New brooms sweep clean

Posted by Marion de Groot on August 23, 2008

One day, I was working at the office in Shanghai. The cleaning lady was sweeping the floor. Her broom was wrapped in plastic. I was wondering whether there was a reason for that. I observed her for a while, and couldn't think of a reason why you would wrap a broom in plastic. So I asked my colleague: "Why is her broom wrapped in plastic?" He said: "I don't know." Some other colleagues admitted that they found it strange, but hadn't paid attention to it. When my colleague asked the cleaning lady, she responded, a little surprised: "Well, that's how I found it in the closet. I assumed that's the way it should be." Everyone laughed, and she took off the plastic. The sweeping went a lot easier.

I wonder if the broom would ever have been unwrapped if I didn't mention it. Is it typical Chinese to not speak you mind when you see something strange?

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3 Comments to New brooms sweep clean

  • It might be. I once wondered whether I should say something about the japanese guy holding a map of Amsterdam in Delft and obviousely not finding his way. I didn't know how it feels for a Japanese person to hear he was doing something 'stupid', because I know in some countries loss of face is something very bad…

  • A Dutch person would certainly have told him. And be oblivious as to why he might become upset. Unless they read Culture Clash, of course.

  • In Peru these kind of things happen all the time. But I feel that it's not that people don't dare to speak their mind, but even worse: they simply don't see it! The Peruvian culture is so lax, so negligent; I think that derives from the fact that they might have never felt that they are in charge, that they can change things around them… To me as a Dutch things seem SO inefficient sometimes, so illogical, so uncomfortable or so unpleasant, while with just a simple change people can improve the situation… Of cours,e when it's things in their house or daily life. Because corruption also takes advantage of this laxness, whereas that can not easily be changed.

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