tiistai 21. huhtikuuta 2009

Cultural differences

There are so numerous of differences between western and Chinese cultures, that I can only give you glimpses of what it means in practice.

Example 1.

Not so long ago my partner J. travelled to Thailand with his long time buddy. I couldn't go, since I was working, and even if I wasn't, I am not sure I would have gone with them. Perfectly normal to me: good friends travelling together.

But my Chinese colleague said to me: "Isn't it a little strange that those two man [J. and his friend] travel alone?" I had not idea what he meant, and he propably saw the questionmark-like expression on my face. "You are brave to let them travel alone together." What???? I wasn't sure if he was thinking about the abundand thai-ladies who make themselves available either for a monetary compensation or just to find a boyfriend or maybe that they would be somehow partying more than should be tolerable. "Well, I don't know... I am not worried how they will behave" I said, "I think I know what kind of person I have been living with more than 8 years now. And they are there to dive, on a small island." "No, but isn't it a little strange for two men to travel together? They must be really really good friends?" "I don't think it is that strange, I think most people I know have travelled with their friends." "Yes but two men sharing a hotel room?" he still said. I was perplexed, but decided not to ask if he was somehow thinking that two men travelling together would somehow find their hidden homosexual sides if they travel together (I find that rather unlikely concept, J. having started his dating life (with girls!) at the mature age of 13, and all), or what he was after.
I think the whole concept of friends is different in China, because the meaning of the family unit is so much more important than in western countries, friends do not play that important role to adults. Connections are everything, but close friendships might not be. This is just the way it looks to me. I might be wrong, and there propably are variances.

Example 2.

Again my Chinese colleague asked me if I am going to visit the homes of the two Finns positioned here in Melbourn in our company. It sounded more like which day you will visit them. By this time, I had barely met the said Finns for the first time, greeted them and exchanged few plesantries, and my colleague knew that full well. "Well, I don't I will. You know, I don't know them. And I think they have their family things and other things going on and they have travel and spend a lot of time away from their families as it is." "Oh, ok. I thought you would visit them. They are Finns." "No, I think we'll just have a dinner with them on Thursday, as the controller mentioned yesterday."

Again, not a big thing at all, but shows a totally different thinking. I would never ever expect to visit the practically almost strangers' homes, just because they are Finns. If I got to know them or immediate friendship is established, I might expect to have a dinner with them the next time, to cath up. But totally strange people? Just because they happen to be the same nationality? While we are 5 days in Melbourne? I don't think so. But I know Chinese do.

Example 3.


- I know the Chinese business controllers and and co-operate a lot with them. We talk often.

But if they have any -ANY- questions, they talk with my Chinese colleague. They ask things he does not know, and I have told that would be better to asked from me. But time and again, they ask my colleague who then asks me. Whereas a western person (normally) naturally prefers to ask from his own network / friends / people who speak the same language, but if you know they don't know the answer anyway, you ask from the person who does. Even if you need to use English. Which you use everyday in your work anyway.

Example 4.

A westerner (not me) recently had her first performance review discussion with her Chinese boss. And it was what she had expected. Unfortunately. Where as it is supposed to be an open discussion about both sides expectations and opinions, development plans and generally an opportunity to open up to your boss if you so wish, with a Chinese manager it had been nothing but a go-through of objectives that had been pre-defined by the boss (I think the meaning is to design the targets together). To questions those targets was not a question. To questions or discuss openly about some other changes in the organisation was cut down saying this is what management wants. And to end the conversation, the boss told that the number of expats will be cut down. Well, I am not an expat in the sense that I am working with a local contract here. "Well, anyway, we'll let you know about the changes." Like, WHAT? Was he indirectly telling that they will not need her anymore? Now, this only demostrates he is not a good manager to his subordinates. But in many cases the expectations of western subordinates and Chinese managers, Chinese subordinates and Western managers don't seem to go together too well.

I am thankful for having a western manager, and I am thankful for having a "western-understanding" and adaptive colleague. The small differences are needed to remind me to aspire open-mindedness... Seems to be a slow process and occasionally I think I am going backwards :o)

2 kommenttia:

Hang kirjoitti...

I only read your example 1. I really think your Chinese colleague is a bit weird. Many Chinese guys or girls travel together and may share a standard hotel room. Is your colleague a gay or lesbian?

Two Chinese men/women travel together and share a standard hotel room is very common in China. It's nothing strange.

Eeva kirjoitti...

My colleague is straight and married. Maybe it was just a misunderstanding, limited vocabularies may cause funny situations :o)