Here’s a good example of the kinds of things that happen here.
A couple of weeks ago, our doorbell rang. It was a local real estate agent who, in broken English, asked us if he could show our apartment because the layout was the same as another apartment that for some reason wasn’t available for showing. Bob said yes, which I found kind of annoying as I was cooking up a storm in the kitchen getting ready for our first dinner party.
But the group came through, snooped around, and left. They came again a couple days later, the same group, and I let them in.
They showed up again a couple of days after that. Enough, I said. I’m working at home and this is disturbing me, I told them, although it was clear that the message wasn’t getting through to the guy. Go away; I’m working didn’t seem to translate well into Chinese.
They called a friend who spoke English and I said it again, rather bluntly. So they went away.
Just today, a Sunday afternoon, the doorbell rang. And rang. And then it rang again. On the fourth round, I decided that maybe this was the kind of emergency situation that I needed to check out. But there they were – the real estate agents, this time with a young woman who spoke English.
“We wanted to thank you very much for letting us show the apartment,” they said. “The Chinese people who saw the apartment were really interested in it, so we wanted to thank you.”
And they handed me a huge bag of bananas and apples, which they mimed was fresh by pretending to climb a banana tree.
“Where are you from?” one agent asked me.
“America,” I said.
“Oh! China and America – good friends!” he kept saying over and over. I apologized for rudely turning them away. And then when they asked for my phone number so they could call me and check with me the next time they wanted to show our model apartment, how could I say no? I guess that means that a little bit of guilt and a mess of bananas will melt my heart to these Chinese people any day.