Reading between the lines

A long time ago, when I was a child, I experienced some of the nuances that make relationships among Chinese friends and relatives extremely difficult to understand. Through my parents’ life, they were close friends with a family with substantial financial influence. For my dad, it was nothing to think about given that he and the head of the other family grew up as close friends since childhood.

I remember one day when some distant family relatives came over to visit us. We vaguely knew them and were quite surprised to see them. But lo and behold, they came bearing gifts, as if our families were Siamese twins. But once the conversation started and the initial formalities were done, we discovered the main reason they visited us. They needed a favor. Their son worked for an enterprise owned by this rich friend of my dad. So, they came here asking dad for a favor to see if they can get their son promoted. I clearly remember this encounter and made me cautious about people coming out of nowhere bearing gifts.

It seems that I am getting old and forgot that lesson. Today, I visited the office of a former agent for the family. The person who used to be in charge of my family’s affairs was unusually friendly. He did not let me pay for lunch and gave me a small gift. Well, it is usually the other way around, since I am supposed to be generous for the services that they provided. The catch? There was some money left in an old account. So, I guess I had to tip again. Should have read between the lines.


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