Yesterday, I attended a bridal shower for a Chinese friend (let’s call her Miss H.) who will be getting married next month. And it just so happens that another Chinese friend (Mrs. C), who is also a friend of Miss H., is in town for a couple of weeks to visit her son who is in high school here.
It was a wonderful afternoon of cultural confusion. Since they don’t do anything like bridal showers in China, Miss H. couldn’t figure out why 30 people would turn out to a party in her honor. She had tried to dissuade the organizers from doing it, but to no avail. Of course she was thrilled and had a wonderful afternoon.
Another confusing thing to my Chinese friends was the opening of the presents. In China it is considered impolite to open a gift in the presence of the giver. But here sat poor Miss H., with a stack of presents at her feet and 30 women watching while she opened them.
The opening of presents marked the end of the shower, but in typical American fashion, the ladies kept talking, eating, and having a good time. A few started to trickle out, and some even started the work of cleaning up in the kitchen.
After about ten minutes of this, my visiting friend, Mrs. C, came over and asked me, “Is the party over?”
You see, in China a party isn’t over until the MC (yes, a party always has an MC) stands up and says in a loud voice “THE PARTY IS OVER,” whereupon everyone rushes out, as if fleeing a burning building.
She had seen no such cue, yet people were starting to leave. I explained to her that we all knew it was done after Miss. H. was done opening her presents, but that the ladies just like to hang around longer and chat.
She also saw that everyone pitched in to get the party room cleaned up, and before long I noticed that she had embraced the cross-cultural experience and was vacuuming the floor.