comes to my mind is how in both countries, "people treat each other
like shit." While crude sounding, for anyone who has been in any
contact with over the counter customer services (I am not just talking
about pharmacies but also things like small shops, post offices,
buses, or anything else that requires direct verbal interaction
between the customer and the worker on the spot) can tell you, the
rudeness frequently encountered is quite similar in both countries.
Probably beyond even that, just ask for directions on the road, people
who are asked the questions are frequently ignored or simply given
something highly ambiguous in an extremely impatient manner.
Now, imagine you didn't actually speak English or Chinese, how pissed
off would you get when you are given the cold shoulder as you try to
get around places as a complete stranger (yet, it is kind of
surprising to note that the USA and China are 2nd and 4th in the world
when ranked by number of foreign tourists received annually...)
Many argue that this is the case because both the Chinese and the
Americans are incredibly proud and self-righteous countries, believing
themselves to be at the center of the world. Yet, traveling in Japan
and South Korea, I would have to say that these two countries, known
for their racist ethnocentrism (much more than the multiracial China
or USA...especially in Korea, probably the greatest admiration that I
would ever expect to get from a Korean is that "you act/look like a
Korean"...show how much the Koreans believe they are the most superior
people in the world) have the best services I have encountered in any
foreign countries, and especially in Korea, where I spoke very little
of the language, I was actually quite impressed how being a Chinese
guy (who are often considered the poor barbarians) can actually get
passable services there.
Instead, I feel that the bad services in US and China perhaps have
much more to do with the character of the American and Chinese people.
Going back to the point about people treating each other like shit,
if you look at Japan and Korea, people are always nice and polite to
each other (not just strangers but also people who you are familiar
with). They always bow and say nice things to others when they meet,
with nice smiles to display happiness.
Sounds quite Utopian, right? think otherwise....A close Japanese
friend of mine I met in Sydney told me that the thing she liked the
least about Japan is all the superficial manners. People are forced
to hide their feelings of sadness or anger or displeasure whenever
they meet others, just so that they can seem nice and polite...its
quite a social pressure that force people to repress bad memories and
In comparison to the Japanese and Korean society that encourages such
restriction of social freedom, the Chinese, being a communist
revolutionary bunch, inherited (at least somewhat in a non-formal
setting) the American culture of straight talking and behaviors.
Chinese people, unless their East Asian neighbors, do not hide their
feelings when talking to others, preferring clear expressions of
hatred and dislike even in the public (thus, you get the idea that the
Chinese and Americans treat each other like shit). And also like
Americans, they tend to clearly express what they like, unless the
Koreans and Japanese who are forced by their social customs to declare
everything t be likable...
Now, what does that have to do with excellent customer services? Well,
if the customers are straight-talking people who treat each other like
shit, they sure wouldn't pretend to be incredibly nice to the customer
service personnel...and for anyone who has done customer service (I
did it in a hospital gift shop), you really can be that nice when the
customers you are dealing with are not nice...so it is really a
problem of both sides, customers with bad attitudes create customer
service agents who are not nice, and vice versa....then a negative
feedback happens with customers getting pissed with customer services
with bad attitudes, causing them to treat customer services even
worse, and making customer services even worse in attitude. And this
certainly is the case in both China and the US.
So, basically, it is a choice between social freedom to straight
anything and openly show hate and love (China and US) and excellent
customer service (Korea and Japan)...
As much as I like to be treated nicely when I go to shops, post
office, etc., if being treated nicely means sacrificing those social
freedoms to say whatever the heck we want out in the open, I rather
tolerate the bad services...