Courtesy – Jennifer Farb
The one thing that I keep telling people over and over about my trip is how amazed I was by the courtesy and respect of all 4 Asian cultures I visited. In America, we have a very individualized culture, where we are very focused on ourselves, our families, and possibly our immediate company and community. In China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailand, the cultures are focused not on the individual, but the society as a whole. The communist nature of the government of China inherently causes the people to focus on the entire community, but it is also inherent in their culture as family is the center of everything. Our tour guide shared with us that even when they introduce themselves, they lead with their family name instead of their given name as we do in the US. The people were also extremely welcoming and seemed extremely happy to see Americans. In Hong Kong, I was immediately shocked by the cleanliness, especially with the stark contrast to the heavy pollution in Mainland China, and the entire 4 days we were in the city, I did not see more than a couple of pieces of litter on the ground. I saw many people in Hong Kong drop things by accident, but each person took great care to pick it back up if they let it fall. In the Subway system, each station had large panes of glass blocking anyone from falling onto the track, and there were not even fingerprints on the front of the glass. Everyone was standing very peacefully in straight lines waiting to get onto the trains.
In Taiwan, the subway system was organized much like the one in Hong Kong and there were also beautifully cleaned bathrooms that even had potted plants and sinks on motion sensors. Each public restroom had a picture of the employee that was servicing it, with a note stating if you needed anything to speak with them directly. In Taiwan many people did not speak English, but everyone we encountered was happy to at least try. Thailand though was by far the most courteous culture that I have ever encountered and was truly touched by how respectful every person we encountered was from the Marketing Executive at McDonald’s Thailand all the way to the vendor peddling the Buddha statues in her market stall. Each person takes the time and care to Wai at the beginning and end of every encounter and it really forced you to be completely in the moment and focus on the person you are speaking with. The children were also some of the most respectful I have ever encountered and when I heard one child speak out of turn at the Grand Palace and raise their voice, all it took was the father to give them a stern look and the child was peaceful once more. I am much more aware of how courteous I am being to the people around me now that we have returned to the United States and realize more and more that most Americans are not. We have developed as a country much further along than one like Thailand and China, but countries like Hong Kong and Taiwan are quickly showing us that by combining some of the assets of both cultures, there may be a better and happier way to live where we can all look out for each other just a little more.