In the past I tried to give a basic description of the concept of face. It is probably one of the hardest things to understand about Asian culture and there are nt a lot of westerners that really get the concept. The original post is here http://owee58.com/2010/03/face/ .
In the last two days, I have run into two situations that might add a bit to what it is all about. I think the reason FACE cannot be explained is that it is based on raw emotion combined with respect, religion, family, and common sense. A person can try to define the rules, but unless you truly feel the depth of the emotion and how a person’s life can depend on the very core of that emotion, you can never understand. I have been very fortunate that in the past I was so immersed in Chinese culture for a while that I was able to experience it. It was not a slow learning process, but a Eureka moment. After 4 years of spending days and night immersed in Chinese culture……. I got it!! It was a flash of inspiration that made things that had happened in the past become clear. It required a series of very deep emotional events in conjunction with issues based on family, honor, and a few other issues. I understand!! I am sure there are others that also understand, but none that I have seen that have tried to put it into words, so here is a couple of examples from my current situation.
I have a Visa exemption that needs to be renewed every 90 days. (Pretty silly…. Visa Exemption…. Renewed???) Anyway…… The process is as follows. I must show where I have been residing and fill in some paperwork that has the official stamp of the local
police that cover the district. I took the papers in as normal but found that my sister had forgotten to renew the family book and I wan no longer registered to remain in my house. (I know….. it is complicated) As a challenge, I decided to try to complete the process of my renewal by myself and the lack of paperwork lead to a series of almost comical events…….. All involving FACE. I was alone trying to renew but the police officer saw that I was not registered t live in my own house for the last six months. He had no idea who I was or that I was in the hotel so he took it upon himself to start yelling to the foreigner about fines and how I would have to pay a lot of money for not being legal. He assumed that I was just another dumb foreigner. I was forced to call my wife to help because my language skills were not up to the task. Mai translated and I was able to get across to him it was no problem because I had been staying in a hotel in the ward next door. The officer was a bit surprised when I had another sister appear with a second family book different from my original book only to not register me for now, but the next six months starting in three, while having the hotel to register me. (yes I know confusing) The threat of fines disappeared but not before getting a lecture about having everything in order. Here is where FACE becomes involved.
We went to another police district that was responsible for the hotel. We presented the papers to a young officer who was new to the station. The others know me and now are on my emergency phone list because of a challenge we issued them on corruption in the past (we won) The young officer insisted that the paperwork was wrong and called in the boss (a fellow that knows me ) to collaborate. Without really checking, he backed the rookie and had me leave the station with the message that the paperwork had not been filled in correctly. I returned with my wife and again presented the papers. We laughed and joked a bit. The police chief knew us and liked what we were doing, but after only glancing over all of my papers, maintained that the rookie had been correct and changes had to be made. (to be fair, he has not had much experience dealing with immigration issues) Without reading closely we were sent back to redo the papers. I returned again with the same papers but with my receptionist in tow who had filled in the document. I was now a bit angry because I had run out of time to finish the process and here is how things transpired.
I say …You man made a mistake and my paper is good! (he understands)
No…. you live in different area!!
No… I am in Hotel…. (the simple mistake by the rookie was of the address)
Now we fight (not real)
Hotel not same last paper.
No…. we stay hotel…. Not house…(he knows I am the boss but not 100% legal)
You make paper very confusing (he says) you fix!!! Or I give trouble! (a knowing glance)
Yes I fix paper from house to hotel…I stay hotel.
No!!! Better you go back to house and not hotel!! We do not want you in hotel.
I say… But you police good and friend…. Help my hotel…I do not go!!!!
We glare at each other and others look at us. When it is all over we smile and know we will run into each other and have a lot of laughs over beers.
I now have the paper stamped multiple times and am in the immigration office. I have gone through this procedure 3 or 4 times and it is always the same until now. I have a visa exemption that is valid until 2013. The usual procedure is to just show up, present my passport with my filled out paper, and then carry on. But today no……
The rookie says that my visa is expired and I have to leave the country. I tell him no, I do not require a visa and the exemption I have is good until 2013. No!! he cries and I call Mai again for a translation. The fellow is now trapped in his error and tells my wife that I must get a new visa exemption as the one I had was only good for 90 days….. Huh? I try to explain that the visa exemption is precisely that!! An exemption. An older officer who we have had dealing with in the past becomes involved and is now trying to save the face of the rookie. I am told that the Visa exemption is only valid for 90 days and I must leave the country and re-enter according to the rules…. He adds that if I do not I will have to have a visa issued……. Yea…. Whatever….. He then goes on to say that he will let me get away with it this time but I had better leave the country when it is set to expire in the future. With a huff he walks off. The rookie is appeased in that his superior backed him. I am also in that it is being renewed, and I am sure that the older officer is hoping that in 3 months when I renew again, I will check to see if he is on duty first.