“Those years in Shanghai” – part 2, “那些年在上海” － 第二集
Part 2 – Asking for directions
第二集 － 问路
The most common thing for someone who liked to travel and explore a city alone is to ask for directions, I am no exception.
Especially when Andy has a day job, we would usually only hang out after he knocks off or on weekends.
Asking for directions from a local in shanghai, was a very frustrating thing to do, before the Shanghai Expo 2010.
During my stay in shanghai from 2004 to 2009, I would be greeted with one of the following scenarios whenever I asked for directions from a local
1) The person would look away like he didn’t hear me at all, sometimes I felt have i become invisible. the expression on their face in these situations was really something I have never saw in my years of existence on this earth. They could keep doing this even if I asked them the second time thinking they didn’t hear me. and I would felt I was talking to a tree and not waste my time asking him again.
2) They would point very casually at a general direction and repeat 1). No, asking again in detail did not help.
3) They would tell me any direction just to get rid of me, even if it’s wrong
4) they tell me the right direction
Through out my experiences of asking for directions in shanghai before the Expo, I would say half the time I get the first treatment, 30% the second, 10% a wrong direction and 10% a kind soul.
However, these will not happen if you are asking
a) a local that you know personally.they would help even if they do not know the place themselves.
a) 你认识的中国人. 即使他们不知道怎么去也会设法帮你问
b) a foreigner. if they do not know the direction, they would give me a straight “I am not sure” or “I don’t know”
b) 外国人。如果他们不知道怎么去，会直接明确地说“我不清楚” 或 “我不知道”
c) a student sometimes.
While I have to emphasize again, this is prior to the Expo. the situation is much better now in shanghai.
Sometimes while waiting for the make up artist to do up the model’s face while I stare at my already perfectly set up lights, I would try to make sense of all these. and I came to these conclusions below
i) there were too many scams starting with asking for directions. My guess is some cheats or scams on the street will start with asking for direction to start a conversation with the victim, and apparently, treating the man like thin air is the best policy. this is probably the explanation for behavior 1)
i) 当时有太多的骗子的伎俩都是以问路开始。我猜想当时的骗子们先问路以便和受害者搭讪，而最好的应付方法，就是把他们当透明的。这样应该可以解释待遇 1)
ii) there’s nothing in it for them if they tell me the right direction, or simply, being helpful is just not something a local would do in shanghai. giving detailed directions to a tourist is probably something troublesome enough for them to not spend more than 1 minute on me. I remembered a local friend teaching me a china idiom, “if it doesn’t concerns me, it will be hang up high” (事不关己，高高挂起）。this should explains both 1) and 2)
ii) 他们告诉我方向也得不到什么，或则可能，帮助别人不是一件中国人会在上海做的事。在一个游客身上花一分钟好好的说出某地方怎么去可能对他们来说事非常麻烦的。我记得有个中国朋友和我说过一个谚语，”事不关己，高高挂起“。这个应该能解释待遇 1）和 2）
iii) they do not say “no”. thinking back in my stay in shanghai, I almost never hear a local saying “no” to me, even when they want to reject me or when they simply do not know the answer. I guess it’s the chinese culture of not rejecting a person directly and somehow evolve into how they would respond towards a lost tourist when they do not know the direction. this should explain all 1), 2) and 3) i guess
iii) 他们不说“不”。回想起在上海的这些日子，几乎没有听过一个中国明确的对我说过“不”，即使他们不愿意或则不知道。有可能是在中国传统文化中就有不能当面直接拒绝人的习俗而演变成今天游客问路时会得到的待遇。这个应该可以解释待遇 1），2） 和 3）。
You have to give credit to the propaganda power of the china government to make shanghai a more friendly city for visitors to the shanghai expo 2010. I remember the campaign lasts only one year and then voila! when I asked for directions now, at least I don’t feel I am thin air anymore.