As a traveler and life long student of communication, I am particularly fascinated with, as well as reliant upon, the power of non-verbal communication. I cannot overemphasize how helpful gestures can be when you are lost or confused, and the language barrier is proving to be greater than you can surmount. Allow me, if you will, to demonstrate one particular gesture which the Chinese are particularly fond of.? I will need you to serve as your own model. Don't worry, please …Pout your lips, close your eyes, and while tilting your head back slightly, give it one quick shake.
Speaks volumes, doesn't it. I see this gesture so often that I have even given it a nick name: The Scarlet O'Hara. I have occasion to be on the receiving end of it from time to time, as well. A Scarlet O'Hara usually comes at the market after a few rounds of negotiations when the peddler is beginning to throw a bit of anger into the mix to help his or her cause.? Chinese girls give the Scarlet O'Hara when they are flirting, and you also see it between two friends, mothers and children, or rival Mahjong players.
A Scarlet O'Hara given straightaway to a foreigner, though, has an entirely different message. Like a piano falling from the sky, it comes out of nowhere and turns a routine moment into a burning memory. It is only a single gesture, but that quick shake of the head, issued immediately and without a word, lays bare a mass of hateful commentary. She won't sell anything to someone as disgusting as I am. His hard work will never serve to nourish so foul an existence as me.My money, certainly coming from such ill begotten ways, has no value in their commerce. He and his family would go hungry before accepting anything from me. Her only wish is for me to disappear, or better still, to have never existed at all. The land I come from is a wasteland which produces the world's detriment. With a single motion, these people can tell me I am pure filth, a cancer, a fiend. Yes, more than once in this fine country, I have received a Scarlet O'Hara when I say hello to people, when I ask for directions, when I try to buy their merchandise, when I get in their cab, or when I sit down in their restaurant. Even though these are the acts of individuals, such experiences can be quite damaging to one's impression of the entire society which these individuals represent, quite damaging, indeed.