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Germany Spirit and Chinese Gastronomy
Foreigners in China
“Did you eat?” This was the most common greeting in China in 1996. In the beginning of 1990s, I often heard people extending greetings to their neighbors in this way, whenever in afternoon or in evening.

“Yes, I did.” Answers were always brief and stereotyped. These answers were all beyond all questions—was there anybody who didn’t have his or her meal at 1 o’clock I in the afternoon or 7 o’clock in the evening?

I noticed that, in China, the atmosphere of dining together was so warm that all the unfamiliarity and illness at ease came to naught in the delicious food and alcohol. In China, eating could be held as democracy, as the original intention of all acts, as the pure socialism, the most beautiful enjoyment. On the other hand, all the happy and pleasant feelings vanished in to thin air as soon as the eating war came to its end. Everybody returned to themselves and take care of their own business.

The edification I have received 25 years in Germany was: the elders told me that we should work, should regard time as a productive factor and we must save time. At that time, my friends and I have produced a lot of things. Though these products were no more than chats and meaningless debates, at least we were productive. Whenever I sipped half litter beer or a small cup of Melitta Coffee, all sorts of ideas sprouted out in my mind, such as criticisms on the so-called origin of American-European common culture, of the ideal structure of Sino- European cooperation and communication items. I researched all along on the complicated composition of rebuilding the world by Samuel Huntington. I compelled myself to think, discuss and support myself when I was challenged.

But after I’ve been drunk several times in China, I found myself losing interest in these thinking matters. And to be honest, nobody will discuss seriously with me now. I used to spend a long time in Heidburg with my friend Sigma discussing Deng Xiaoping’s three times retreats and three times rises in politics. Sigma knew a lot anf prepared very well for our discussion. All the other matters, including eating of course, would lay aside temporarily.

In China, I will not let those meaningless discussions ruin my appetite. But I always feel discontented during my years stay in China, a loss in the well-off living condition. Every year I will return Germany twice or three times, paying visit to my friends all over the country. We get together, talk about Huntington and other people, mould our spirit and feel satisfied.

Germans pay more attention on the mental wealth, while the Chinese culture, on the wealth of food and drink.

“你吃了吗?”这是1996年中国人最常用的问候语。

    在90年代初,我在街上常听见南京人下午或晚上这样问候邻居。

    “我吃了。”回答干脆利落而且千篇一律。这种回答毫无疑问。试想,有谁会在中午1点钟或晚上7点钟还没有吃饭呢?
……
    我注意到,在中国,每次聚餐时气氛总是那样热烈,使所有的陌生和拘束都化解在美食和酒精中。在中国可以说吃就是民主,吃就是一切行动所谓初衷,吃就是纯粹的社会主义,是最美的精神享受。另一方面,当一场饮食大战结束后,所有没有感觉很快便消失殆尽,所有在进餐中产生的快感又再次化为乌有。每个人都很快恢复常态,各做各的事去了。

    我在德国接受了将近25年这样的熏陶:长辈告诉我人要劳动,要把时间当作生产要素,要节约时间。我和朋友们那时就“生产”了许多东西,虽然这些“产品”就是些闲聊和无谓的争论,但毕竟算是多产。每当我啜饮半升啤酒或一小杯微温的Melitta咖啡时,各种各样的想法便喷涌而出。比如对所谓的美欧共同文化渊源的批评,对中欧联盟的理想构架已久交流项目等等。我一直在研究塞缪尔•亨廷顿关于重建世界秩序的复杂构思,在思想上常常遇到挑战,迫使自己去思索、讨论,去维护自己的意见。

    在(中国)喝醉好几次后,我发现自己对过去那些思考得兴趣渐渐淡漠了。不过说实话,现在也没有人会和我认认真真地探讨问题了。在海德堡时,我曾和朋友西格玛长时间得探讨有关邓小平三次倒下、三次崛起的话题。西格玛知道的很多,并准备就这个话题跟我好好讨论一番,其他一切事都暂先搁置,当然也包括吃饭。
……
    在中国,我是决不会让那些没有意义的讨论回了我的胃口的。

    在中国的这几年我总感到有些不太满意的地方,觉得在富裕的环境下缺点什么。我每年都会回德国两到三次,去拜访全国各地的朋友。我们在一起聊有关亨廷顿和其他人的话题,精神上获得陶冶,达到满足。

    德国人更强调精神上的富足,而中国文化,则更强调在饮食方面的富足。

(From: World Vision(2007, 01)


 

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