Sunday, March 28, 2010

8 Differences In Culture

Used with permission and written by: Dr. Jane Liedtke, CEO and Founder:
Our Chinese Daughters Foundation, 
please visit at

Are There Really Cultural Differences between China and the West?
Yes, there are 8 differences in culture, maybe more. 

These 8 create much of the problems that foreigners encounter when living and working in China. Below is an explanation. The word “we” means “we in Westernized countries” such as Canada, US, Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, and New Zealand. “They” means Chinese persons. This is not meant to be an “us” versus “them” discussion. Rather, it is designed to point out key differences in behavior and thinking that impact East-West relationships.
First is trust, we expect people to earn trust by proving themselves to be trustworthy. Chinese automatically expect to trust you and expect you to trust them. Then you lose trust when you do something wrong in their eyes (when you lose face or cause them to lose face).
Second is respect, we expect people to earn respect by proving themselves worthy of our respect. Chinese automatically expect respect and automatically give respect based on seniority systems.  You lose their respect when you do something wrong in their eyes(when you lose face or cause them to lose face). 
In the case of trust and respect we give people the chance to make up for their wrong doings and therefore we give them a chance to regain our trust or respect. Chances in China are lost when you lose face or cause a Chinese person to lose face.
Third is motivation - we are motivated by the satisfaction of doing a good job and achievement. To Chinese achievement is reaching a high position and the motivation is money. The quality or quantity of one’s work is not the measure of their worth, it is only position and money that create status in modern China.
Fourth is friendship - we form friendships from mutual interests and experiences and do not consider everyone we meet or are acquainted with as friends. We would never expect someone we meet to do things for us in the same way we would our closest and dearest friends. Chinese people consider everyone they know or ever meet as friends and therefore expect to rely on them in the same way as we would expect only our closest and dearest friends. 
Fifth is independence/dependence. We raise our children to be independent of us and believe we have been successful if they can go off into the world and be good citizens and community-minded people - taking care of themselves and giving back to the community at large. Chinese raise their children to be dependent on other people, to rely on family and connections to get what they need and consider themselves successful as parents if their children stay close at hand, take care of them, and give them what they as parents need/want. 
Sixth is direct/indirect. We are to the point and direct with people about what we need/want/desire/feedback. Chinese are indirect and will avoid being direct at all costs. Direct conversation, if negative feedback, is perceived to be criticism and a loss of face rather than being what it is, an opportunity to learn or for that matter, just direct information. 
Seventh is risk taking. We encourage our children and ourselves to take risks (calculated ones, but nonetheless risks). We want and encourage our children to try new things and to explore. If we make a mistake we say "it's ok - what did you learn from it?" and life goes on. We expect to make mistakes and learn from them. Chinese avoid taking risks and will not do anything that involves risk-taking behavior. They fear taking risks and fear the loss of face when making a mistake. They instill a great fear of failure and therefore many people never try and never succeed. They will not try new things, not change, not do anything that might require something new. They will watch others to see if they failed and if they did, they will not try to do that particular thing.
Eight is responsibility/accountability. We know that we must be responsible and accountable for our actions. If we do wrong we will be held accountable and we don’t expect others to “get us off” or use “connections” to make up for our failures. Chinese will not take responsibility for their actions if the result if negative. If positive results were achieved, they will take credit. However, when something goes wrong, it will be someone else’s fault, someone else will be held accountable but at all costs it will not be them. They will use whatever connections and family relationships they can to cover up or conceal their involvement and place blame on others rather than take responsibility for their actions.

1 comment:

  1. You are right. But the tiny words really drive me a little crazy in reading. Are you trying to make it indirect? Haha


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