Eating Chicken and Being Chinese

Chinese are generally kiasi, i.e. 怕死 in Hokkien, "fear of death". Not necessarily afraid of trying out new things, as "kiasi" is usually accustomed to, but the fact that people can sometimes shun away from activities because there exists tiny possibility (if at all) where a disease or even death might occur.

John Pasden once wrote about his experience with the Chinese-style hygiene. He asked his Chinese students the likeliness of getting ill after eating an M&M that has been dropped on the floor, and surprising most students think that it is more likely than not that bad things will happen!

That's pretty much my experience as well. If someone dropped something on the floor, even though the floor might look clean, and the food might still look very much eatable, it will either go (1) back into that person' mouth if he is an Aussie, or (2) right into the bin if he is an Chinese. However, I wonder how much of it has got to do with hygiene.

Take myself, who is an Australia grown Chinese, for example. I will (1) eat it without thinking about it if no one is watching, or (2) dump the perfectly clean-looking food into the bin if otherwise. I don't hesitate in case (1) because my conscious is clear, and I don't want to think about whether the food has been somehow contaminated by the "ground". However, if other people are around, it is now more than just contamination issue. Rather, the others (usually another Chinese) might have concern that the food is no longer hygienic, and therefore the person who consumes it might also have personal hygiene issues. "Yuk! How can Scott pick up that awfully contaminated food and put it back into his mouth?!!" Or maybe 1 Corinthians 8 without the Christianity context? Or in a nastier way of saying it, it is more of a face issue.

But sometimes it is neither hygiene issue, nor face issue. There are instances people are simply kiasi.

Eating chicken has been a recent example.

We know some people who previously eat lots of chicken -- almost to a point where chicken is exclusively consumed. Chinese loves chicken basically -- just ask who rules fast food business in China -- KFC or Maccas? However, recently those same people stopped eating chicken. They simply refuse consuming them, publicly or at home.

What makes this 180 degree turn? No one really talked about it, but I suspect it is the bird flu. They don't want to accidentally consume fried chickens that had caught nasty virus -- even over here in Sydney Australia!!

I am not sure whether the statistics has been done (or whether anyone has bothered), but what's the probability of catching bird flu right here in Australia by eating chicken fried in the restaurant? What about the mortality rate? Should I say lower can death caused by air travel? Which is actually lower than death caused by ground travel in vehicles.

Kiasi. Especially when people talk about it. Bird flu was so common in China over the past decades, but people still fearlessly consume every animal that has craws and wings. But when the issue bubbles up, they'll avoid it mindlessly without doing their statistics home work.


Somehow kiasi-ness of Chinese does not actually work when you try to evangelise them. For people who fear death, you'll think that they will respond if future judgement is preached. Somehow there's this inconsistency here.