Culture Clash ‘No.’

This post just outlines one of the many culture clashes and is my story of being told ‘no’.

The first time I encountered this was at the Hyatt on the Bund in Shanghai, when we visited the bar with a couple of friends, it was my turn to order and I pointed at the menu and said ‘One Cappuccino, please’. The waitress just firmly looked at me and said ‘No.’. When I asked ‘Why not?’ she said ‘We don’t have that.’, laughing at me, like I made a funny joke. Then my friend stepped in and said ‘But it says here on the menu that you serve Cappuccino.’ to which the waitress again responded ‘No. No Cappuccino.’. Annoyingly I had to order something else, not understanding what is so fancy about Cappuccino that they service everything else and couldn’t just make me anything similar. I thought at fancy hotels they are supposed to exceed the guests expectations?! Clearly a Cappuccino listed on the menu was too much to ask for. Just yesterday my friend called the restaurant in the Hyatt on the Bund to make a reservation for Brunch on Sunday and was told the same response after asking if she can place a reservation ‘No.’, but when she called again it seemed to problem.

Beautiful view from Hyatt on the Bund, that made me feel slightly better.

Second situation – a friend and I popped into a bar we’ve spotted after a shopping spree at Tianzifang, same situation, pointed at the menu to order a glass of red and a glass of white and the answer was ‘No.’. Again, we asked ‘Why not?’ and the simple answer was ‘No glass. You have to order a bottle.’. I tried to give her some answers, for example do they not serve it because the menu has changed or perhaps they are out of that wine? Again, the answer was ‘No. No glass.’. It just frustrated me so much, as they just refused to tell us why! What is the problem with saying why they cannot serve us what it states on their menu?!

Third situation – went to a restaurant (actually with the same friend, maybe there is a correlation there?! Ha!) and when we paid I asked the waiter to pay half of the bill by card, as I was out of cash. My friend, who had plenty of cash left, said once I had paid that she will pay by cash for the remainder. The waiter just looked at her and said ‘No cash. Only card.’. Same story – we asked why they wouldn’t take cash, as that’s very unusual. It’s more common that they don’t take card! Again, I kept asking him why, at least three times. It just didn’t make any sense. Why would they not accept cash? And why wouldn’t he tell us why?

In our culture and from what I’ve learned from working in hospitality, you need to justify to your customers why you cannot deliver a service you have promised to offer. Usually, the customers will be understanding and happily order something else. But how does it leave me with a rejection of my order and no alternative solution? I personally just find it very rude and offensive, if they even start laughing at you for suggesting that you order something that’s on their menu.

As we’ve encountered this in various situations now, there must be a reason behind this behaviour… and I have a feeling this is only one of the many culture clashes we have yet to encounter.

– Her

Have you had a similar experience? How did you feel in that situation as an expat in Shanghai?


2 Comments Add yours

  1. I have found the ‘no’ situation often in China as it wasn’t the person’s job to know what I was asking. But…there was little offer to point me in another direction or to another person. It’s always ‘no’. I got used to it though.


    1. Exactly! It’s fine that they don’t know the answer, but they could at least try to find any alternative solution.

      Liked by 1 person

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