Last weekend I decided to explore the city of Guangzhou. The city is beautiful and bustling with life – there was almost too much to do in the short amount of time I was there. I managed to visit two museums, two parks, the Canton Tower, and get some shopping done. The plan was to go clubbing in the evening, but after all that walking around and excitement, we decided it would be best to have a relaxing evening and just go to the cinema instead.
Les Misérables received quite a few Oscar nominations, so we decided that would be a safe bet to go see. What I thought would be a chill cinema trip turned into one of the biggest cultural experiences I’ve had since I arrived in China last month.
Let me start by saying, where I come from, having your phone on in the cinema is practically a sin. Just looking at your phone during the movie and casting that little light will get you mad haters in the cinema – so nobody dares do that. During this cinema experience however, the Chinese simply let their phone ring during the movie. Oh but it doesn’t end there, they also pick up the phone and start talking! I thought the first person that did it was either rude or just didn’t have a clue, but this happened six more times during the duration of the film. I was super confused.
Secondly, usually if anyone dares whisper to their friends during the film, you’ll hear people shush you from all corners of the cinema. However, even though Les Mis was not the most interesting or action packed movie, when the Chinese found it boring they would simply turn over and start talking to their friend, in full volume. Again, this happened multiple times throughout the movie. Towards the end when there was a lot of singing scenes (which really did drag on) it felt like the whole cinema just gave up on the movie and decided to make it a social event and went in full conversation.
At one point, the guy in front of me decided he’d had enough, so he whipped out his iPad and started playing on it. I have to be honest, I really didn’t find the movie very good (I prefer to the older rendition of Les Mis) but the Chinese were very verbal about their dislike for the film as well; as soon as it finished one woman yelled out “thank god!” – which I found pretty funny because I was thinking the same thing.
Apparently, this does not only happen in Chinese cinemas, but also the theatres. In olden days China, theatres used to be a social event in which you sat at a table with a group of friends; played cards, ate snacks, and occasionally brought your birds along with you (sometimes you can actually see the elder people walking around town with their caged birds). Knowing this now makes that episode make so much more sense, but at the time I had no idea what was going on!