BY: KYLE DAVID
“I did everything wrong,” says Eric, a close friend. “I gan’ed all of my bei’s, I let them buy me dinner, and I kept them out late into the night with my horrible singing. It wasn’t until the next day that a third party told me the truth: my colleagues’ invitation had merely been made out of politeness. The occasion was supposed to be private; but I barged in, eager to show off my drinking prowess. I’ve yet to be invited out with that group since.”
Between Chinese friends, what appears to be an invitation can often just be a face-saving comment; and a misinterpretation can lead to an awkward night out. It is important you know when people are literally inviting you and when they’re just being polite.
You walk in on a conversation. Your Chinese friends are discussing private dinner plans. Not wanting to make you feel left out, they invite you to join along. “Great!” you say. You are happy to be included. Blushing, your friends accept with an, ahem, forced cough. Their night is now ruined.
Avoid being that naïve third wheel, or “light bulb” (当电灯泡 dāng diàn dēng pào), as it’s charmingly referred to in Chinese, hinting at the kind of illumination couples just don’t need when canoodling in dark corners. Read the situation and get the message.