Day 26 in Beijing: “Hi! Hello!” rather than “What The Heck!?! Holy S#&t!!!!”

“Hi! Hello!” rather than “What The Heck!?! Holy S#&t!!!!”


Yep, that is what you hear in Beijing.


Well, that is what I hear.


I’m an expatriate living here.  This much you and I both know.


However, this is a daily occurrence for me. And maybe for you.


While most people may have people say hi or hello to you,I sincerely doubt that most of you hear “What the Heck!?! Holy S#&t!!!!” as you board a subway train at 8 in the morning.


Then again, if you live in New York or San Francisco, I could be mistaken. Forgive me if I assume too much.


This is one of the joys of living in Beijing and being noticeably different looking from the average citizen. People will say thing to you that they probably wouldn’t say to others.


Imagine walking down the street and just saying hello to everyone you met for no particular reason. Again, if you live in San Francisco or New York, you may know people that do this. I personally love it when people say hello to me as it gives me a chance to smile, make eye contact and connect in a way that many of us don’t seem to do. Or maybe I’m just being judgmental and thinking I need to do it more often and blaming others?


Either way, as I walked to work yesterday, these three kids all started yelling, “Hi! Hello!” and waiting for me to answer. I answered in “Hi! Hello!” and then in my horrible Mandarin, “Ni Hao!” They smiled and started giggling, as children will do. I then asked to take a picture and they seemed to have enjoyed it.


Kids playing in the street.  Moms back home are horrified and yelling into their laptop screens right this instant.

Kids playing in the street. Moms back home are horrified and yelling into their laptop screens right this instant.





Children are just children. No racism, no sexism, no phobias. They are just who they are and enjoy learning and the world. Adults should take an example from children and live life more fully. Maybe say, “Hi! Hello!” to a few more random people and see how they respond. Learn to be less afraid and attempt to connect and feel vulnerable in a new situation.


Laugh, smile and say hello to strangers. Not a bad way to spend the day.



There is the second part of my title.


And, Dear Readers, that is a word that I didn’t think you would appreciate me spelling out on this family oriented blog.


I think you get the idea.


You are a smart bunch of readers.


I trust you can figure out the two missing letters.


I know because I’ve seen you do the New York Times crossword puzzle in no time at all.


If not, email me and I’ll be glad to help.


Okay, one small hint. It rhymes with something know as a “skit.” Got it? Not yet?


One more and that is it.


First remove the “k.” Now look at the English alphabet and move backwards three letters. Exchange that letter for the “k.”


Honestly, if you are still having trouble, go ask your teenage kid.


Or ask any teenager.


Trust me, they will be glad to say it and a few other choice words. It will be their dream come true.


And so it goes.


Or so I go.


As I’m getting on the subway and I see a few teenagers standing by the door. They look at me and one of them exclaims,


“What the Heck!?! Holy S#&t!!!”


Yep, I provoke that kind of comment and outburst from people.


I had no idea I was that, uh, compelling?


I guess I am.


They started giggling while I suppress my laughter and ignore the humor in this situation.


I’m not sure why I did that.


I think I was trying not to encourage or reinforce this kind of behavior because I didn’t want other Chinese to think that I felt it was proper to swear.


In English or Mandarin.


I don’t know the culture well enough to know what is acceptable.


However, I missed the bigger picture because of my judgment about their words.


Just like the young kids above, these teens were simply trying to connect.


I think of my mom and imagine her being in this situation. Her reaction probably would have been to say hi and just start talking and seeing what their experiences have been with expatriates and foreigners in their country. Or about life in general. Or art. Anything.


I don’t think they were being rude. In fact, I’m sure they were being friendly and playful.


My plan is hatched. I know what to do.


So instead, next time,


just like with the little kids,


I will connect with them.




I think I’ll pick the first choice and say,


“HI! Hello!” rather than “What the Heck!?! Holy S#^t!!!”




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