Jun 7, 2008

Sneezing in China

There's a cultural observation I've wanted to write for sometime about something we all do, sneezing. Normally, somebody sneezes, then someone else says, "bless you" or "gesundheit". The sneezer replies with a "thank you." In China, however, it's quite different. At least here in Beijing, there are typically only two possible responses you'll hear after you sneeze:

Response 1: Complete silence
Response 2: "You've got a cold." ("你感冒了。")

I'm perfectly fine with response number one, silence. If someone's got hay fever or cat allergies, I don't want to be saying "bless you" all day long to him. Sometimes there are upsides to living in a predominantly atheist country. You can be lazy and stop saying "bless you".

Response number two, "you've got a cold," drives me nuts when someone says it to me. I tend to sneeze from dust (very plentiful in Beijing), cat hair, some kinds of pollen, chlorine from swimming pools, and probably other stuff I don't know about.

When I see all of the people living in Beijing spitting and hacking up phlegm in the winter months, I don't stop and say to each of them "you have a chronic lung infection". Perhaps I should start.

I used to stop and explain to the "you've got a cold"-people that there are different reasons for sneezing, but it happened so frequently that I just gave up. Besides, I've got better ways to waste my time, like watching Bear Grylls eat meal worms.


Blogger Vickie said...

You should let me know earlier that you were so unhappy about the words of response2; I won't say it next time unless I happen to wanna see the look on your face when you 're driven nuts :D

7:02 AM  
Blogger aljensen said...

Beautiful photos.

10:13 AM  

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