I got into trouble taking pictures in the supermarket before the Chinese New Year. The security guard came over and said in a lowered voice that I was not allowed to do that.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because the display is the privacy of our store.”
“But I’m not using it for commercial purposes. I’m merely showing my American friends the festivity. It will help to promote your store, too!” He caught me in a naughty moment.
“No, Miss. Sorry about that.” He was firm.
I apologized and slipped the camera into my pocket. I was sure he checked on me quietly until I finished shopping there.
Privacy is a funny business here. The culture is different.
I cannot open a joint account with my husband at a local bank, because each of our account is a private matter, said the clerk.
One day, I went into the bank to sign the receipt of a deposit. “What is this money for?”, asked the clerk. “Why do you ask?” I stared at her, feeling agitated. There were five customers, all standing at the open counter where I was. “Because I have to put it down here.” She pointed to a blank line in the form. “Can I leave it blank?” “No.” So I had to confess that it is my husband’s travel reimbursement (instead of “none of your business!”). Mind you, that amount could not be from drug trafficking.
I was in the hospital to see an eye doctor. When the buzzer called my appointment number, I went into the office, only to find that I was among three others who were already inside. Three of us sat, knees almost touching, listening to the doctor telling the fourth patient what’s wrong. Three others knew what was wrong with me, because they were there, knees almost touching.
At the pediatrician’s office, a fabric curtain separated the waiting area from the doctor’s room. My son and I sat on the edge of the bench, half in shock, listening to the doctor scolding a mother who was telling the doctor what she think was wrong (instead of the doctor’s diagnosis, maybe?) I’m sure an American doctor would love to scold a mother like that. If he dared, he would still have to do it behind a closed door.
But here, I cannot take pictures, because the display is the store’s privacy. True.