Pouring Tea for Others: “R.E.S.P.E.C.T (Find out what it means to me.)”
by Vannie Sung
We’re tea fanatics. Since the beginning of Chinese culture, the presence of tea has been in our lives- you see it served in restaurants before every meal, regardless of the time of day you’re eating. Heck, I bet when the Chinese heard about the dumping of tea into the Boston Harbor, they were more than traumatized (come on, those Americans shouldn’t have wasted anything in the first place..).
Unlike the Brits, to us tea possesses more of a stigma- not to just class behavior, but to age as well. Growing up in the States, I didn’t understand why my parents lectured me on pouring tea for elders and plating for those younger. The way I perceived it, I didn’t want some nosy stranger continuously heaping food onto my plate (sheesh, dealing with two overbearing parents is enough.)
But to my parents, a small act is analyzed extra carefully. In fact, you were considered inconsiderate or immature if you didn’t lend a hand with the teapot and stuff the younger generation sitting around the table. Regardless, you are family if you eat with us. Like “The Godfather” mentality, you are part of our ”family” connection, our inner circle. In fact, it’s an unwritten rule addressing those who aren’t related to us as “Uncle”, “Grandfather”, and so forth.
And although I am American by birth, it is my Asian heritage that serves to remind me that our culture puts me in the same boat. So the next time you’re out for a meal during one of those weekends designated specifically for family time, pour that tea. And if your family is dining with another, keep your reflexes sharp for empty tea cups (and enjoy the fight for the check when dinner is over). No questions asked.
Thank you Vannie for the wonderul post! It really shows how different cultures may clash and cause misunderstandings, but in the end; it’s understanding that ultimately prevails!
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