DIFFERENCES in culture

“Are Europeans friendly?”

This is a usual question I had for friends who went to Europe for their vacation. While my personal experience with Finnish had been a pleasant one, I couldn’t help but ask that question as I hear too many stories about Europeans being unfriendly.

I guess I got my answer today, with an opportunity to chat with a German, T, who has been living in Singapore for the past 9 years.

“Germans are straight forward. In fact, I had a little culture shock when I went back to Germany recently. The waitress was telling us that we should leave the seats as we only spent $5 in the cafe and seats are reserved for those who spent at least $10,” T shared his little nugget of story with me.

“I guess I’m getting too used to Asian culture. It’s not that the waitress was unfriendly, I knew she was…” he added.

It was a moment of epiphany for me.

Strangely, it should be something I ought to know, especially as a learner of the Japanese language and someone who likes the Japanese culture.

A big aspect of Asian culture is face-saving and if we observe the Japanese culture, which in my opinion has exercised this “face-saving” culture to the greatest extent, the culture is even built into their language.

For instance, even though the word “No” exists in the Japanese language, it is seldom used as it is considered rude to reject a person. The proper way to reply would be “A little…”, coupled with a smallish body language of backing away with a gentle smile and an eye frown on their faces.

As for the person receiving the reply, he/she is expected to understand that it means a rejection and not push further if he/she could help it.

For the Germans, it was about being direct and getting the point across. Yes, even though they may throw in a bit of sarcasm in the midst maybe. As T puts it, two guys could be having a heated argument in work but once work is done, they can go into the same bar together and drink like brothers in the evening.

It’s just a difference in culture.

Probably it’s just that I’ve never met enough people who are more blunt and direct. After all, I’m guessing that Singaporeans are probably pretty German compared to our Asian counterparts.

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Retracing Roots

At last, my family and I managed to made it to the Teochew Festival. Quite a feat especially when Dad didn’t really like to go out. To the rest of us, it’s good for him to go out. Beats having his eyes glued to the TV. And so we drag him along…

For me, it was a time for me to retrace my roots. I’m pretty much the typical new generation of Chinese in Singapore who couldn’t speak much dialects thanks or no thanks to the successful “Speak Mandarin” campaign by the government.. It didn’t really helped that whenever I opened my mouth to speak Teochew, relatives would pretty much laughed at my terrible pronunciation. It was just a weird mixed of Teochew and Hokkien and Mandarin. I can listen though, with about 60% understanding.

Anyway, back to the exhibition hall…

A Teochew wedding must have one of the most elaborated traditions among all the dialect groups. Not to forget, the elaborated dowry the groom got to prepare for the bride.

Dowry (1)

One of the most well-known dowry would be the jewellery set known as 四点金 (Si Dian Jin, roughly translates to “four items of gold”). This, I can be extra sure, is a Teochew tradition, to have a gold jewellery set for the bride. I thought it’s going to look real old-fashioned for the bride to wear a gold chain across her neck. I didn’t realise they could look so exquisite.

Dowry (2)

In the exhibition area were also traditional handicrafts on exhibit sale: clay sculpture, wooden carvings, embroideries and porcelain sculpting just to name a few.

Clay Sculpture

Wood Carvings

I really liked this particular sculpture of the Buddha. This photograph probably can’t do justice to the details the sculptor puts into this.

Porcelain Scukpture

Oh ya. Who could forget the Teochew Opera?

Teochew Opera

There’s also a little museum at the corner of the event hall.

Map of Teochew

I must say I really enjoyed myself, watching the performance and looking at the items much like its a museum. However, I’m guessing that Dad and Mum probably find things a bit on the boring side. Everything is too pricy anyway and that includes the food (which really explains why there wasn’t any photographs on food). I have to second that although I’m not surprised at all.