Stealing Breakfast

Well maybe stealing isn’t the right word, but it sure felt like it.  This morning I was running late for the bus, or more specifically the Teacher Van that runs between Nanhu campus and the Shoyi campus and ended up having to run, bag in hand to catch it.

When I got finally got seated and settled, one of the male teachers sitting directly behind me started up a conversation with me.

“Good morning” he said.

“Hello.  How are you.” I replied.

“Have you had breakfast?” he asked.

“No, actually.  I was running late this morning” I said, pausing to catch my breath from the run to the bus.

“I have two baozi here if you would like them” he offered.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Of course” he answered.


So the whole time I’m thinking that he must have gone to the street vendor early and gotten extra baozi because, of course in English, if you ask someone if they have eaten it is a genuine question, deserving of an honest answer.

In China however, that is not the case.

I asked my students about this when I got to class and they informed me that asking “Ni chur la ma?” or literally “have you eaten?” is a typical greeting, not a question of what you had for breakfast.  Kind of like in America when we say “How are you?” the typical response is “Good, and you?” rather than telling the person everything that went wrong with you day so far.

So the moral of the story is that I took my friend’s breakfast, and don’t know how to make it right.  I think perhaps next week I will stop by the shop early and pick up extra baozi myself to share if he is on the bus again, and ask casually “Ni chur la ma?”


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