack a red thread of yarn in my suitcase. I didn’t understand why then, but I was guessing that she meant to leave a thread of my hometown so that I would return promptly. The reality is that I never returned after school.
Watching over Chinese’s practice of so many superstitions, I sometimes wonder why bother with all this. Can we simplify life to eliminate all the burdens by everyone?
I don’t have a simple answer. Do you?
Image credit to Shiyahi “Tradition Chinese Temple” @dreamstime.com