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.

2 Comments:

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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