Friday, August 5, 2011

Comfort, Contentment, and Complaint

One thing I notice when I come back to America is that people are particular about things.  We like things to be a certain way.  We like to sleep in dark, quiet, places.  (And if the neighbors are noisy, we complain.) We like businesses to provide attentive, prompt customer service.  (And if we feel slighted or have to wait, we complain.)  We like other drivers to drive predictably.  (And if we see a slow dude in the fast lane, we complain.)

We seem to have a narrow range of satisfaction and comfort.  We don't want to be too hot or too cold, too cramped, too jostled, or too inconvenienced.  It is a really big deal to us if we hire a service and they don't live up to our standards or if we stay at a hotel and find it too shabby.

All of this is, in my opinion, a reflection of the high standard of living we have been blessed with.  Our lives are so comfortable and convenient compared to many countries, and this has birthed an expectation that our lives MUST be comfortable and convenient.

I would say that Chinese people don't have the luxury of this expectation.  Customer service is almost non-existent.  Many people swelter through hot summers and shiver through cold winters in unheated buildings.  The majority of Chinese travelers (especially students) are crammed onto dirty, slow trains where they may not even have a seat for train rides as long as twenty or thirty hours.  People everywhere smoke, talk loudly into cell phones, push, and cut in line.  Life is often neither comfortable nor convenient.

So here is what I propose:  What if people in China raised their expectation a little?  The average standard of living could be improved if people would come to expect (and ask for) better treatment and better conditions.  And what if people in America bit their tongues from time to time, practicing contentment instead of complaint?

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