In China, where you never say "No"
So do they always say 'Yes'? - Was my very first thought. Once again, too easy.
Chinese culture is a fascinating array of unspoken rules that date back thousands of years, how can I understand them in only two months? With a rich oral tradition, Chinese people proudly perpetuate almost unconsciously the lengthy heritage of their ancestors.
I'm usually quite direct in my responses, but I admit some difficulty in delivering a blunt "No" when I get invitations for something I'm not too keen on, so probably at least in this case I won't need to make an effort to adapt to Chinese customs.
Apparently this is also the tradition when it comes to dating: "Careful!" laoshi advised my male classmates this time. "If a girl tells you she's tired, she's just not interested, so admit defeat and leave her alone!"
As long as this happens in contexts such as dating, shopping or among friends, it might be annoying but no harm is made. However, awkward situations might be caused when it comes to business. The whole not-saying-no thing, in fact, rules also in trade and economy, and this is why Westerners consider doing business with Chinese people exhausting.
Apparently, if a Chinese businessman says "I will think about it", he means "No way"; on the contrary, if he says "Wo qing ni chi fan" (I invite you for a meal), there is hope.
Although so far I've been regarding the Chinese not exactly fussy when it comes to manners, probably they consider saying a direct "No" a sign of impoliteness, and they always prefer a "middle way".
This "middle way" of thinking is actually the foundation of Chinese culture: the word "China" itself in Mandarin sounds Zhong Guo, looks 中国 and means "the middle country". This is not to stress that China is the "centre" of the universe, but it's because the Chinese think the philosophy of staying "half-way" is the best one in pretty much all daily occasions.
This entails also never be "too sad" nor "too happy," for that matter, because after a too strong sentiment, inevitably follows the opposite. Now, although I think (and have experienced) that this is often true, and I do admire their ability to master their feelings, I'm not quite sure I'll be able to do the same.
Let's see if my stay in China will teach me how to be "less Italian" and better manage situations with a too high emotional burden. Starting point? Unavoidably Confucius.