Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Germans vs Chinese: Part 3 of 4

 On to the next set. . .

11. thyself
photo via WeChat

I'm not sure how to interpret this.  In the west, we see ourselves as bigger than we truly are? Chinese people minimalize their individual significance? I suppose Chinese people, especially the older generations, are quite modest. I don't know about Germans, but the stereotypical American is seen as large and loud and loving the limelight. However, I think the way one views her/himself depends a lot on personality and I'm not sure about making sweeping cultural generalizations on this point. What do you think?

12. individualism vs. collectivism
photo via WeChat

This aspect is shifting. Although not long ago Chinese could be seen as collectivists, I feel like the situation is evolving, especially in urban areas. While being a team player is still very important, people aren't as connected to their work unit as they once were. Supporting and helping family may be more common in China than in some western countries, but modern day Chinese are becoming more indpendent. From what my husband describes, the sense of community seems to be diminishing. In my opinon, this is also a problem in modern American society.

13. beating around the bush
photo via WeChat

In America, it's common, especially when doing business, to tackle a problem head-on. For the Chinese, a problem is usually tackled so carefully that it may appear that no one is dealing with it at all. I've struggled with this at times. I'm still working on the art of trying to get to the point with out getting to the point. Sometimes I still have to ask Ming to try an translate people's action for me. “My student's mom has said they are on vacation the past couple weeks. Do you think her daughter is still going to study with me?” I once asked. “No, honey. They just feel bad telling you she won't.”

14. the line up
photo via WeChat

The only cultural difference that has the power to turn me from a kind, mild-mannered Midwestern girl to a seething ball of rage—the queue jumper. Lack of lines are also a drag, but I've worked a lot on my technique and have gotten pretty good at dealing with them. Push to the front, use your elbows when needed, stick out your hand, and yell out what you want. I hate it, but I can do it. I have seen some progress in the line former department over the years. The Beijing subway system has somehow managed to crack down on crowded and pushing with a fair level of success. People generally stand in line at places like McDonald's and the supermarket, yet somehow lines often fail to form for the bathroom. Hopefully the situation will continue to improve, as I see lines as the cornerstone of a civilized society. 

15. Guanxi
photo via WeChat

It's not what you know, it's who you know. In China, networking is important. Sure, that's true pretty much anywhere, but here it's taken to a whole new level. Ming has a few hundered phone numbers in his address book, because you never know who you might need to call for a favor. I, on the other hand, have about 30 numbers and tend to delete anyone I haven't talked to in over a year. The concept of guanxi is essential to making it in China, as with all the bureaucracy and competition, it's near impossible to accomplish anything without knowing the right people. And knowing them often isn't enough. . . expect to provide a handsome gift or dinner. 

What do you think, has there been a recent shift in cultural norms in your country?  


martalivesinchina said...

I can't stand the Chinese way of "dealing" with problems, which often is "let's pretend this problem is not here and hope it will disappear by itself". This also happened a lot in my previous job, maybe there was a problem in the production and everybody knew it but no one would go and tell the Spanish engineer who was in charge until it was too late (i.e. when the shipping container was about to be loaded). The poor Spanish guy was always yelling at everybody (because if anything went wrong he was the one who had to give explanations to the CEO).

Queuing, ah... just a few days ago I was waiting for my turn to buy a train ticket in the station and a migrant worker kind of guy got in the space between me and the person before. I said very loudly: PAI DUI!!! and he thought it was very funny, then went behind me.
I always get mad in public restrooms because instead of doing one line every person gets in front of one door, or they cut the line pretending you are invisible, etc. The 大妈s are the worst!

rosieinbj said...

I also make comments to people who won't stand in line. It is interesting to see their reactions and it makes me feel a little bit better knowing I am trying to put some order back into the world!!