Monday, 28 January 2013
Why are Asians so nosey?
My Singaporean Chinese friend moved back to Singapore, after many years in the US. While her new home was undergoing renovations, the lady living next door barged right into the messy living room, took a quick look at the on-going work, and barked at my friend, "How much are you paying for the renovation?"
My alarmed friend managed to mutter something like, "Around $40,000." Not satisfied, the lady demanded, "40-what thousand?" She refused to leave until she had extracted the exact amount from my friend.
A family friend who is also Singaporean Chinese, lives in Australia and attends a church with a large Asian congregation. Shortly after the university exam results were announced, Asian members of the church marched up to ask my friend how her son had done. Knowing that her son hates such intrusion, she diplomatically replied, "Oh, he did well." Not satisfied, the nosey people shot back, "How WELL did he do?" Being a corporate high flier, she was used to such nonsense and revealed nothing. These nosey folks then went to the son to ask for his detailed scores!
I can cite so many more similar stories. Westerners would be mortified at such perceived rudeness. Thankfully, many young Asians have grown to detest such behaviour, preferring the politeness of the Western ways.
Perhaps the communal nature of Asian culture breeds a "no secrets" way of life. Privacy is unheard of. Whatever you own or have achieved is common knowledge and sometimes the subject of much jealousy. Is this a good thing?
Personally, I think not. I am a product of both east and west, but more west than east. I respect people's privacy. I do not intrude, and hope that others do the same to me. But sometimes, going cross-cultural forces me to exercise diplomacy without treading on people's toes. Will Asians change? I think so. Once the older folks who perpetuate this nosey-parker behaviour die off, this habit should die with them. The young generation of Asians do not poke their noses into other people's affairs.
Respect another's privacy. It breeds good relationships. Respect another's culture. You will both be happier for it.
You can read all about different cultures at Fun Language Tools.