Cultural friction

Cultural friction

I played golf at my club Saturday morning. I was alone so I joined a threesome of members all of whom were originally from

Hong Kong

. Of the three, one was about fifty and had come to


when he was 15, the other two were around 60 and had come to


as adults.

Normally, at the club, if you join members whom you do not know, you talk and get to know each other while you golf. For the first three or four holes, the only member of this group who would carry on a conversation with me was the golfer who had come to


s a 15 year old. He behaved very much like a Canadian although he had a very slight accent. The other two spoke accented but adequate English but were mostly silent, or spoke to each other in Cantonese when they were further away. One of them would occasionally talk on his cell phone which is against club rules. I felt awkward, as if they really did not appreciate me joining their group.

After a few holes I let them know that I spoke Cantonese. This caused a short conversation. One of the older golfers said that his son was in

Hong Kong

, spoke Cantonese but realized he should learn Mandarin. Growing up, his son had resisted learning to write Chinese because ???everyone spoke English??? in


. In the last five years, the golfer said, that has all changed, now everybody ???has to learn Chinese???!

I volunteered to him that I learned Chinese characters after the age of 21. Since his son already spoke Cantonese, learning the characters would help him learn Mandarin. This really annoyed the fellow for some reason and the conversation ended.

The other older golfer stated that Cantonese, even though it did not really have a written language, was the best spoken language in the world. I replied that in my view most native speakers feel that way about their own language. He was not impressed and went on to say that Cantonese had the best swear words. I wondered to myself if he knew how to swear in Russian or Arabic!

That little exchange did not break the ice. It was still only the Canadian golfer who communicated with me.

A few holes later the people playing behind us came up to one of our group and told him not to pull his cart so close to the greens, as this was against club rules. He said it in an unfriendly way which made me feel uncomfortable. After this person left, one of our group said that he knew the rule but did not see why this mattered.

A few holes later as we were putting out on a par 3 hole, we heard one of the group behind us impatiently say ???come on??? from the tee box, implying that we were too slow.

A hole later they came up to us and, again in an unfriendly way, told us to play faster. They did not want to receive another letter for slow play. (At our club we are obliged to punch a clock and make sure we finish our round in 4hours and 15 minutes or risk getting a letter. Two letters and you cannot book tee times). My Chinese golfing threesome apparently had also previously received a letter for slow play.

My Chinese playing buddies offered to let the group behind play through us. I refused. We were keeping up to the group ahead of us and could not go faster. I also told the group behind us that it was rude to shout ???come on??? from the tee box as they did on the previous hole. From that point on my golf went down hill as I felt really upset at the actions of this group. I later reported them to the club pro. As members of the club this is unacceptable behaviour.

So what is the point here? Were the people behind us racist, just rude or just afraid of getting another slow play letter from the club? I cannot help feel that there was an element of racial or, more accurately, cultural friction. There are perhaps 10-15% people of Asian origin at the club. In the group ahead of us there was a Japanese-Canadian who regularly plays with various different members. My wife and a handful of other members of Asian origin also play regularly with other members, and even play for the club against other clubs in



The point is that they mix in and are culturally integrated. At least at the level of their interaction with other members they do not isolate themselves, whatever cultural attributes they may enjoy away from the club. So while I was made uncomfortable by the group behind us, I think the behaviour of my group of Hong Kong Chinese playing partners, who had not made a greater effort to fit in was also part of the problem. I certainly was made to feel that I was not welcome to join their threesome and will not do so in the future.

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