By Alex Cureton-Griffiths
They’re not that different
People often get so caught up in the differences that they fail to see the similarities between Chinese and western cultures. Just be yourself and don’t worry about skipping across the cultural minefield. Just as most of us would go easy on any local who made a social faux pas without knowing, local Chinese aren’t going to bite your head off if you accidentally put your foot in it.
They are that different — from one another
Following on from the above, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that all Chinese are much the same. They have their own thoughts, hopes and dreams. Some are more introvert, some more extrovert and some are just plain weird, just like foreigners. They’re not all Little Red Book waving fanatics, or traditional Confucian sages or “insert stereotype here.”
Losing Face = Bad
Making fun of Chinese, even if you’re just playing around, can be considered disrespectful and a big loss of face, especially in front of other people. Wait until you’ve got to know someone a little better, or wait for them to make a joke first. Don’t be staid and serious, or afraid of offending them, but do bear in mind that others may take the joke more seriously than you do.
Giving Face = Good
Acting impressed by someone’s job title can give a lot of face to the individual in question, and can quickly turn into what westerners might think of as a “mutual appreciation fest,” with each party saying something nice about the other’s position and modestly denying their own prestige.
Yeah, it might seem corny and contrived to some of us, but, hey, if it works it works.
I’d just like to say a big thanks to everyone who answered our question on LinkedIn:
• Charlie Chen at Accor Services China
• Twinsen Wu
• Alain Dijie at Sanofi Aventis
• Morry Morgan at ClarkMorgan
• CJ Ng
• Hui Zhang
Alex Cureton-Griffiths, Shanghai Networking News