Are There Any Gentlemen in China?

“Aiyaaa!” I exclaimed as a man stepped in front of me recently to take a bus seat that had just been vacated. The seat should have been mine but I wanted to give it to an elderly lady who was standing nearby. I waited for the man to look at me and then I pointed to the elderly woman who was also looking at me. The man’s face turned red and he quickly gave his seat to the appreciative lady.

Unfortunately, I have seen this situation played out again and again in China. It seems that Chinese men are too often lost in their own worlds and do not pay attention to what is going on around them. Hardly a day goes by that I do not witness elderly people, pregnant women, and children standing in front of young men who seem to be oblivious to their presence. If I am lucky enough to be sitting when this situation occurs, I will always jump out of my seat but not before I have waited a few seconds to see if any of the Chinese men on board offer their seats. That never happens.

I have even seen Chinese men shoving women out of the way in lines at train and bus stations. The concept of ‘ladies first’ is virtually non-existent in this country where ‘survival-of-the-fittest’ still rules. Most Chinese men that I observed are looking out only for themselves and act as if the people around them do not exist. I have witnessed men allowing doors to slam in women’s faces and jumping in front of women just to be the first to get on a bus. Just a few days ago, I yelled at a group of young men who boldy walked by a long line of people waiting to get on the bus. My admonishment did no good. As soon as the bus doors open, they jumped on and quickly took seats.

Last night, as I made the 45 minute bus trip from my school to my home, I observed that there were far more women standing than men. When a seat opened up, it was almost always a man who rushed to occupy it.

Fortunately, there are gentlemen in China; they are called women. The elderly, pregnant women, and children do have a chance to sit down because Chinese women always jump up and offer their seats to those in need. Compared to Chinese men, Chinese women are much more caring and unselfish. Chinese men act as if it is their right to sit down; they have no concept of ‘being a gentleman.’

This sense of entitlement on the part of Chinese men is a big problem in China. In a country where ‘manhood’ is still highly prized, however, such behavior is not entirely surprising. One child families – where parents and grandparents spoil their children ‘silly’ – produce millions of men who grow up believing that they are the kings of the world. After all, even well into their late teenage years, everything is done for them. Their mothers wash their clothes, cook meals for them, and their fathers pay for four years of university – the young men never have to work until the day they step out of the university. Students who I have spoken with on this issue admit to me that they were never taught how to have good manners by their parents. It simply never came up in a conversation.

“Westerns have problems with manners too,” a female Chinese friend reminded me recently. “There is no question, however, that the West could teach our men how to be better gentlemen.” What she said rang true. Just today in my university cafeteria, I watched as two French men cut in front of two dozen students who were waiting in line to pay for their lunch. No one complained. Regardless, I do believe that this problem among Chinese men is much worse than any other country that I have ever visited.

China’s overpopulated environment may promote an attitude of “every man for himself” but that is no excuse for the selfishness and utter lack of common decency that I witness almost every day on my way to and from work. While many such social problems may slowly fade away with China’s continued development, I fear that this particular issue needs special attention. Chinese women need to stop treating the men here like royalty and demand that they ‘wake up’ and pay attention to what is going on around them. Chinese men, for their part, need to stop acting as if they are the only ones who exist in China. China owes a great debt of gratitude to the elderly who have helped to bring China out of those dark years of oppression and starvation. Pregnant women deserve respect and special consideration because they are carrying the bright future of China. The least that men can do is to give these people a ‘lousy’ seat on a bus or train. Maybe someday, Chinese men might be willing to give up their seat for any woman who is standing.

So stand up Chinese men and be real men. Give your seats to those who need them and show us that you can be gentlemen.

53 Responses to Are There Any Gentlemen in China?

  1. FraterConcoctopus says:

    Ok, ‘Twinmaster’ was obviously hammered while writing his/her/its post. Dude, next time wait for it to sound the same in the cold hungover light of stale-yellow dawn, because it won’t. Even cutting yourself to get rid of whatever it is would be (slightly) less embarrassing.

    Also cheers to Vance for starting discussions like this anyway. Sorry if I was too sarcastic in my first post.

    ‘Stick out your tongue; I fear it looks grey!/
    Has Frater Concoctopus blessed you today?’


  2. FraterConcoctopus says:

    What a load of bollocks… The Western ‘gentleman’ myth is based on the phenomenon of women placed on a pedestal due to their ‘purity’ and perceived weakness compared to men, and ultimately reduced to ornaments too pretty and impractical to do things like open doors for themselves. It’s Western patriarchy pretending to be magnanimous and considerate while actually being condescending. All old hat by now in gender politics, which is probably what you’re trying to talk about somehow. Chinese men will never give up their seat for a woman because she is a woman – in the past she had to ‘stand’ for that very reason(ancient Chinese sexism having been more honest than in the West), and since the gender-equal Marxist social reforms she’s just another citizen perfectly capable of shouldering her way into her own seat. The shouldering itself is a symptom of overpopulation, and I would also like to see it disappear, but not selectively along gender lines. The reason the Chinese guy at the beginning of your story ‘turned red’ and relented was because the woman you gave it to was older, and the elderly used to be treated specially here. And maybe one day everyone will be again as generous, but then it will be because of physical condition (age or pregnancy) and a result of a government reculturing campaign (rather than the unlikely adoption of the already obsolete Western ‘chivalry’ the lack of which in China you seem to think represents a ‘social problem.’

    Also, the one-child policy was introduced in 1979, and therefore only accounts for the behaviour of Chinese men in their twenties. The rest are just displaying the effects of the cultural near-vacuum created by the Cultural Revolution.

    I suppose sometimes not even living in a foreign country helps dispel people’s unawareness of their own cultural assumptions. Bummer.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *