Cultural Sharing

April 15th, 2013, 7:45 am PDT by Greg

Something astonishing just happened.

I was shopping at my usual grocery store and was grabbing some apples. Another guy around the apple stand clearly needed a plastic bag: he was trying to move in the direction of the roll of bags, but was blocked by a cart and general Chinese grocery store detritus.

Without thinking, I grabbed a bag and handed it to him. That was not a very Chinese thing to do. Even noticing that there was someone else in the store with me seems to be unusual. He thanked me and we went on our way.

A minute later, I went to the produce-weighing station. Another guy who I believe saw the plastic bag interaction motioned for me to go ahead of him.

If you haven’t been to China, that might not seem weird. Let me explain. The expected thing to happen in that situation would be for him to step in front of me, go first, and never acknowledge my existence. Another socially acceptable thing would be to wedge his shoulder in front of me if I wasn’t standing close enough to the counter, and put his stuff on the scale a millisecond before mine.

I literally don’t think I have had a “you go first” wave in all the time I have been here. I can only assume that it was a result of my bag-getting courtesy.

I may have started something here, like in Warm Bodies.

5 Responses to “Cultural Sharing”

  1. Kat Says:

    Seriously, this is why I love you. Not only because you’re courteous and polite (at least most of the time!), but also because you reference movies like Warm Bodies! 🙂

  2. Nico Says:

    Either that, or the guy was afraid you were going to hand him a bag too. The first guy was probably terrified by your courteous “gesture”


  3. Kat Says:


  4. Greg Says:

    @Nico: That is a very real possibility.

  5. tb Says:

    don’t you go upsetting the Chinese cultural apple cart with your polite Canadian ways, you imperialist.