Awkward indeed.

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Awkward indeed.

Post  Joe Hatfield on Mon Jul 02, 2012 3:43 pm

I'll share a quick story.

Four years ago a Chinese family moved into a corner home a mile away from my house. They build a retaining wall, fence, small garden, the usual shrubs and a strange table like structure with thin piping over the top. I pass by this house several times a month and every time I did, I would stretch my neck as I passed on this busy street to see what they were doing with it. After a couple months I noticed a bonsai. Then another time 2 bonsai. More and more appeared within a year. A total of maybe 15 mid to large size bonsai.

I would jokingly tell Heather that we were going to stop and start a conversation with them. Her response was always that they would throw me out and ruin their day Smile

Well I stopped the other day. After years of looking at the trees as I drove by I finally had enough. I will talk to this guy.

Failure. He doesn't speak English what so ever. I tried to motion to the trees and preform a "interpretive dance" of hand motions and gestures to communicate that I too practice bonsai. I showed pictures of some of my trees via my Iphone. Smiles, shaking of the head, shrugging; these were the responses I received. He was friendly and didn't throw me out. So I guess it could have been worse.

I think he understood that I was interested in his trees but, I am sure he has no idea why. I simply wanted to say, "Hey I do bonsai too! May I look at your work? Would you like to see mine? "

I felt like an idiot.

Not sure if I should try again. I do not speak any of the Chinese languages and no longer have close friends that do.


I was thinking writing a letter using a translator. (Heather says to leave him alone Sad )
Suggestions?


Joe Hatfield
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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  GašperG on Mon Jul 02, 2012 4:04 pm

Dear Joe

I really enjoyed this story Razz ...I can imagine the awkardness of the moment, this happens sometimes Rolling Eyes

I think there are two options you have.
1. Go ahead and listen to your wife and hope for a better moment...

2. If you think the man is willing to communicate and share his bonsai knowledge, take one of your fine bonsai with you and ring the bell. Very Happy

Good luck bounce

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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  David D on Mon Jul 02, 2012 4:14 pm

If you call a local college you may be able to find someone who speaks Mandarin which is the national language of China. A chinese native may enjoy the visit or a student may enjoy practicing conversational mandarin.

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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  JimLewis on Mon Jul 02, 2012 4:14 pm

2. If you think the man is willing to communicate and share his bonsai knowledge, take one of your fine bonsai with you and ring the bell.

Careful . . . Considering the communications problem, you may find yourself obligated to give it to him -- and HE may feel obligated to give you one of his in return, leaving both of you unhappy and confused.

Maybe SOMEONE in his household speaks some English -- maybe a younger generation; they just about have to, after all. Perhaps you will see someone with whom communication might be easier on some weekend pass-by.

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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  GašperG on Mon Jul 02, 2012 4:40 pm

Jim, you are right, that would confuse everyone involved. Finding someone that speaks english in his household is much better idea.
There is also a possibility that one wants to keep his little garden for himself though.

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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  Poink88 on Mon Jul 02, 2012 4:45 pm

JimLewis wrote:
Careful . . . Considering the communications problem, you may find yourself obligated to give it to him -- and HE may feel obligated to give you one of his in return, leaving both of you unhappy and confused.

Maybe SOMEONE in his household speaks some English -- maybe a younger generation; they just about have to, after all. Perhaps you will see someone with whom communication might be easier on some weekend pass-by.
Being from Asia myself, I agree with Jim 100%.

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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  Orion on Mon Jul 02, 2012 4:59 pm

It maybe wise to learn some Mardarin to, at the very least, communicate the idea that you have a common interest in bonsai. I think that it would go a long way to opening up the communication since you made the effort to do so by learning some of the language.

It wouldn't have to be anything elaborate, just an introduction.


Last edited by Orion on Mon Jul 02, 2012 5:07 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  DangerousBry on Mon Jul 02, 2012 5:02 pm

你有盆景樹
do you have Bonsai trees?



Maybe if you have an iPhone you could download the Google Tranlator app... And translate on the fly!!!
Awesome

Bry

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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  Joe Hatfield on Mon Jul 02, 2012 5:45 pm

Excellent suggestions and comments.

I was thinking about sacrificing a tree as a gift to open dialogue. I have a couple Cape Honey suckle I am tired of housing indoors over winter.

I have considered the idea that he would like his privacy. I do not want to intrude or insult him. Other then knocking on his door un invited, I have to actually enter his garden to knock on his door. So I am seriously trying to be considerate and respectful.

This might sound like a silly question but... Are there any common practices in China that people do when knocking on someones door that might lighten the situation?


---I was thinking about learning some basic Mandarin to try and open dialogue but it will take a long long time for me to master any casual conversation.

---The digital translator is good but he will not be able to communicate with me comfortably.

---I will look into local schools that are teaching English and see if someone wants a free lunch for helping me out.


I think that the best option right now is just to see if he is remotely interested in creating a relationship. A simple knock on the door with a note translated to say something like. " Hello, I was here a few weeks ago and spoke with someone about these bonsai. I know it may have seemed strange but I have a passion for bonsai and get excited when I see someone else also shares in the same passions. I was hoping to share my knowledge with the person who cares for these trees and possibly form a friendship. I understand that this may be a matter of privacy and will respect any response given"

Question

Joe Hatfield
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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  cbobgo on Mon Jul 02, 2012 6:42 pm

I just think this is really awesome and I encourage you to keep trying. Sharing your love of bonsai with someone else is always a good thing.

- bob

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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  GašperG on Mon Jul 02, 2012 6:54 pm

cbobgo wrote:I just think this is really awesome and I encourage you to keep trying. Sharing your love of bonsai with someone else is always a good thing.

- bob

I agree with Bob. Avoiding cultural misunderstandings this is what I would do. Send him a letter with a calm and respectful content (similar to your well written translated note) and wait for his response. If he does'not respond than that is about all you can do...if he does reply than it is an icebreaker.

Good luck

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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  Joe Hatfield on Mon Jul 02, 2012 7:09 pm

For anyone who can read it, how does this read to a human who speaks mandarin?

" 你好,我是在这里几个星期前,说话带着这些盆景的人。我知道它可能看起来奇怪但有盆景的激情,并看见别人也共享相同的激情中很激动。我希望与在乎这些树木的人分享我的知识,并有可能形成一种友谊。我明白这可能为个人私隐,会尊重任何答复

请随时通过电子邮件或电话联系我。亲切问候 "

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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  0soyoung on Mon Jul 02, 2012 7:49 pm

Joe Hatfield wrote:For anyone who can read it, how does this read to a human who speaks mandarin?

" 你好,我是在这里几个星期前,说话带着这些盆景的人。我知道它可能看起来奇怪但有盆景的激情,并看见别人也共享相同的激情中很激动。我希望与在乎这些树木的人分享我的知识,并有可能形成一种友谊。我明白这可能为个人私隐,会尊重任何答复

请随时通过电子邮件或电话联系我。亲切问候 "

via Google translate:

"Hello, I was here a few weeks ago, people spoke with a bonsai. I know it may seem strange but the passion of bonsai, and very excited to see others share the same passion. I hope to share my knowledge with people who care about these trees, and has the potential to form a friendship. I understand that this may be for personal privacy will be respected no reply

Please feel free to contact me via email or phone. Cordial greetings"

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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  Joe Hatfield on Mon Jul 02, 2012 7:57 pm

That is what I used. Smile I was more so trying to see if someone could verify what it translated.

Thanks

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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  John Quinn on Mon Jul 02, 2012 9:08 pm

I don't know what pictures you shared with him, but perhaps a picture of yourself WITH one or more of your trees would communicate more than simply a picture your trees by themselves.

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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  Joe Hatfield on Mon Jul 02, 2012 9:21 pm

That's a good point John. Thanks

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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  cbobgo on Fri Jul 13, 2012 6:27 am

any update Joe? Did you leave the note and/or talk to him again?

- bob

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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  Joe Hatfield on Sat Jul 14, 2012 12:29 am

I got wrapped up with my automatic watering system and jogging in the evenings. Ill prob reach out next week. I'll update the post with the story that I'm sure will follow Wink

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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Tue Jul 17, 2012 3:59 pm

Just spoke to a co-worker from China. She indicated that the characters used in Mainland China are the same for everyone; however, depending on where he is originally from in China a translator might not fair as well. It's just like the differneces in dialects through out Ameica (and other English speaking countries). It's like having someone from Boston interpreting for someone from the swanps of Louisiana.


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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  Levi on Wed Jul 18, 2012 2:25 pm

Yes, the written language is the same throughout China, so no matter what he should be able to read a note written out for him. If he is from Taiwan or Hongkong he may be used to traditional characters, but most Chinese can understand both. It also depends on how old he is, in my experience the older the person the less likely he/she is to speak the common language (Mandarin) but if he is from mainland China or Taiwan, Mandarin is the language that is used in the school system and most people should be able to speak enough to get by. The differences in dialects in China vary in how closely related to Mandarin they are, but I'd say the differences often go deeper than the ones we observe among English speakers from other countries. I'd say a dialect such as Wenzhouhua, used not far from where I'm living now is about as different from Mandarin in the spoken language as Spanish from Portuguese or maybe even larger. I think a well written letter and an electronic dictionary (free apps easily found for iphone or ipod) will be your best bet for after you give him the letter. I'd imagine that someone in the household can speak both languages or at least he has a friend somewhere helping him out if his English is non-existent. I'm rather busy these days, but if you really want some help writing a letter in Chinese that you could print and hand to him, I'm happy to help. I could use the writing practice anyway Smile Well, let me know if you want help and PM with what you want to say in English and I'll get to it when I have some time. Just let me know.
(PS Google translate, as cool and useful as it is has a lot of trouble with Chinese and English translation, things can really get turned around.)

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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Wed Jul 18, 2012 3:44 pm

Joann got me the note, I downloaded it as a pdf file. can't figure out how to insert it. I can e-mail it to you.

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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  David D on Wed Jul 18, 2012 5:54 pm

No offense intended to anyone but are you sure he is Chinese?

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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Wed Jul 18, 2012 5:58 pm

Actually, that was a question my co-worker asked as well.

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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  Levi on Thu Jul 19, 2012 2:01 pm

Was a question that crossed my mind as well... either way, you could always try interpretive dance, I suppose, and eliminate the need for spoken language Razz

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Re: Awkward indeed.

Post  Joe Hatfield on Sun Jul 22, 2012 4:27 pm

Hey everyone! I just got back from a vacation. Now I need a vacation from the vacation. (Darn kids have all the fun)

I'll be printing the note this week when I get to the office. We shall see how it goes. The only thing I'm really concerned about is if he will be able to communicate back to me. Luckily I have the internet and friends of the IBC. I have nothing to lose though.

He told me (believe it or not) that he was Chinese.

Ill keep everyone posted and thank you again for all the attention.

Joe Hatfield
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Re: Awkward indeed.

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