A quite dinner with kids at home, plus two of King’s buddies. One of them likes to eat noisily but that noise would die down as dinner progresses: he’s aware of his surroundings.
Last month in JiNan, I was invited to an elegant banquet given by the Vice President of a major university that was founded by my great grand uncle 109 years ago. The VP is young. He’s very likable and energetic, outgoing and fun loving, who also holds a professorship. Talking about human capital. The dinner was held at the university’s guest house: a three star in the process to becoming a 4-star hotel. The private room has a sofa set to one end and dining table on the other side. As soon as we sat down, the skipper enthusiastically asking who’s going to drink with him.
There were three glasses as part of the setting in the size of (from left) tall wine goblet, sherry and port – a scene I didn’t see in 2003. The waitress would come in discretely to pour the wine (or delivery more dishes), as usual, into the port glass. I was curious, wondering out loud .. why not the wine glass instead.
“Oh, we should do that from now on..” the skipper said without missing a beat. (Of course the waitress took no note of it ..)
There were seven of us, the VP held the court. He rambled off parental stories, as recent as seeing his only child, a son off to attend graduate school at Columbia University in New York.
“We took him to the airport, getting on line .. then he saw his roommate .. he went over and they pat each other on the back then left without even looking back at us. I was misty eyed .. ”
When round of ganbei began, did I realize the purpose of the port glass: small quantity, guaranteed.
The wine glass was used for soft drinks.
When you toast, the one with lesser status should hold his or her glass lower ..
Toward end of the dinner, a small bowl of noodle was served. Couple of sips later, the skipper said,
“Irene, it’s ok to eat noodle noisily.”
My first reaction was, oh, did I – my silence – offend anyone? He was certainly very observant.
Then I thought, no, it was only the Japs who would think eating the noodle with loud noise mean compliment to the chef.
Since WHEN did Chinese acquire this tradition? Strong culture and weak culture scenario? Probably it was. (Anyone heard ‘da di’ in Beijing when they need a taxi? Ever wondered why 打的? Well, the only thing I could think of is they took it from Hong Kong because 的士 ‘di shi’ is the HK translation of taxi.)
I was disgust. And disturbed.
Doesn’t China look/check at what they are learning before deciding if they actually want to take it as their own?