After living in Britain for 18 months, I am very impressed by three well used phrases which can be seen as the western spirit in miniature. They are “I don’t care!”, “Why not?” and “So what?”
1, “I don’t care!”
Have you ever said something like this during the first month of your arrival in Britain?
“Oh my God, look at his jacket! So long, he is like a man from Harry Potter!”
“Oh my God, look at her breasts, almost jumped out!”
“Oh my God, look at that boy’s hair, he has a pigtail under his ears!”
“Oh my God, look at her big bum, her skirt is so short!”
“Oh my God, look at her hair, it’s all pink!”
After one month or so, you got used to it, no surprise any more. Also if you go to somewhere like Camden Market in London, you would see more odd, but interesting outfits or hairstyles which you would only see in films in China.
This makes me wonder: why are the western people so different from each other? Why are they so colorful and diversified, full of character and personality?
Then one day, my conversation with one of my flat mates suddenly enlightened me. He is a western gay boy, I was so excited when I was told about this, because I never had a gay friend in my life, you know in China, homosexuality has never been discussed properly. I was so curious abou him, wondering whether he behaves differently, or whether he has a different temper or something. It felt like he was from the Mars! Then one day I asked him very discreetly,
Me: “You are gay?”
Me: “Really? Do you worry about it? I mean people may judge you.”
Me: “Why not?”
Him: “I don’t care. It’s my personal life.”
Yes! That’s the word—“I don’t care!” That’s why the western people look more diverse and that’s the spirit we Chinese are still working on. I believe Chinese people care too much, we care about appearances, “face”, reputation… almost everything. I know there are some deep cultural reasons for this, which can be explained by two Chinese phrases: “the gun shoots the birds standing out”, and “the saliva (rumor) can drown you”. So Chinese are afraid of standing out, nervous about being criticized, worried about being excluded by their friends. The fundamental reason is that for thousands of years, the Confucian theory, featured by “harmony”, “moderate”, or “neutral” has been dominating Chinese people’s value system. In order to be harmonious, people have to be moderate, which means no outstanding, no critique, no showing all your intelligence, just be neutral, and moderate!
But here in Britain, people tend to do whatever they like, and dress or eat however they like. Especially places like London, you would immediately be fascinated by the huge variety of individuals. Also, other people wouldn’t really judge you based on how you dress or what you look like. This is so unlike China where “saliva can drown you”.
Well, a physical appearance is just the interpretation of individual’s mind or perspective. Deeply, it is about how people choose to live their life following their own willingness, such as sexuality or lifestyle. The spirit that really matters and those we could have are the sense of self and sense of individualism. Due to the education system in China, everybody has been standardized, no independent thoughts, no creativity, no critique, no sense of self! But of course this is changing gradually, many people are now saying that we need to care more about what kind of life we want to live, not what other people might think of us!
2, “Why not?”
When I asked my western friend if it’s ok to dress like this, she said “why not? You can wear whatever you like!”
When I asked my supervisor if my dissertation topic is ok, he said “why not? Of course it’s ok if you WANT to write about it!”
When I asked the career services consultant if I can apply for that job? She said “why not? Just try, who knows!”
I am sure you can feel the power of this phrase now. Why not? It just makes you feel nothing is impossible, as long as you try, anything is possible!
Yeah, instead of sitting here and waiting for opportunities to knock the door, why not just stand up and go there to knock their doors?
Instead of wondering how your parents or friends are doing, why not just give them a call and ask?
Instead of worrying what other people might think of you, why not just live your own and let them talk?
Instead of being upset about the things you can’t change, why not just grab the moment and change your future?
3, “So what?”
“Oh dear! You are eatting peanut butter with strawberry jam!”---- “So what? I like it!”
“Oh God! Your jumper is inside out!”---- “haha, so what? I did that deliberately!”
“Oh dear! You are lesbian!”----“So what? This is my life!”
“Oh dear! You were running in the rain!”----“So what? I was singing in the rain!”
So next time, Chinese girls, you know what to say when someone says to you:
“Oh honey, you are using umbrella in the sunshine?”
“Oh sweetie, you are drinking hot water in the summer?”
“Oh my love, you don’t like cheese?”
Actually, all of the three phrases are linked. They all show a sense of being yourself and being brave to pursue life. Whenever you are worried or upset, try to think of these three phrases, they might help you calm down and figure out who you are, and what you want.