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#65 Being Blunt

Posted April 23rd, 2008 by Peter · 38 Comments

haolepake // Mar 24, 2008 at 12:15 am
How about a post about ‘having no qualms about asking personal questions/making blunt comments”


When asians greet people, they don’t use a simple “howdy” or “hello.” Instead, they follow ancient rules of conduct that have made their ancestors successful for the last couple thousand years. Rules such as: “bow before your elders,” “respect your elders,” “be loyal,” and “bring honor to the family.” There is no time to say hello or good bye because Asians in fact have these rules in their heads at any given moment. For this reason, asians must be as economical as possible upon meeting somebody.

That means saving their greetings and salutations for people that are “relevant,” like business partners, authority figures, elders, or house guests. That also means saving their small amount of “polite” speech for the very same people because let’s face it: Who can say hello to everyone when your country has more people playing basketball than there are total people in the entire United States? That’s why you will never see Asians saying “hello” to the clerk at Lee’s Sandwiches or Starbucks. That’s why they won’t say, “Can I have a Tall Latte?” or “Please pass the butter.” Instead, asians will say, “Tall Latte” or “Give me the butter!” Asians just have too much to worry about, and every ounce of time that passes is another second wasted.

All the worrying doesn’t mean that they can’t kick back once in a while. Asians have family gatherings so they can check to see if their offspring and their subsequent offspring are in fact carrying on the code of conduct that they were taught. After elders realize that their grandchildren are in fact leading “proper” asian lives, they are at ease. This unleashes the loud and obnoxious asian uncle or grandfather that most asians dread.

These people will pinch an asian’s cheeks so hard that their tongues will hurt. They’ll drink alcohol at family gatherings and spew confidential family secrets about what actually happened during the war. They will ask why younger females are so chubby or anorexic-looking at any given moment. The fact of the matter is that asians are very image-oriented, and will live model lives until they are with family or other familiar people that will understand them. That’s why asians require social events like Karaoke or DDR to unwind.

“I was frequently greeted by my Chinese grandfather with, ‘You look like you gained weight,” or ‘You can get that mole above your lip removed.” Recently an Asian man at the airport started talking to me and asked why I don’t have children. He had no sense of embarrassment when I told him I was having trouble conceiving and actually started giving me advice!

Has anyone received an answer to a question like, ‘Can we go to Disneyland?” with ‘Too expensive, too expensive!”? It’s never said once, always twice.”

So how do you deal with Asian people that seem like they’re apathetic to everyone but their families? It’s quite simple: Make yourself relevant. Wear a tie. Sport that shiny new monocle that you’ve stowed away in your closet. Exchange your business card with them (including text in their own language, which usually wins an Asian over. Don’t forget to present it with two hands as a sign of respect). Just do anything that appears professional, and asians will see you as somebody that might be of importance to them in the present or future. It’s all about first impressions.

Don’t expect asians to be polite or courteous unless they are second generation or culturally-cleansed. It’s not the social norm in the older generations’ countries, because to be frank: Try growing up in a country of billions and see if you’re a patient person by the time you’re an adult. That’s right, you’d feel the same way.

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Tags: Activities · Business · Chinese · Comedy · Culture · Customs · Environment · Habits · History · People · Relationships

38 responses so far ↓

  • 1 M3 // Apr 24, 2008 at 12:24 am

    lol I am blunt when speaking about other people’s problems.

  • 2 YASPY Chick // Apr 24, 2008 at 6:21 am

    I hope this post is referring to FOBs, cuz I don’t know any Asians born and raised here who’d say “tall latte” at Starbucks. It’s “I’d like a tall latte, please”

  • 3 stuffgirlslike // Apr 24, 2008 at 7:36 am

    I thought they were just being rude, no. I know what you are saying about one billion people there is an West African country with 100 million and I was perplexed why they never said thank you and please but I suspected they were fighting foe space. Then one day the confessed, yes where they live you have to fight foe space.

  • 4 Tom // Apr 24, 2008 at 7:44 am

    @ Yaspy Chick:
    “Don’t expect asians to be polite or courteous unless they are second generation or culturally-cleansed. It’s not the social norm in the older generations’ countries, because to be frank: Try growing up in a country of billions and see if you’re a patient person by the time you’re an adult. That’s right, you’d feel the same way.”

    I think the writer means first gen asians are rude

  • 5 Micah // Apr 24, 2008 at 7:54 am

    But since you’re making this post isn’t it safe to assume that you’re Asian-American and therefore didn’t grow up in China (the only East Asian country with a billion people) and don’t fit the bill for losing patience for growing up in that country, since more that likely the poster either emigrated here at a young age or was even born in the US? Just saying is all. Unless the mentality of being around a billion people is so much a part of the modern Chinese American identity but I don’t think that’s true either.

  • 6 Toby // Apr 24, 2008 at 8:32 am

    There is no such thing as customer service in the chinese culture! It’s “what do you want?” not “how can I help you?” That’s just the way it is in our culture. There’s no time to be polite and courteous because we are too busy, always in a rush to be somewhere or things to do.

  • 7 Lana // Apr 24, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    It still comes off as rude. It’s the main reason why I don’t frequent Asian shops.

    Can you do a post about why some Asian countries like Hitler/Nazi Germany? Kinda don’t understand that one…

  • 8 helrokitty // Apr 25, 2008 at 1:28 am

    Why haven’t you put any posts about asians and their incredible gardening ability? Im not even asian, but I grew up next to many asian families, and all of them had produce gardens. They were the most beautiful, clean, delicious looking gardens ive even seen, and nobody has a better garden then asain people, no matter how long you tend to them, or feed them, the only way to have a perfect garden is to hire an asian person to start your produce garden. I would say they are very self sufficient, and im guessing very “green” as well.

  • 9 To lana // Apr 25, 2008 at 1:40 am

    Im guessing the reasons some asian countries like hilter is becuase jews and asians are kind of the same person. Blunt, thrifty, very smart, good with numbers, gossipy, they both love expensive designer products, and so much more.
    I think it might be a bit of jealousy that jews can assimilate into society more easily then asians. Also, while asians are just now becoming incredibly successful, the jews kind of made being successful an art form, which led to them being exiled from all the european countries at one time or another. Or they just think taking out the jews is taking out the competition. I dont know why, jews do media, asians do engineering, big difference.

  • 10 Justin // Apr 25, 2008 at 1:40 am

    check out #21 thanks for the suggestion =)

  • 11 MK // Apr 26, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Is bluntness the same of candor?

    Asians might be good (allegedly) at being “blunt” to people in customer service situations, but in relationships of relevance–between peers and especially between nonequals–there is often a lack of candor when really there often should be. Sometimes a person HAS to tell a boss, parent, brother–or for that matter, a car mechanic or cashier–that the person was wronged.

    But the person does not, and neither does the person let it go.

    As for the Jewish question, I could understand why China or Malaysia or Indonesia would be anti-Israel in terms of foreign policy. I wouldn’t understand why Asians would be anti-Jewish, though. Someone mentioned the difference in assimilation, but I’d also add that the cultures in the USA are quite different (or have become quite different) in terms of how people view confronting authority and “speaking up”.

  • 12 haolepake // Apr 26, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    What inspired the suggestion for the post of asking personal questions/making blunt comments were years of being the target of uncomfortable personal questions or the receiver of blunt comments. What I find amusing are the types of questions/comments made and techniques used by the recipient to gracefully and respectfully remove him or herself from the spotlight. It seems that the post went in the direction as to why Asians can be blunt- an interesting topic, but it seems to have aroused some debate and lost the humor of the inspiration. I’d be interested in hearing about different methods used to diffuse an uncomfortable situation. For example, after repeatedly being asked how much I paid for certain items, I figured (through my own mistakes and watching other, more seasoned recipients) there were several ways to respond: 1. Tell the truth (which surely would invite a lecture on how I paid too much), 2. Lie with ‘I don’t remember,” or make up a ridiculously low price, or 3. Be allusive by answering, ‘Too much” but don’t give the actual price.

  • 13 Grace Chu // Apr 27, 2008 at 9:10 am

    Ha, EVERYONE in NYC is blunt, not just Asians. If you don’t get your point across the first time, it’s like… NEXT!

    And boy did we hit Godwin’s Law early in this thread. A Nazi reference doesn’t usually appear until a thread gets so long people start fighting.

    And Asians and Jewish people in this country tend to get along, because they both have really pushy parents who expect them to get As, so they end up in the same AP classes and colleges. No one else gets it. Whenever I dated a non-Jewish white person and I’d complain about my pushy Asian parents, they looked at me like I was from Mars. Jewish people are another story. When I complain about my pushy Asian parents to them, they come back with the same story. (The downside, however, is that I don’t get any sympathy, lol.) Also, Jewish people like Chinese food. Heh.

  • 14 YASPY Chick // Apr 28, 2008 at 9:40 am

    Yeah, but Grace, most Jewish people I know have never taken classical music lessons. I wonder though, if it’s a religion thing, since many composers have written religious music.

  • 15 Tammy // Apr 29, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    WOW. This explains a lot about my friend JoAnn. Its like reading her autobiography. :)

  • 16 Ica // May 2, 2008 at 12:56 am

    so, there i was in a supermarket check out counter. in front of me is an old old lady who is also waiting her turn. she turns around point blank and ask me where i’m from, what’s my job, and of course the ultimate asian bluntness: are you married? (NO) why arent u married? (Well,…im just…), u should be married while ure young and you can have lots of kids, blah blah blah (umm..uhhh…gee..i….) then she turns around again and pay for her stuff and leaves. all this happen in less than two minutes and she didnt even ask my name. good grief…

  • 17 Chibolyte // May 4, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    The thing about blunt Asian people in customer service is most definitely untrue for Japanese people. Japanese people, culturally, are raised to be polite and to /not/ be blunt and/or straightforward as it is seen as blatantly rude in their culture. Customer service people are particularly trained to be the most polite, and as kind as possible. Even small conversation with customers is frowned upon by their management. To them – the customer is God.

  • 18 Chibolyte // May 4, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    Oh but it’s true that all Asians are image conscious.

  • 19 Traci // May 16, 2008 at 12:13 am

    oh yeah, that definitely reminds me of my aunt.

    Our other aunt (her sister) just came into the US from the Philippines and visited us…here’s how she introduced my sister Ally to her:

    “Oh, this is Allison…she has skin problems.”

    WTF?! i don’t think someone wants to know about someone’s eczema problems from the get-go.

  • 20 Reichsfuhrer // May 21, 2008 at 3:24 am

    Asians, particularly Koreans, Taiwanese and some Japanese have what would be called sort of an infantile admiration for Hitler and the Nazis that stems mainly from a unique type of inferiority complex. Fact: In 2004, a poll was taken in Korea to name the top two historical leaders which Koreans admire the most. The answers were 1) Kim Jong Il 2) Adolf Hitler. This finding is not really all that shocking when one considers the mentality and national mindset of some Asians and the indoctrination to the belief that they are a member of a “higher” race. From the time they are old enough to listen, Asians from many societies receive this message and indoctrination just as the Nazis received from the NDSAP. Look at their education system, society, media, etc. Hardly a second goes by w/o a message that proclaims that “our country” is the heaven on earth and that “our people” are incapable of doing anything wrong.

    For anything that goes wrong or when a member of their nation does something wrong, Asians are conditioned that “saving face” is more important than admission of guilt and atonement for their own mistakes. I strongly think that this culture of “saving face” is the reason why the priority for Asians is not to admit guilt and solve problems but to find a scapegoat in order to deflect blame or responsibility. Thus, it makes total sense that the people they admire the most were responsible for the most horrific racist genocide crimes in all of history.

    Although they really don’t explicitly express this sentiment because, they themselves can’t really explain why they admire the Nazis so much, Asians are in fact somewha jealous of Germans because they wish that their own countries could have had someone as powerful and hateful as Hitler because it soothes their inferiority complex that they have always been on the receiving end of imperialism by other countries throughout history. This is especially true for Korea and Taiwan. They want so badly that their country could have been as powerful as Nazi Germany but instead, their countries are known to have been those in Asia which have always been the victim of another’s country’s powerful demonstration (usually China or Japan or the west).

  • 21 Ubah // May 22, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    “Culturally-cleansed”? What do you mean by that? I’m not Asian but I think the wording is offensive. You probably meant nothing by it but think about what it suggests – that a person must be “cleansed” of their culture, as if it were a bad thing! It’s an ethnocentric idea.

  • 22 Natural // May 24, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    Theres this korean guy in my sculpture class who said that Hilter was hero…it freaked me out. I guess this is a response to Reichsfuhrer, I never would have guessed it was because of that. But the more I think about it the more it seems that Koreans do believe that Korea IS the best place in the whole world and yadda yadda yadda. Not saying its a bad thing….love for your country goes really far…

    wow…my rant had nothing to do with the topic…

  • 23 haolepake // Jul 16, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    Most recent encounter with a blunt Asian: My husband and I were at the grocery store and ran into a friend of mine- an older man from Taiwan. Here is part of the conversation I witnessed.

    BAM (Blunt Asian Man): Do you like beer?

    IH (Inexperienced in responding to Asian bluntness Husband): YEAH!

    BAM: You look like you are gaining weight around the middle.

    IH: (embarrassed) Oh, I’m working on that.

    BAM (to me): He’s getting fat.

    BAM (to IH): You are too young to be so fat.

    IH: (No come back- totally speechless) Laughs awkwardly.

    ME: He’s really not that young.

  • 24 filipino me // Jul 30, 2008 at 8:48 am

    That’s so funny haolepake. My mom is like that…she will always be like that. I think that’s why I don’t get embarrassed very easy…must be why.

  • 25 dbals // Jan 8, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Indians are quite blunt too – the ones in India. When you enter a store (small family-owned shops) you’ll face either “What do you want” or “What are you here for” question. Generally ‘niceness’ is reserved for special people, for the general public you just be yourself.
    What’s funny is, my father generation prefers this over polished statements. Probably because the person is asking a natural question and they feel safe. Whereas, an over polished greeting will immediately trigger a ‘caution’ alarm in their mind and the sales person will be looked as a con-man.

  • 26 BoulderStationHotel&Casino // Mar 18, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    that is so true!

  • 27 some sysadmin from Australia // Mar 23, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    40-something, emigrated from Shanghai about 13 years ago now. At first, I found his bluntness a little unnerving and even offensive at times (I’m sure much of it was to do with being nervous about it being my first job, too), but after a few months I got over it. I still talk to him occasionally and maintain a pretty good rapport.

    His wife/CFO, though, was/is even blunter, 10x more frantic and 100dB louder. THAT was interesting.

  • 28 some sysadmin from Australia // Mar 23, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    The first real boss I had out of university is a Chinese guy, about 40-something, emigrated from Shanghai about 13 years ago now. At first, I found his bluntness a little unnerving and even offensive at times (I’m sure much of it was to do with being nervous about it being my first job, too), but after a few months I got over it. I still talk to him occasionally and maintain a pretty good rapport.

    His wife/CFO, though, was/is even blunter, 10x more frantic and 100dB louder. THAT was interesting.

  • 29 Andrew // Apr 19, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    Can anyone explain where the tradition of using two hands to pass a business card comes from? Why does this show respect?
    Also, would you use two hands to pass a credit card to a shopkeeper or waiter? Do you show respect to someone serving you?

  • 30 whitechick // Jun 4, 2009 at 6:03 am

    Andrew, i’m n ot even asian, but as i know, it is a common thing in many asian countries to pass gifts with both hands…that means that you give it with all your heart, kind of showing that you gave your whole personality to your partner.

  • 31 haha // Sep 1, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    yea, i’ve noticed that when i’m chinese stores, customers don’t say please or thank you or anything. we just say, “i want this” whereas english people say “can i have this” *sweatdrops* but when i’m in a american store, then i’d say “can i have this” haha…it’s so weird…

    hm…and whoever gave us that funny conversation with some guy saying the other guy is fat (lol poor guy) just made me think of how asians will just walk up to someone they know if they see them in restaurants or someplace to eat and plop down and just sit there and talk and talk and talk and drink tea!! i see this all the time when i go out to “tea” with my family and their friends always come up and sit down and just sit there and talk for at least half and hour. whereas american people would maybe chat for several minutes if they bump into someone they meet and then leave. they wouldn’t sit down and join the group

  • 32 Angela // Feb 14, 2010 at 11:03 am

    Hahahaha this is so funny!! I am non-Asian and African-American so could you imagine? Hahaha!! I was dressed to go out after work so I had my hair, nails, feet, contacts the works. I looked great! Hahaha!! My guy friend starts asking, are those your eyes? are those your nails? I was shocked but I did not take it seriously. It was funny and I know about how Asians sometimes can be blunt. A lot of people who are non-Asian are taken aback by personal questions if they don’t understand.

  • 33 huu // Jul 13, 2010 at 10:50 pm

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  • 34 wood pellets // Feb 22, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    I am non-Asian and African-American so could you imagine? Hahaha!! I was dressed to go out after work so I had my hair, nails, feet, contacts the works.

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  • 36 Mold // Dec 28, 2011 at 8:14 am


    I used to think everyone loved hitler because everyone hates jews(and french)

    But apparantly I was brained washed by animu feturing moe schoolswimsuit tsundere magical girls and doraemo to hate jews and love hitler since birth.

    lol okay. Cool story bro.

  • 37 Vinnie // Mar 28, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    Agree with Chibolyte – it’s untrue for Indonesians as well. Some people might be rude (usually people who had just turned rich or thought they were rich), but most people are very nice. I’m taught to speak politely to everyone, and even when making orders, people usually turn it into a question or a politer form. Except for the family members saying you gained weight… that is so true.

  • 38 Mr. Duby // Apr 18, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    Jews and Asians have much in common. Only difference is that Jews are better at picking up women.

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