Mainland Chinese people have become notorious for their noisiness. Some people think that this is an indication of insensitivity and rudeness.
It is true that Chinese people tend to speak very loudly to one another, even indoors and in public.
And it is only the Mainland Chinese that do this, while those from other Chinese enclaves such as Hong Kong, Malaysia or Singapore consider that it would be bad manners to make so much noise in the presence of other people.
In some countries, such as Switzerland, where Chinese people visit as large groups of tourists, their loud talking has been considered offensive, and steps have been taken to try to get them to be quieter and more considerate of those around them.
One of the places where the noise is most noticeable would be in a crowded Chinese restaurant where there are several groups, each group gathered around a large circular table where they are sharing plates of food and playing drinking games.
You might have been at a tourist site outside of China and observed the arrival of a busload of Chinese people. Led by their guide waving a small flag or colored umbrella, you can hear them coming from a distance.
You could put it down to something like simple exuberance. Basically being loud is seen as the good, honest way to be.
First of all, Chinese people live in a noisy environment which is inevitable with the density of crowds and the rowdy traffic in China, such that people are forced to talk loudly, just to make themselves heard, or even noticed. Some have suggested that what started thus as a necessity has simply become a habit everywhere.
In the restaurant situation mentioned above, with their loud talking, each group creates a kind of private social space which is inclusive to everyone within the circle and excludes those outside. And then when they require more food or drinks, they need to use a louder voice to call the waiter and be heard above the noise of other competing groups.
In private social situations, such as a person visiting someone’s home, loud voices can be an indication of cheerfulness, friendliness and hospitality.
In a conversation, if a person is speaking too quietly it is considered strange, and listeners very quickly get bored with the lack of drama. Speaking loudly is a sign of confidence, and possibly honesty. Being shy, timid and quiet is seen as not so good. Speaking loudly (enough) is a way to save face, which is very important in Chinese society.
In China, when people need to attract attention, make a point, or show authority, the most obvious way is to be loud, and then they can be sure that people clearly hear what is said.
Loud noises are also considered in some situations to be “auspicious”. At the celebrations for New Year, for example, there are fireworks and a lot of loud noises which frighten away bad spirits, and keep everyone happy.
The most important thing is not to take offence. It might seem difficult to realize when you are seeing everything through your own western cultural grid that people are not trying to be irritating, they are in fact being friendly.
You can respond by joining in, in the same spirit of cordiality and cheerfulness. Keep smiling, even when your ears are hurting, and maybe have some of what they are having to help you relax and enjoy it.
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