Is it race, ehtnicity, environment or conditioning that affects people’s ability to laugh. Going to the airport in Shanghai to catch a flight home, it suddenly dawned on me that I did not see many people laughing or joking. Not at places of interest, not taxi drivers, not among friends and family in restaurants, malls etc…
Maybe it was just a short time there. Or because I don’t speak the language and therefore could not communicate comic effect efficiently enough to elicit some form of response. Or that laughter takes place only in the privacy of home. Or simply, we are not on the same wavelength.
We chartered a taxi which another friend who is resident there, uses frequently. On returning to the taxi after the first pit stop of the day at Zhu Jia Jiao Water Village, my friend also a visitor like me, with the straightest of faces, remarked to the driver that she had met his friend who had asked after him.
She had meant it as a passing joke which the rest of us in the cab had already caught on to but I could see through the driver’s expression that he was suddenly going into overdrive trying to put two and two together, mouthing possibilities silently to himself.
Finally, we burst out laughing and told him it was a joke. Even then, after saying he was slow, he only managed a small, polite chuckle, still explaining that his only response was to think of who it could be who knew the both of them.
Or on the train journey from Hangzhou to Shanghai, a loud conversation between two friends did not yield a single laugh.
Maybe being in a country of 1.6bn, survival is of the essence. Cracking jokes takes a back seat. I don’t know….
Don’t get me wrong. I loved Shanghai… it’s cool – literally and figuratively – and eclectic; I would go back again in a heartbeat, but based on my general impression, the funny bone has gone into hiding.