Culture shock in the Paris of the East

There is a strange tendency in China, one which I have not experienced elsewhere in the world, where people choose not to swerve aside and choose instead to walk towards the obstacle without diverting left or right and then when confronted by nearly nose touching proximity, stop dead and look confused. This can happen when it is busy.  It can happen when there is virtually no one on the sidewalk. But one thing is certain…. it always happens.  Every single time.

This magnetic attraction phenomena is particulary prevalent in lines.  Any sort of line.  At the train station. At the supermarket. Anywhere. You can be standing in a line and rather than stopping a comfortable non-contact distance behind you, you will consisently be nudged in the back and so on down the line. There is literally no where to go. Standing close does not speed up the process of the line nor get the close stander any identifiable benefit. And yet it happens. Again and again.

So I decided to test the theory of whether the close standing is goal orientated or just an habitual behaviour.

One day there was a reasonably large crowd at the supermarket and I lined up with my basket.  Nearing the checkout counter and feeling the familiar nudge of every person lined up behind me, I decided to move a little to the left. Not much. But definitely not in the direction of the checkout counter. The person behind me sensing the loss of contact moved in response and came to rest against me in my new position. And the people behind consequently adjusted their positions to maintain nudging distance.

Emboldened by early success, I moved again. Again slightly to the left and not in the direction of the checkout counter. Same thing happened. The person behind me adjusted to familiar nudging distance and so on down the line.

I managed to move a full half meter away from the direction of the checkout counter and maintain contact with the person behind me and the nudging line. I had redirected the line away from their destination and no one had noticed.

As the second monkey says, we see no evil.

Speak No Evil

Dealing with internet service providers is not fun. Ever.  It doesn’t matter where in the world you go, I am convinced that the phrase made famous by the talented and hilarious Little Britain comedians, “computer says noooo” is the standard response to most requests of so called customer service to an internet company. And like food, water, clothing, shelter and love, human beings can’t survive in a new millenial world without the internet, so we employ every tactic from negotiation, begging and hurling abuse to get internet service to our homes.

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