Talking Heads

How do you all respond when you are out to dinner and a local person, thinking you don’t understand Chinese, lambastes you, your companions, or both? It seems that my local friends, and girlfriend, are the primary targets when this happens (“chung yang” is the most frequent criticism). I become a secondary target.

I’m familiar with the motivations behind these behaviors (tribalism, insecurity, drunkeness). I have also developed a way of dealing with this that allows me to end the bullshit and get on with the evening without resorting to violence. I’m curious about how you all handle this. Please share.


If they are talking unkindly about your friends just ask them nicely in Chinese to have a little more respect (zwun1 zhong4 yi1 dian3, hao3 ma?) (pardon my romanization).

It should shut up them up for a while. You could also follow up with a “lai2! Gan bei!”

You could also ignore it. It’s his problem; don’t let it become yours.

I was more interested in your experience than your advice. Guess that didn’t come across.

I speak Chinese. The ocassional comment here and there isn’t worth paying attention to. Could be wrong anyway.

If I’m sure the guy is venting his spleen at my friends, then I have a polite, firm chat with him to the effect that we’re not here to debate, we’re here to enjoy. I’ve always managed to work it out without an argument or a fight.

I am wondering also how often this happens to you guys who are with local women.

Ok, here’s an experience. A few years ago I worked in a company and had lunch with my boss and a couple of his friends. One of the friends spent most of the lunch asking my boss about me.

When I answered a few of his questions in Chinese (I speak Chinese pretty well), he just looked sort of awkward, was quiet for a minute, adn then talked about something else to my boss before resuming his questions about me - directed at my boss!

I didn’t see any point in pursuing it so I just sat there and listened to my boss fill him in. It’s not worth doing anything in these situations I reckon - let it pass.