CAVEAT #2: THE NON-JUDGMENTAL PERCEIVER
So, the second thing to know about my answers to your questions about life in China is that I’m very careful about how I interpret what I see, and how I phrase what I say about life in China. My Meyers-Briggs personality type is INTP (Introvert, Intuiter, Thinker, Perceiver) In contrast to its opposite type, which would be an ESFJ (Extrovert, Senser, Feeler, Judger; Look it up!!) I tend to perceive and observe without judging–at least, I make the effort. I live by the belief that there is no good or bad except believing makes it so.
For instance, it’s tempting to see smokers and smoking and think “bad,” or to see certain behavior and want to attach judgement-laden words to them. If you and I were talking about life in China, you might often hear me use the phrase “what we might refer to as [fill in the blank]” For instance, I might say something like “I’ve noticed that in the subways in Beijing, there’s a lot of what we might refer to as pushy behavior.” I do this to separate the words I use to describe the behavior (i.e. “pushy”), from any judgement you might believe I am making about the behavior itself.
I’ve had interesting conversations with people who are visiting China, but who are unable to step outside of their predominant paradigm. Everything from vehicular traffic, personal habits, communication styles, dating expectations, to gender roles provides a never-ending, fun exercise in how to observe without judgement, how to see things as others who are not raised within a western paradigm might see them. The more you know about how people think, how the system works, the more that certain behavior makes sense given the new paradigm. Of course, I’m not saying anything remarkably profound here, but you’ll have a difficult time really understanding certain aspects of life in China if you are not aware of to what degree your own observations and expectations are flavored by a foreign (non-Chinese) paradigm.
Of course, I have my own pet peeves. Inhaling second-hand cigarette smoke is one of them. As much as I realize that the choice to smoke and the percentage of smokers in a country are functions of many things including politics, economy, health education, cultural norms, gender roles, etc., the distress I feel when I am forced to inhale it does not lessen with that realization.
However, I’m here in China with my own agenda and on my own dime and time. I’m not working a job, so I have the freedom to pick up and leave if the smoking or the (cold) weather becomes unbearable.
So, anyway, my point is simply that I strive to be non-judgmental in my observations of life in China.
Went to a wedding reception the other day.
This man is handing out cigarettes.
You can never have too many. (A spare, in case one goes out, I imagine) :-)
And, before entering the hotel for the reception, you can get candy and….cigarettes.