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Attitudes Toward Aging | 对待年老的态度

When my family emigrated from a small village in Canton, China, we brought not only our luggage , but also our village’s rules, customs, and superstitions . One of the rules is that youngsters should always respect elders. Unfortunately, this rule resulted in my very first embarrassment in the United States.

I had a part-time job as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant. One time, when I was serving food to a middle-aged couple, the wife asked me how the food could be served so quickly. I told her that I had made sure they got their food quickly because I always respect the elderly. As soon as I said that, her face showed great displeasure . My manager, who had overheard , took me aside and gave me a long lecture about how sensitive Americans are and how they dislike the description “old”. I then walked back to the table and apologized to the wife. After the couple listened to my explanation, they understood that the incident was caused by cultural differences, so they laughed and were no longer angry.

In my village in China, people are proud of being old. Not that many people survive to the age of fifty or sixty, and people who reach such an age have the most knowledge and experience. Youngsters always respect older people because they know they can learn from this valuable experience.

However, in the United States aging is considered a problem since “old” means that a person is going to retire or that the body is not functioning so well. Here many people try to avoid old age by doing exercises or jogging, and women put on makeup hoping to look young. When I told the couple in the restaurant that I respect the elderly, they got angry because this made them feel they had failed to retain their youth. I had told them something they didn’t want to hear.

As a result of this experience, I have changed the way I am with older people. This does not mean that I don’t respect them anymore; I still respect them, but now I don’t express my feelings through words.

 

 

 

当我们家从中国广东的一座小村庄移民到美国时,随之带来的不仅是行李,还有我们村的规矩、习俗和迷信。其中一条规矩便是:年轻人要尊重年长者。不幸的是,这条规矩却导致了我到美国后第一件尴尬的事。

我在一家中餐馆兼职做服务生。一次我在为一对中年夫妇服务的时候,那位妻子问我菜怎么会上得这么快。我告诉她尽量快上是因为我尊重老人。话音刚落,她的脸色立刻变得很难看。经理在旁边听到了,把我领到一边,讲了一大通美国人是如何敏感,还有他们多么不喜欢“老”这个词。然后我回到了桌旁,向那位妻子道歉。这对夫妇听了我的解释后,明白这件事是由文化差异引起的,于是笑了起来,不再生气了。

在我们村子里,人们以年长为骄傲,不仅是因为活到五六十岁,而是因为活到这个年龄之后就会拥有更多的人生阅历。年轻人对老人都非常尊敬,因为能从他们那里学到有价值的经验。

然而在美国,年龄的增长却被认为是问题,因为“老” 意味着人要退休,或是身体机能不如从前了。这里的很多人通过做运动或慢跑来延缓衰老,妇女使用化妆品以显得年轻。当我对餐厅那对夫妇说自己尊敬老人时,他们很生气是因为这让他们感觉到没能够保持住青春,我说了一些他们不想听到的话。

这件事发生后,我改变了与老年人交往的方法。这并不意味着不再尊重他们,我对他们尊敬的心情不会变,但现在不再用话语表达自己的感情了。

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