“It doesn’t matter who we are…”

Bane “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012)

This weekend we visited the city of Nanjing. If that name rings a bell, it’s because you must have heard of the infamous Rape of Nanjing. A massacre during which the Japanese pillaged villages, raped women and killed over 300000 civilians. This this trip was optional because it wasn’t a part of the Davidson in Shanghai program. Rather, it was offered by Fudan University. Despite the huge amount of work we have due next week, 10 out of the 14 of us decided to go. We thought it would be us, the students from Boston University (awesome peeps) and random other students. We were right… except all the German, Norwegian and Dutch kids decided to tag along too. And they were beyond obnoxious. Some of them arrived drunk (but on time!) and were just loud and belligerent. Not to be uptight but as “American” students, we were a lot more mature and poised than the Nordics and Saxons. Those appellations were carefully chosen in order to invoke the viking-like conception we all have of their ancestors; it perfectly describes their behavior during this trip. Even after they sobered up, they continued to be a nuisance: trash all over the bus, loud, talking over the tour guide, arriving late… the list goes on. In my personal opinion, they came off as high school students. I just had to accept that, then I’d be fine.

Upon reflecting on all that, I realized how when I lived in France, I used to find American visitors extremely obnoxious and annoying. Now that I live in United States, I find Europeans [granted, we’re in Shanghai], obnoxious. And not just because of the ones on the bus.

Indeed, I went and spent a weekend with an old friend from France, about an hour from Shanghai and was able to hangout with a bunch of French students. As someone who marched in anti-discriminatory and tolerance protests back in France, I was extremely perplexed upon seeing how intolerant and impatient the French students were towards the Chinese and Chinese culture in general. And that includes my friend who, like me, is a Comorian who studied in France and can’t go home for personal reasons. I asked her why she even came here and she just shrugged. Disturbing, to say the least

At least the obnoxious kids on the bus are tolerant: they joke around with the Chinese, never decline to pose on pictures with Chinese people wanting a portrait with a foreigner; and, they don’t complain about everything that doesn’t go to their liking.

Little anecdote: my academic advisor Shelly Rigger came to Shanghai after the Taiwan Trip, and we decided to have lunch and discuss my classes and so on. We were walking on the street and I had a smoothie in my hand. Suddenly, one of my backpack straps latched onto a scooter that was parked on the sidewalk, and it fell very loudly; so loudly that all activities on the street froze and all eyes were on us. I remembered my training from when a girl asks one “Do you think -insert her best friend’s name here- is pretty?” and kept calm. I casually put my smoothie on a nearby wall ledge, proceeded to lift the scooter back in place, and inspected it for any damage, all while glancing around to see if the owner would come confront me. The scooter was fine, and no one came… except a 7 or 8 year old boy who approached us, looked at me in the eyes, kicked my smoothie to the ground then squished the cup. I was at loss for words. All I could think was “WTF?”. The act was so random and uncalled for, but not that serious either I could get mad at the brat. So we just continued our walk, both puzzled and about what had just happened.

My Academic Advisor, Shelley Rigger

My Coco’s Drink


Had this happened to one of the bus kids, I feel like everyone would have just had a big laugh. However, had it happened to one the Frenchies, I bet they would have made a scene or at least, reinforced their intolerance and impatience for the Chinese. While I do concede that kids here are extremely spoilt and not well-behaved (due to the whole one child policy), it’s all a part of China. That, the fact that most places use squat toilets only and have filthy restrooms that provide neither soap no toilet tissue; the fact that people don’t know when to stop staring at one’s foreignness; the fact that Chinese have no sense of personal space; the fact that they don’t hesitate to cut in line or shove one around like an insect in order to get where they need to be- all that, is part of China. While we may think it’s obnoxious, disrespectful and rude and whatever, it’s Chinese. And as foreigners in their country, I feel like we need to stop complaining about such: no one forced us to come on this trip and these are all things we’ve been told about by people or read about online. So we all knew what we signed up for. And even we didn’t: part of traveling is learning about different cultures. Doing so bridges the gaps between us, as humans; which, in my opinion, is the first step towards solving most of geopolitical problems that plague our world. So shout out to the [granted, annoying] Germans and Norwegians for being tolerant and shame on the French for being the opposite. I can only imagine how much [more] immigration has become a nightmare in France (the immigration debate there is one similar in gravity and “popularity” to the Negro Struggle in the United States).

As for the American kids, I’m going to take myself out of the group for a second and say that while there is some initial complaining, they usually just suck it up “oh well…” whatever it is that is upsetting them. So they are doing better than the Frenchies; which is surprising considering that up until now, I always thought the French to be a lot more tolerant than the ones here. Which brings me to a disclaimer:

I have made this analysis and arrived to these multiple conclusions based on 3 relatively small groups (about 12 people in each on average). While I do believe that these sample groups are representational of the youth of the mentioned countries, I do concede that my work here is not exhaustive and could thus be flawed.