I woke up this morning at 7:45am and couldn't sleep, so I'm going to write about a predicament.
Chinese culture has various protocols. For example, let's say you're eating dinner at a restaurant with others.
Host: "Try this duck. It's great!"
One typical response is to demur out of courtesy.
You: "That's all right, you go ahead."
The problem is that people will say this even when they actually secretly want to eat the duck. Therefore, the expected response is for the host to redouble his efforts.
Host: "Really, taste the duck! [picking up a piece of duck, and leaning over to place it into your bowl]
You: [covering bowl with one hand] "Don't worry about me! You just take care of yourself. I'll be fine."
Host: "I insist!" [forcibly wedging duck past your hand into your bowl]
Now, the problem here is that even if you legitimately don't want the duck, there is no way to communicate this. Any refusal will be taken as courtesy.
You: "Oh my fucking God, please stop shoving this piece of duck into my bowl! Can you respect my free will!"
Host: "Why are you being so polite?" (Unfortunately this is not sarcastic.)
You could come up with an excuse, e.g. "I'm allergic to duck", "I just ate duck for lunch", "I'm vegetarian". But this wastes time, and would also be dishonest. Clearly the script needs to be amended.
What we need is a safe word. Something like "pig knuckles". Then you can distinguish situations where you genuinely want to say no.
You: "Can we put my backpack in your car trunk?"
Host: "Sure! [opens trunk which is packed full, starts rearranging items]"
You: "I didn't realize you had so much stuff in there. I'll just hold it on my lap."
Host: "No, that would be uncomfortable for you! Let me make this more compact. [folding clothes, collapsing boxes]"
You: "I changed my mind! I just want to go, okay?"
Host: "It'll only be another couple -- "
You: "Pig knuckles."
Host: [closes trunk, gets into driver's seat, starts engine]
Ah, that would be magical.