ways of expression

I watched the news on CNN and saw a report about the effectivity of wearing face masks in the fight against the Covid-2 virus. Prof. Renyi Zhang at Texas A&M University has studied the effectiveness of various measures against the spread of the pandemic in Wuhan, China, then Italy and New York. He found, that of all measures (like washing hands, desinfecting surfaces, lock-downs, etc.), wearing face masks is apparently the most effective way to supress the spread of the virus.

In the report, the anchor man asked, why it then is, that so many (in this case) Americans object wearing a mask. There was no straight-forward answer, other than: Asians are more used to wear a mask in public. It is a sign of politness toward others, to keep your germs to yourself. Which it is, I suppose.

But it is also a pain in the neck, really. Here in Germany, we have to wear masks in shops, public transport and generally in crowded spaces indoors, where it is impossible, to keep distance.

I hate shopping, because after ten minutes, I have a slight feeling of suffocating. After half an hour, I get a migrane. I am really happy, I don’t have to wear a mask at work. As opposed to our staff in the restaurant. The poor girls and boys in the kitchen and service having to be with it all day. The first couple of days, they really struggled. But as with everything – they seem to get used to it. We will see, how this turns out, as soon as temperatures start to rise to summer levels.

Anyways, I would hate having to wear a mask all day. Not only for the discomfort. I also find, that I don’t look at people anymore, whenever I wear the mask. I mostly look at the floor. Why, beats me. It is something revolting and unusual to cover ones face. And also, to meet folks, who wear masks. Mind you: I do wear it, whenever I visit any of the described places. But I hate it.

So, after watching the interview with Prof. Zhang, I started to think, why this might be the case. I think, there is a general difference in Asian and Western culture in using ones face (and body) to communicate. Whereas most of the Asian folks I know (and there are quite a lot, as many of our members at the golf club are of Asian origin), are very reserved, when it comes to facial expressions. Or talking with their “hands and feet”. As is a German expression for overuse of gestures or trying to make oneself understood without knowing the lingo or the right wording. I find, that it seems socially agreeable for Asians, to keep their emotions mostly to themselves. Whereas we find it agreeable, to meet an open, “talking” face (as long as it doesn’t stare me down in hatred – but even then I’d prefer it to no expression – at least I’d know what to expect).

I am not sure, whether I am in any way right about this. And also, maybe these times are not the best to discuss differences in societies. But I still think, I might have a point. At least it would explain, why I detest wearing a mask. And my Asian friends don’t seem to mind wearing them at all. I will ask a few on their thoughts on this and let you know….

2 thoughts on “ways of expression

  1. Perhaps there is a cultural component to it. But it was common for people in Beijing and other industrialized Chinese cities to wear a mask before the pandemic began (to protect themselves from smog/pollution). I wear my mask like a good little citizen but interactions seem less friendly. At the grocery, I shop as fast as I can, avoid others, and talk as little as possible. I’m hearing impaired and masks make things difficult. Voices are muffled and there are no lips to read to verify if I got it right. We had a socially-distanced b-day party for my husband’s grandma. It was awkward, five of us parked on lawn chairs in opposite corners of the patio, wilting in the heat, wearing masks, and screaming to make ourselves heard (grandma, MIL, and I are hearing impaired). Kind of takes the fun out of it…

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    1. Same here. Even with allright hearing, it is a lot harder to understand folks with masks. Must be next to impossible with a handicap.


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