Infrequent Business Travelers
I helped arrange for a business delegation from China to visit North America in the early 1980s, and then met them at the airport in New York, and accompanied them for a good part of the trip.
This was still early days for Chinese business executives traveling abroad, as it was for international executives visiting China.
This particular delegation came from an interior province of China and consisted of executives making their first trip abroad. It was an exciting opportunity for them.
On the one hand, they were excited. On the other, after arrival, they were struggling with their first jet lag and western food. We spent a lot of time looking for Chinatown to ease their suffering, but even then the food was disappointing to them.
One morning after we’d been in North America for a few days, we were driving in the minibus which our American hosts had arranged.
Traffic was slow, so there was plenty of time to talk. My neighbor in the seat ahead of me, one of the Chinese delegates, turned around and told me he was feeling very sleepy that morning.
Probably jet lag, I said.
Maybe partly, he said, and then speaking in a quiet voice, he said: “But the real problem is my roommate’s snoring. Very loud! I couldn’t sleep most of the night because of it . “
After a brief pause, he then asked me: “Do foreigners snore?” which I found a hilarious and delightful question, as if we really were from another planet after all.
For an instant, the mischievous side of me was tempted to answer:
“No, Comrade Li, we don’t snore; and we don’t fart either.”
But instead I told him the straight truth that we too snore. At least some of us, some of the time. He seemed somewhat relieved.
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