Don’t Ask the Foreigner

Much has been written in Beijing this week about a new chapter in the city’s campaign to civilized the population ahead of the Games, which begin now in 5 short days.  Doing it’s part to promote harmonious cross-cultural communication, the folks in charge of Dongcheng District have come up with a list of questions that should not be asked of foreigners.  Neighborhoods and housing estates have been ordered to post the “Eight Don’t Asks” on community bulletin boards.  They are:

1.  Don’t ask about income or spending habits.
2.  Don’t ask about age.
3.  Don’t ask about love life or marital status.
4.  Don’t ask about health.
5.  Don’t ask for an address.
6.  Don’t ask about personal life.
7.  Don’t ask about religion or politics.
8.  Don’t ask them about their work.

Well, it seems like there’s not much left to talk about.  If I could be chief bureaucrat for a day, here’s the list of “Eight Don’t Asks” that I would promulgate:

1.  Can you use chopsticks? (Yes, it’s not that difficult)
2.  Do you like Chinese food?  (Yes.  Do you think I would still be here 24 years later if I didn’t?)
3.  Why aren’t you married?  (My standards are too high.)
4.  Which do you like better?  China or America?  (I love them both.)
5.  Can you teach English to my mother’s cousin’s sister-in-law’s daughter’s classmate?  (No, I’m too busy.)
6.  I’ve just written a book. Will you translate it for me in your spare time?  (No, I’m too busy.)
7.  What’s the weather like in America? (um…that depends.)
8.  Why are you so fat? (too much Pepsi.)

This is now getting a little out of hand. You’d think that this is the first time foreigners were ever to visit Beijing.  The papers keep making a big deal about the fact
that 500,000 foreign visitors will be here this month.  But here’s the thing: in a normal year (any year in which Beijing is NOT hosting the
Olympics) nearly 400,000 foreign tourists are here, and everyone
manages to get along just fine.  In fact, most tourists who come here
have a wonderful time. Why wouldn’t they this year, without all the
extra fuss and muss? It’s time for everyone to take a deep breath and calm down!