Q: Why do speakers of Chinese feel the need to yell everything?
A: “There is no why….”
I cannot tell you how many times I have been sitting at a table with my wife where I couldn’t carry on a conversation with her sitting right beside me, because of people shouting in Chinese at the next table. This isn’t an isolated situation. Several times a week we will be in some place where the noise level is just unbearable. And the noise is coming from people’s mouths. The issue with me is the fact that it is completely unnecessary.
Another thing that I’ve noticed is that often, people will try to hold conversations when the surrounding noise level is clearly too high to sustain an intelligible conversation – but they try anyway. I’m always amazed when the karaoke machine is blasting and some drunken idiot is screaming into the microphone, yet someone will insist on talking over this already too-loud noise. When I am confronted by that, I never answer. I just point to my ears and shrug my shoulders. My reasoning is lost however, and that person will just find someone else to yell at. And its totally innocuous conversation too. Nothing that can’t wait. Nothing that actually needs to be said either.
I have also noticed a direct correlation to the sound pressure level and the number of empty bottles on the table, most noticably Taiwan Beer. The SPL goes up by at least 3dB per bottle.
Just a few days ago, Hui-chen and I had the displeasure of sitting next to some little red-faced know-nothing who yelled every single utterance from his mouth, even though he was the only one talking and the people were at the same table. There was no reason for him to be shouting. Every time he got up out of his chair and went to the beverage cooler, he came back with 5 bottles of Taiwan Beer (the smaller they are, the louder they sound, seems like). HC and I were there for about 30 minutes and he just kept getting louder and louder. Finally we had to leave! Besides the co-workers at his table, we were the only ones there.
In the US and other Western countries, people will ask others to pipe down. Once I did see a guy ask someone at his table to speak quieter because he was embarrassed (must have been in the US before). The drunken yeller just said “mei guan chee” and kept right on making an ass of himself, even saying that no one could stop him from talking. Wanna bet?
I’ve been told that Taiwanese people don’t notice that anything (including themselves) is loud. I believe this to be true. Ever been woken up late at night by people coming home, and talking in full voice? That is one of my personal dislikes! It seems that no one ever taught those people to think about others – but only about themselves. I’ve been in Taiwan hotels numerous times, and have had to step out into the hall to ask people to talk quieter after being woken up. Of course I’m met with blank stares. How could I possibly be disturbed by just talking?
Recently Hui-chen and I went to eat shabbu-shabbu and a couple with a kid came in. This kid was about 4 years old and the minute he got to their table he started on a loud diatribe. He stood on the seat beside his mother so he could command the attention of the whole restaurant, and began a gibberish monologue, which lasted until Hui-chen asked his mother to quiet him down. Of course, the mother gave Hui-chen a “what’s your problem?” look. Of course, he went quiet for 30 seconds and then started right back up with his parents eyes glazed over, obviously oblivious to just how annoying hearing their kid really is. No, we don’t all think your kid is cute. Not when he is disrupting the tranquility of the dining room
That really is the issue. For me, I enjoy peace and quiet when I’m dining. If I am dining alone, the most common question I’m asked is “Are you eating alone?” People here hate to sit or eat alone, and they are genuinely concerned about me being bored while sitting alone. They want the noise and confusion, and the bigger the group, the better. I am used to being on my own and I think this all comes down to the “individual vs: group” cultural difference.
Readers, what are your thoughts? Have you found a polite way to ask people to stop shouting?