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ART & LEISURE: Sick Culture in China
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Sick Culture in China
By Demi Guo

BT 201805 Art 01      当你在工作日早上醒来,感觉身体有些不适。此时请假休息似乎是合情合理的。但你还在纠结着不知该不该去上班,此时该怎么办?在大多数来自西方国家的人士看来,感冒后待在家中是一种正确的自我隔离。的确,这种措施非常重要,它能有效帮我们避免病毒的扩散。因为即便是普通的感冒,也具有很强的传染性。

      但对于很多中国人而言,小小的感冒和发烧不足以构成请病假休息的借口,如果你以这样的原因向上司请假的话,那可要在心里掂量掂量了。毕竟,我们往往更强调集体意识,不到万不得已的时候,不会因为个人原因而影响大家的工作进度。与此同时,强大的竞争压力也使得大家不敢懈怠,每天加班工作已经成为了大城市白领生活的常态。在这样的竞争压力下还因小病请假,会被视为小题大做或“太脆弱”。另外,在中国相对自由的用药,可能也是大家可以带病坚持工作的原因,你可以在药店中买到各种各样的治疗感冒发烧的西药或中成药。大家也往往一边带病一边继续吃药打起精神上班了。

      这种强调大局和集体的意识,不仅仅存在于工作场合,在中国的家庭中也普遍存在。如果大家约定了聚餐时间,即便是主人感冒了,大都也都不会取消聚会,而是以戴口罩或其他方式避免朋友传染。由此可见,中西方对于生病这件事的态度是不同的,阅读本篇文章,可以让你更好的了解中国的同事和朋友,拓宽你对中国文化的看法。

BT 201805 Art 03Imagine waking up one morning to experience that initial feeling of a cold rushing over you. You feel a slight pain in your throat when you swallow; you may also begin to cough and your head feels a bit heavy. Your nose might also start running as you sniff in the first few breaths of your newly caught illness. You feel so bad that you pick up your phone and report sick at your workplace for that day because you feel you need to give your body time to rest and recover.
 

This probably sounds like a pretty normal ‘sick day’ in the Western world. However, things in China couldn’t be different. In China, if you get sick, you need to pick yourself up, and get yourself to work; there is no ‘rest’ or ‘sick day’, especially in big cities where people deal with higher pressure jobs and faster paced lifestyles.

Chinese people are famous for their diligence at work, working long hours, and tackling workloads that may be inconceivable to some. Chinese workers very frequently work overtime, sometimes up to 5-6 times a week, multiple weeks at a time, but this is normal in Chinese culture. So when Chinese people get sick, it’s not really in the cards to just take a day off. Even if they have a contagious illness, they will still go to work, regardless of the fact that it might spread to a few office mates. They really don’t have a choice in the matter, due to the high workloads; delaying their work because of the illness is seen as a weakness, and those who are strong are widely admired among their co-workers.
 

BT 201805 Art 04I’d like to tell you a true story about my friend Tracy. She works for a big company in Shanghai, and her office is located in one of the skyscrapers you often see in pictures of the Bund. It was about the time for the flu season to begin, and a few of her colleagues just happened to get sick, but of course they came to work as usual. One day, her supervisor called for a group meeting that Tracy was expected to attend. Coincidentally, one of the others in the group was the one who had recently caught the flu. The meeting was held in a closed room located in the middle of the building, without any windows, and the door was kept shut throughout the duration of the meeting. It was very intense and lasted for around 3 hours.
 

After the meeting finally concluded, almost everyone was completely drained out, which just made matters worse. The next day, not surprisingly two people that attended that meeting got the flu, including Tracy. What may be even more surprising to some is that this is a common occurrence, due to the culture around being sick, but still being expected to come to work and function like normal.
 

The difference in our culture when it comes to being sick also carries over to the family back at home. For instance, if your mother has invited a few family members or friends over for dinner, but unexpectedly falls sick, it is not customary to cancel the meal, and it’s very common that she will still continue to cook and serve the food, without going too much out of her way to spray disinfectant. However, she might wear gloves or a mask to help prevent her guests from falling ill. She will still perform the cleaning chores, which take a toll on the body. While being sick your body is in a weaker state and much more susceptible, thus rendering it easier for the illness to get worse.

BT 201805 Art 02Chinese people hold these events in very high regard. In Chinese culture, it is not common to visit family members on a daily basis or multiple times a week; sometimes it is only once a month or so. Chinese parents who have children usually spend all of their time with their kids, and it’s just not a part of Chinese culture to spend much time in others’ homes. So when a meal has been organized at someone’s house, and everyone’s cleared up their schedule to come by and eat together, it’s pretty much set in stone, and even the host and cook getting sick isn’t enough to postpone or cancel it. Chinese people are not used to discrediting themselves, so they just let things go according to plan. After the meal is over, friends and family will still stay around for a while, talk and have fun together.
 

The differences in Sick culture in China and the western world may be a bit surprising at first, but understanding why things are the way they are will help you to better understand your Chinese co-workers and friends, and broaden your perspective on Chinese culture.

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