Huang Hung

Dear laowai, don't mess with our Chinese-ness

By Huang Hung (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-01-12 07:02
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Now, listen up, you foreigner boys and girls, Chinese New Year is around the corner and I want to talk to you seriously about fireworks.

I saw this picture in a newspaper, where a smiling, cordial Chinese girl (rather pretty as well) was explaining the tradition of lighting fireworks to a group of foreign guys. They all looked very happy.

I will let you know that is false information. Fireworks are no small matter, and no laughing matter either. So wipe that smirk off your face and listen up.

As a Chinese, I want to be honest with you. For the past 30 years, we have opened up to the West, and welcomed foreigners like yourselves to come here to do business, to make money, even gave you some easy credit to let you buy real estate, marry our women, whatever. But this does not make you Chinese. There are things we reserve for ourselves, and it really doesn't matter how long you have been here, just don't assume you can be one of us, and don't touch the following three things:




Most of you are well trained enough to withhold your chopsticks, whichever way you are holding them, and stay away from the chicken feet at Chinese dim sum restaurants. But some of you are show-offs. Most of the time, you are trying to prove to your Chinese girlfriend's parents that you are so Chinese. "Look, I am eating chicken feet. Mmm ... Good!"

Don't do that. We really get annoyed when foreigners try to chomp on chicken feet. Sometimes, you are so polite, you don't spit out the bones, you chew them and try to swallow them. That's totally unacceptable. Because, when you do that, most Chinese start getting anxious about you choking to death on the damn chicken bones. And it is very difficult to enjoy dim sum when you are anxious.

Sea cucumbers are not for you either. Most of you are rather intimidated by slimy sea things - jelly fish, sea cucumbers. But, there are those of you who are so brave that you insist on trying it, and pretend to enjoy it. Most of the time, you are a foreign businessman, you don't want to offend your Chinese host by not eating the most expensive dish ordered.

I've got some news for you. Guess what? He didn't order it for you! He ordered it for the Chinese at the table! Do you know how difficult it is to soak the sea cucumber so it acquires the right slimy texture? No one can master it in his own kitchen. Only the restaurants can. So stop trying to pick up the sea cucumber with your chopsticks, it will probably end up in your lap anyway. Just politely put the untouched dish back on the lazy susan. We are not impressed by sea cucumber chivalry.

Now fireworks. It is strictly, strictly for us Chinese. We really don't want you anywhere near fireworks. First of all, it is dangerous. You don't understand why 1.4 billion people have to turn into pyromaniacs for one night. It's totally beyond your comprehension. But we love it; we have been setting off these things since we were three and for 5,000 years. So let me just say that fireworks are not for barbarians like you. You don't get it. On the other hand, we Chinese have great tolerance for fireworks; it's one night when you can do some damage and get away with it. For example, you can burn a building down, a brand new building, with stuff in it. How can you comprehend that level of generosity?

And, don't you dare try to do the same, we simply have no tolerance for it. You try to burn a building down, we will kill you, because, you were probably high, and we really don't give a hoot whether you are mentally disturbed or whether your prime minister is going to make endless harassing phone calls.

So, you better be good, you better be nice, because firecrackers are coming to town!

(Huang Hung is an opinionator on arts, lifestyle and showbiz.)