Wednesday, August 02, 2006

have a good look

One of my favourite things about China is being able to have a good gawp. It’s quite ok to stop and watch something of interest in the street, as demonstrated here. In this example the car in the foreground has bumped into a taxi and the traffic cop has just arrived to sort things out. As you see, the crowd is intently watching the action. This was in the middle of the rush-hour and people made a point of stopping and coming over so they could get a good view of the proceedings. There was very little drama and a few minutes later the issue had been settled and everybody dispersed on their various ways. Sometimes the watchers become arbiters, weighing in on one side or the other, but often there’s no audience participation, it's just about satisfying curiousity.

I think this is a good indication of how social boundaries, privacy and communal space are often different. We all like a gawp really but whether its socially permissible in our culture is another matter. I think you could probably divide most cultures up into staring and non-staring cultures; India and China are on the have-a-good-look side for example, UK and Japan on the want-to-look-but-can't side...

1 comment:

nien said...

There was one time when we were in Beijing one night and there was this crowd surrounding an accident that involved a car and a cyclist. The cyclist (I'm assuming) was lying on the road, motionless. People were just standing around, not really doing anything. We left and came back about an hour later and the crowd was still there and the cyclist was still lying on the road.