No laughing matter….

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.

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2 thoughts on “No laughing matter….”

  1. I am no expert on China. I have never lived there and but was merely there on work assignment (Beijing and Shanghai). It did not occur to me that people do not laugh. However, I noticed that they take some time to warm up to a stranger. Perhaps it is an Asian nature. They don’t talk to strangers much, unlike in certain western cultures where even while waiting in a queue at a supermarket, greetings are exchanged. Ocassionally, the nice old lady in front of you would even engage you in a conversation about that goes something like this:
    Nice Old Lady (NOL) : Are you from around here?
    Me : No, no. I am from Singapore.
    NOL : Singapore?…Is that in China?
    Me : No no. We are an independent country in South East Asia.
    NOL : Oh I see. That’s lovely. Does everyone speak English over there?
    Me : Yes, yes. English is our first language.
    NOL : Oh. That’s wonderful….(By then, I am hoping that the queue moves along quickly so that I don not have to explain that we don’t live in tree houses.)
    In case you are wondering about the “No, no” and “Yes, yes”, it is an awkward habit I have. It was brought to my attention by a friend who is wonderful at speaking with strangers. And she is not caucasian.
    I digress…..I was just going to say that it is perhaps the country is caught up in a race to improve themselves. I was last in Shanghai about 3.5 years ago and my observation was that it is a country with an enormous apetite for knowledge so that they can improve themselves. In many aspects, more so than my little country in South East Asia where many are happy coasting along. China is dead serious about being a world player. In some aspects, they have arrived…..especially table tennis 😛

    1. Yes. Yes. :p Earnest, hardworking and to those who know you, hospitable would be among other suitable adjectives to use. And definitely a worthy contender as a world player.

      The comment was a social observation from a leisure traveller about the humour quotient. It’s also not so much the interactions with strangers, which I am discounting but more so their interactions among themselves. Among families and friends at restaurants, in malls, on ferries, on trains… didn’t see the funny bone act up. My friend observed it too.

      Just wondering whether it’s environment, conditioning in all aspects (internal and external influences), culture (like you rightly pointed out), race … that tickles the funny bone? And why there was very little that tickled – at least from from my lookout point. 🙂

      Thank you for your comments though, two cents. Keep them coming. And your friend “who is not Caucasian but is wonderful with strangers” sounds lovely. I’ll bet she’ll sort the sweet NOL soon enough that people in the independent country in South-east Asia do not live in tree houses 😉

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