Matt’s Project Ideas


The one thing that sticks in my mind whenever I think about China is the quality of the food.  Almost once a week for the past three years I have thought about pork baozi.  So, I would like to do something that involves food.  I am leaning towards observing the interactions around a dinner table.  I can imagine that the interactions a typical American family has at the dinner table varies extremely from the typical Chinese family. Who gets served first? Is there a before meal ritual? After meal ritual? Is one meal considered more important than another?  Are there any taboo topics to mention while eating? Are there foods that are unconsidered unlucky? What do the Chinese think of someone who requests to use a fork for dinner? What drinks are served during a meal? Is alcohol a prevalent part of dinner? Do these things vary with the culture?  I have heard in the past that having your chopsticks projected at someone in the rice is bad etiquette, and eating the fish’s eye is considered good luck.  I would also be interested in determining the seriousness of these superstitions and how natives react to these practices.  Also, why do the Chinese consider dog as both a source of food and a loveable pet?  This project would be fairly easy to research because it would simply involve sitting in a restaurant for a couple hours and observing the different interactions.  I could also try and observe how these interactions vary in the home as opposed to taking place in a restaurant.

While I was in China in high school, I took the chance to visit the markets and shops and found myself amazed at the similarity in the products that the shops offered.  It seemed as if there were just rows of the same identical shop lining the streets.  What kind of techniques do shop owners employ to entice people to come into their store? Do they haggle with their customers? Or do their interactions with their customers vary based on ethnicity, age, sex, or any other specific factor?  Does a trinket shop vary from a supermarket? Again, this would be a fairly accessible topic to research without having to jump through too many hoops.

I am looking forward to performing fieldwork because it will force me to interview and interact with a number of different people, but I am also scared of it for that exact same reason.  I realize that it will take a lot of time but am worried that I will run out of time or become so frustrated at failing to get my point across that I become discouraged.  I know that I will stick with it, but it is always scary confronting something that intimidates you.  And Chinese is definitely that something.