Failed Humor Begets Violence?

I read this article on Discovery.com last week: Telling Bad Jokes Invokes Hostility, Violence. It prompted me to reflect upon my struggles with humor in foreign languages, and in English too.

Random observations:

  • The more familiar I am with the people I am with, the funnier I am. Thus, in my nuclear family I am a comedic superstar, while at work or when meeting people for the first time, not so much. Other friends fall somewhere in the middle.

Cultural Angles on Donations

A Chinese friend of mine told me that at her workplace, there was a fund-raising effort going on for the victims of the recent earthquake. Most employees contributed 100 RMB. My friend wanted to give a bit more, so she was about to put in 500 RMB when a co-worker pulled her aside.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m giving 500 RMB.”

“Everyone else gave 100. The boss only gave 300. Who do you think you are, giving 500?”

My …

China According to the Chinese

Micah posts two hilarious maps of China (Chinese required):

Sorry, I’m a bit too busy lately to translate this, but it’s quite revealing culturally, so if you’re a student of Chinese, it’s worth it to get out your China map and a dictionary.

Unkind as it may sound, I got a huge kick out of the labels placed by both groups on the Wenzhounese. (I need to blog someday about …

Sign Language Expression VS Chinese Culture

I got several comments on the Deaf, Not Dumb post (one comment actually on the site) relating to Alice‘s facial expressions. The observation was that Alice seems to be much more expressive when she signs than the average Chinese person is during conversation.

I can understand this point. I remember when I first arrived in China and was still learning to communicate in Chinese, I was often told, “你的表情丰富” (your [facial] expressions are …

Super Bowl in China

It’s Monday, and it’s the day of the Super Bowl in China. Thanks to our good friend time difference, we watch the Super Bowl at around 7am on Monday morning here in China. (What time could be better, right?)

In case you missed the ChinesePod episode on the Super Bowl, “Super Bowl” in Chinese is 超级碗. Literally, it means (brace yourself for this)… “super bowl.”

Somehow this feels wrong and fake and anticlimactic and too easy to …

A Moral Dilemma

I recently read a very interesting article called Do the Right Thing which discusses moral standards in different cultures. From the article:

Consider the following dilemma: Mike is supposed to be the best man at a friend’s wedding in Maine this afternoon. He is carrying the wedding rings with him in New Hampshire, where he has been staying on business. One bus a day goes directly to the coast. Mike is on his way to the bus station with 15

LaoZi Academy Podcasts

From the site:

Audio recordings from formal training. In these recordings, Master Dong Yang talks about different aspects of Dao and Daoist cultivation through the refining and growing of the internal elixir and how to prevent physical damage in the process.

Hmmm, I think some things were not meant for podcast format.

What do you think?…

Tipping Hell

I grew up in the US, so when I’m there, I know how to tip. It’s not too hard to know how to tip in my adopted home, China, because you just don’t do it. You almost never tip in China. Easy. Thus, I was totally unprepared for Turkey on the tipping front.

Somewhere around the year 2002 I abandoned the Lonely Planet and guidebooks altogether. I figured it’s more fun to just get by on scattered intelligence gleaned from …

Chinese Test for Foreigners: A Fantasy

So while some of us foreigners are feeling eager to be tested by the HSK, a portion of the Chinese population is wishing a more arduous kind of standardized testing upon us:

When China becomes more powerful, we’ll make all the foreigners take band 4 or 6 exams! Classical Chinese would be too simple; it’ll all have to be answered using calligraphy brushes, but that’s going easy on them. Going hard on them would be a knife and

Cross-cultural Honesty Catalysis

I recently read an interesting and provocative article about a movement called radical honesty. The founder posits that everyone would be better off–that we’d be taking the steps to true communication–if we would all just say exactly what is on our minds. It’s not meant to be hurtful; you don’t insult people and walk away. After you speak your mind you stick around for the fallout, because radical honesty tends to beget radical honesty, and once you strip …

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