My last part of a letter I wrote to Tanya, dated May 8, 1994. She was a teaching colleague and friend at the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota where we taught ITAs (International Teaching Assistants) together.
20) How are you surviving in terms of food, heat, housing and friends?
The food has little fiber or what there is might be peeled off because of uncertainty in the pesticides used. I am back to eating the apple skins if they are good apples. Many people eat sunflower seeds everywhere. There is LOTS of meat here so for all vegetarians who plan to come to this part of the world, think again. Many of the Peace Corps volunteers that I trained last summer had to succumb to the lifestyle here or they were forever in a heat about all the meat that was served. It is simply part of this culture, the nomadic tribesmen herding their sheep around.
In fact, yesterday I was at the market wanting to buy some sheep for the manti [steamed meat dumpling] party I was to have with my Kyrgyz students that evening but there was only beef. On my way home I was walking on the sidewalk of the main drag when I saw a sheep running at full tilt down the main street in the oncoming traffic lane. He was being chased by three-four men. I thought to myself, “that was the sheep I need for my party.” The sheep kept getting away from the men and probably was hit by a car. It is unusual to see a live sheep in the middle of an urban setting, they are EVERYWHERE out in the country. Food is plentiful and the vegetables are seasonal. The winter months there were no cucumbers or tomatoes but now that is ALL that you will see for salads at restaurants for the next six months.
As far as heat, I had a cold apartment but that is because the windows are not insulated well. This is because of poor workmanship. However, the winter months here are mild compared to Minnesota winters. I didn’t suffer too badly from my cold apartment since I had an electric heater and blanket. I love the place where I live, seven stories up with a view of the mountains from the east AND west sides. I pay $130 a month for a four room “flat.”
You asked about friends…I have my teacher friends and I have friends that I made through Peace Corps, the sauna, and also the church that I attend. There are plenty of people here I can go to plus I have e-mail so that I can keep up with old friends back in the States!
21) Have you had to deal with any shortages?
No, not like when I lived in China (1986-88) where they didn’t have sugar for a time or butter at other times. But yes, because they don’t have peanut butter or brown sugar or Stateside items like that, I just bring it with me when I have a chance to go home. We do not have massive shortages that I am aware of like I experienced in China or that they have in Mongolia, for instance. Also, I have money that can buy me more things whereas the local people on their subsistence living could probably tell you about shortages.
22) Have you had many opportunities to get to know any of the faculty there?
Yes, my dean, of course we are becoming friends in a professional sense. Others that I teach pronunciation to, I have had them over for a manti party. I don’t feel particularly close to any of my Kyrgyz teaching colleagues since they often have more than one job to supplement their income. They are busy with family too.
23) Have you been able to make many friends with the locals? As I mentioned before, I have my sauna friends and my landlady is my friend, as is my Russian teacher. I have not invested a lot of time in getting to know their culture by going to their homes and participating in their traditions. It would be a Russified form and not a true picture of the real Kyrgyz.
24) How would you typify the culture? It is a sort of hybrid of Russian and Kyrgyz, more heavily influenced by the Russian communist way of thinking. Perhaps there is some Asian way of thinking but compared to the Chinese I know and living in China, the Kyrgyz are more westernized. By the way, they have a strong dislike for anything Chinese! Carryover of Russia’s prejudice against their formidable border foe.
25) Would you say that it is heavily influenced by Russian culture, Turkish culture, Mongolian or what?
As mentioned already, the Russians have heavily influenced the capital city and the Turkish language has had a heavy influence in the Kyrgyz language. Perhaps if you went out to the countryside, the Mongolian presence would be strong, but I don’t know.
26) Do you feel it is easy to get to know people or do you find the people to be somewhat reserved?
They are fairly easy to get to know and rather “too” straightforward about their opinion sometimes. (Russian influence) They are not reserved like the Chinese I know. In fact, most of the Kyrgyz students I have are quite extroverted and outgoing. Their speaking skills are very good for never having had a native speaker talk to them before this year.
27) How are you looked upon being a single woman?
It is much easier to be single here in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan than it was in China. There they thought something was wrong with you if you weren’t married by age 25. Here, for foreigners, they made allowances up to 30. But here in Bishkek they seem to have a more westernized view of life and again this is my views from the people in the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Perhaps in the countryside they would think that I should be married with seven kids by now.
Tanya, that is all for now. Hopefully I have shed some light on the little bit that I know about this Kyrgyz culture. I remember a year ago I had these same questions. So answering them now to the best of my abilities made me think that I have actually learned something about this culture and am happy to share it with you.
By the way, Tanya, your name is very popular here. One of my best friend’s name is Tatyana, she is living in Almaty, Kazakhstan and her friends call her Tanya for short. I hope this has helped you and that you apply for a Fulbright here because they would love to have your expertise…
Posts tagged China
My last part of a letter I wrote to Tanya, dated May 8, 1994. She was a teaching colleague and friend at the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota where we taught ITAs (International Teaching Assistants) together.
In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. >From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated
In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
Germany established gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, a total of 13 million Jews and others who were unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated.China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated.Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million educated people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.Defenseless people rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control: 56 million.
You won’t see this data on the US evening news, or hear politicians disseminating this information.
Guns in the hands of honest citizens save lives and property and, yes, gun-control laws adversely affect only the law-abiding citizens.
Take note my fellow Americans, before it’s too late!
The next time someone talks in favor of gun control, please remind them of this history lesson.
With guns, we are ‘citizens’. Without them, we are ‘subjects’.
During WWII the Japanese decided not to invade America because they knew most Americans were ARMED!
If you value your freedom, please spread this antigun-control message to all of your friends.
SWITZERLAND ISSUES EVERY HOUSEHOLD A GUN!
SWITZERLAND’S GOVERNMENT TRAINS EVERY ADULT THEY ISSUE A RIFLE.
SWITZERLAND HAS THE LOWEST GUN RELATED CRIME RATE OF ANY CIVILIZED COUNTRY IN THE WORLD!!!
IT’S A NO BRAINER!
DON’T LET OUR GOVERNMENT WASTE MILLIONS OF OUR TAX DOLLARS IN AN EFFORT TO MAKE ALL LAW ABIDING CITIZENS AN EASY TARGET.
Spread the word everywhere you can that you are a firm believer in the 2nd Amendment!It’s time to speak loud before they try to silence and disarm us.
You’re not imagining it, history shows that governments always manipulate tragedies to attempt to disarm the people~
A young Chinese girl who is currently studying at a Minnesota university this fall wrote the following essay. She has many talents and she was especially good at doing origami (Japanese paper folding). I was amazed at the giftings of many of my former Chinese students from this past summer. This particular student wrote this insightful piece about what she had already observed about collectivism and individualism after just several weeks of living in the U.S.
“We all know that there are many countries in the world. China is a country of large population. And it also has a long history. But the history of Chinese individualism is not very long. Ordinary, most Chinese are tend toward collectivism. To some extent, this is decided by the traditional culture of China.
As a Chinese, when I was born, I started to live in a collective life. This is very common in China. If someone goes to China, he or she will see that there are many boarding schools in China. And parents seem to be willing to send their children to boarding schools. They think that boarding schools will help their children to learn to look after themselves well. Also, Chinese parents like to send their children to top schools although there are many students in schools. “I will send my son to the foreign language high school,” a father may boast to his friends and family. To some extent, this action is a kind of collectivism.
In Chinese schools, the questions that students do for the homework always have standard answers. Open-ended questions seldom appear on the homework. Even when students have different answers to the open-ended questions, the teacher will tell these students to write in the standard way instead of his or her own answers. We (students) cannot say that what teachers do for us is wrong, because this educational system in China has been lasting for a long time. If we write our own answers to the questions, maybe the reviewers will think we have not achieved or reached to the requirements. So teachers often hope students have the same thought, or the answers to the questions. I know it is hard to express the thing like this, but it is happening in Chinese schools actually.
I know that in America, teachers are glad if students have different thoughts. “They are trained from very early in their lives to consider themselves as separate individuals who are responsible for their own situations in life and their own destinies”(American Ways p5). So this may be the difference between Chinese culture and American culture.
Furthermore, in China, people like to eat together by getting food in one plate by chopsticks and eating it. “In a Chinese meal, most dishes are shared in the center of the table.……If there is a large group a rotating glass disk (or a Lazy Susan) is placed in the center of the table. It is turned constantly so that all the dishes are easily accessible to people sitting around the table.” (CultureShock! China P131) But in America, people prefer to eat in one’s own plates, even while eating with family members. I do not know how Americans think of this. But in China, people believe that eating together is a good way to promote harmonious feelings. So sometimes people may take food by chopsticks for each other.
Every culture has its own effects to people. So I think the effect of traditional Chinese culture is collectivism. It can be also said that collectivism has a great influence on the Chinese for many years. Otherwise, Americans maybe pay more attention to individualism. Every coin has two sides, so I cannot say which culture is better than the other.
My husband and I just watched “Hope Springs” at the movie theater last night, it was rated as PG-13. I thought it should have been rated a bit more critically. I certainly wouldn’t want my former Chinese students to see it. They probably wouldn’t have understood the subtle humor in it. However, it had great actors with Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep but the content was rather graphic. The “power distance” created in this 31 year marriage was something to witness.
This next essay written by a young Chinese man shows his passion for all things Japanese. He amazed me with his acumen, his attention to detail and he is only 15 years old!!! I think he is fascinated with Japan because that is a topic left out of the Chinese history books. So close to the war crimes of WWII and even earlier, China does not want to know much about Japan. Yet, this student points out over and over again how much Japan has borrowed and used things from China. Strange “power distance” going on between these two countries.
“In some TV programs, movies and dramas, Chinese females are always regarded as weak and obedient people who hardly have power to even disobey males or decide own fate. Chinese women have little power when they are communicating with males. This opinion is easy to be accepted since it’s believed that ‘Males have more power than females’ according to “Experiencing Intercultural Communication: A Introduction,” Fourth Edition by Martin, Nakayama in 2011(P.53). However, this is actually wrong thinking not only regarding recent China but also to ancient China. In fact, it’s very common for Chinese females to get many kinds of power as males. Females’ rights are always protected by laws or moral habit. For these reasons, when females communicate with males, there is little power distance between them in China. Because culture in East Asia is similar to each other such as China and Korea and Japan, I will also put forward some examples in Korea or Japan to prove my thesis.
It’s common for females to get as much power as males. In recent China, according to “Culture Shock! : A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette China” by Angie Eagan & Rebecca Weiner in 2011(P.69), ‘There is a lovely Chinese expression that says that women hold up half the sky’. This metaphor is quite good for it describes the truth correctly. Among people who I know, females usually are not only important money contributers to families but also money managers in families because many husbands must hand over their money to their wives. It’s not a social habit just appearing in recent years. In ancient China, wives had a nickname as ‘General Manager’(In Chinese it’s written as ‘掌柜’) which means wives are the economic manager of the whole family and the deep reason is that in ancient China silk or cotton textile made by females was always an important part of family income.
For these reasons, in traditional Chinese stories, we can often see a wife saying, ‘Think of how you will live without me!’ to her husband and even now we can also see such a communication situation. In such cases, most husbands will choose to be silent. The little economic power distance between males and females also leads to little power distance between males and females in communication situations.
Females’ rights are always protected by laws or habits. In recent years, it’s undoubted that there will be well-done law in East Asia countries which protects females’ rights. However, it’s hard to imagine that females’ rights are also protected well in ancient East Asia. As a matter of fact, in Ming Dynasty(1368-1644), according to the law, if a husband married two wives, he would be “exiled to places where is over 500 kilometers to his hometown” (In Chinese it’written as “流一千里”).
Females’ rights is also be of importance in Japan. According to Wuxuezuyuan (In Japanese it’s written as “無学祖元”)’s Buddhism education to females and views about females’ rebirths by Saku Wanatabe in 2011, “On the contrary of denying females’ rebirth in old times, Wuxuezuyuan admitted posibilities of females’ rebirth.” It means in Japanese monks’ points of view, females are equal to males. And according to one Japanese laws in Kamakura, (In Japanese it’s written as “鎌倉”) period (1189-1333) which named Joei Shikimoku (In Japanese it’s written as “貞永式目”), “When a wife divorces with her husband, if she make crimes, she shall not get her husband’s property. However, if she has no mistakes, her husband shall not regret to give her some of his property.” This law admits that husband’s property is not equal with wife’s property. In addition, another law in this code was that “The right of inheritance of females is equal with males. Moreover, if one daughter doesn’t make serious crimes, parent cannot disinherit her. This law admits that rights of inheritance of daughters is equal with sons. These are both laws protecting females’ rights in property.
Females’ rights are also protected by moral habits. For example, widows and young girls are always regarded as people who need protection most especially widows, and people violating their rights usually will be punished promptly. It’s the same in Japan. For example, in an ancient Japanese historical book named Heika>(In Japanese it’s written as “平家物語”),there is a female samurai named Tomoe（In Japanese it’s written as “巴”）. According to The Tales of Heika, “Tomoe was especially beautiful, with white skin, long hair, and charming features. She was also a remarkably strong archer, and as a swordswoman she was a warrior worth a thousand men.”(In Japanese it’s written as “巴は色白く髪長く､容顔まことに優れたり。強弓精兵、一人当千の兵者なり”). It’s not something imaginary. As a matter of fact, in ancient Japan, females usually received martial arts training because they were supposed to protect family with their husbands or brothers.
When females communicate with males, there is little power distance between them in China. For example, my father has told me some stories about his grandmother. When she talked with her husband, brothers, children or grandchildren, she was very serious and no on dared disobey her. It’s because she was the actual manager of a large family and she had her own property so she could influence the economics in the large family . In recent China, however, there are few large families now. However, females are still important managers in Chinese families. When my mother communicates with my father, she is at an equal situation to my father. And when my mother talks with other less powerful male family numbers such as her brother, he can only do nodding and saying yes. It’s the same situation among my classmates in China, a girl usually can control her boyfriend in communication well rather than always obey her boyfriend.
In conclusion, it’s very common for Chinese females to get many kinds of power as males and females’ rights are always protected by laws or moral habits. More importantly, it’s sure that there is little power distance between males and females in China. China is a lawful country not only in past but also in recent times. However, it doesn’t mean that China is a highly-hierachical society. Females communicate with males without any power distance is very common in China and East Asia.”
One of my better Chinese students in the communications course she took this summer wrote about the above saying. I need to find out more about the “Clothes, Eating, House, Traveling,” maybe those are safe topics to talk on. The 38 Chinese students I taught are already into their second week of classes at the liberal arts university they are enrolled in. Some are giving mixed reviews about what they are learning. One girl student asked on Facebook what she should give a speech on concerning fingernails which would be of interest to her audience. What a topic! I mentioned she could talk about torture. Turns out this 19 year old Chinese didn’t know what I meant by that. Just as well. Some other American friend mentioned that she should talk about the art of fingernail painting, that might get the girls enthused. Despite the squeamish topic of torture, I think the guys might prefer hearing about that. The following is more about the differences in communication between cultures:
There are huge differences between the American and Chinese cultures, which directly affects the way people say things and what they talk about. In China, people are taught to be inconspicuous, to not draw too much attention on themselves. So, they will always “give faces” to other people who cannot handle their own situation perfectly; they won’t give a very extreme or straight answer to anyone for fear that they may stand out among the crowd. While Americans are taught to behave in a more direct way, they pretend to be more outstanding than others. They do things to make them better than common people, performing more actively in the group, thinking alone to be a success. The following are examples which shows the situation according to culture.
One example is that if Chinese want to refuse someone who wants to date them, they may not really say “no”, but they will talk with them for a long time, use different kinds of excuses; saying they are quite busy, feel sorry about not dating with them. All in all, they will always “give face” to anyone else (except they are angry about the people who they are talking with). Meanwhile, for Americans, they may feel reluctant to refuse someone directly for fear of making the person feel unwelcome or discriminated again. They will often try to convey their willingness indirectly by saying “it’s not convenient now” or by repeatedly postponing an agreed-upon time for doing something together. (“American Ways” p.26)
Another example is that Chinese people will not say what they really think about, they will never show their heart to a stranger. So, even if Chinese people are desperate for something, they will use words or other ways that make the owner give the thing to them instead of asking for it directly. However, Americans will ask directly if they want it very much, they will not hold back their opinions. Because Americans prefer to get straight to the point rather than do things in a round about way.
When Chinese people meet each other, they may say “Have you eaten?” They do not actually want to take you to a restaurant if you say “no”, it’s just a beginning to start a conversation. For two Chinese people who know each other they will start the conversation with “Where is good food?” or “When should we eat together?” The reason why Chinese people will start with such topic is that Chinese people consider “eating” is very important thing in their daily life. Here is the saying that conclude the foundational things that Chinese people agree on,” Clothes”, “Eating”,” House”, ” Travelling”.
However, when Americans first meet someone, they will engage in a kind of conversation they call small talk. The most common topic of small talk is the weather. Because it’s the least personal topics they will talk about. (“Americans Ways” p.28). So Americans don’t want to talk too much about their person life. Therefore, it’s important to know the culture of people who you are talking with especially if you want to make friends with that person. Americans do not care about how others look at them, so they are trying to show their own character to others. In conclusion, the way Chinese people talk is really different from Americans.
The following excerpt is the last I’ll write about guanxi. I’m not sure if Kazakhstan has something similar to this concept. Another word I recall when I lived in China was “homer” which essentially means getting things done through the back door. That might be familiar with Kazakhs who need to accomplish some arduous paperwork like getting a title for their car or trying to leave the country or get things out of customs. A new vocabulary word I learned from my Chinese student was “kaoshan.” Here’s what a male student wrote about something like “your ship has come in:”
“People from other cultures will act differently when they meet up in various situations. This is because they have received different education or cultural training. They are in different thinking mode when they are in different situations, they will act adversely.
The ‘first come, first served’ is related to the ‘line up’ rule. The general notion is that the person who arrives first gets attention first. Alternative notions such as giving priority to the elderly or the wealthy do not normally occur to equality-minded Americans. Unlike Chinese, they will, however, give priority to people with an obvious physical disability—people in wheelchairs, for example, or on crutches.’ “People who do not go to the end of the line to wait their turn but instead go to the head of the line and try to push their way in front of others will usually evoke a hostile reaction”(p204 American ways)
American people have always been taught they must to obey the “line up “and they do not to cut in line. Americans are sick of people who cut in line. But people in China always ignore this rule in public and they don’t mind people who cut in line. Even though people from America and China both have been taught to not cut in line,but from different culture they reflect their reactions in different ways.
On a much grander scale of getting ahead is the following quote from “China, Culture Shock.” “The second way to get ahead is to know someone who can help provide a better opportunity for yourself was to know someone in a position of power willing to help you. This is called guanxi and is a very important concept.” (p63)
It is a very Chinese way to be successful. People in China would like to find “the person” to help them to provide a better chance. “Kaoshan” it is very Chinese word. This is a common word in China, it means “thee person” or also means “a ship of benefit.” Though, in China, a student always has been taught they need to fight on their own and try their best to make their life go better, still the adults tell their kids the theory of “guanxi”. However, American children have been taught the same idea about success as the children in China but differently. Their parents and families also teach their American children that if they want to be a success, they must work hard on their own in order to improve for future success. That is different from the Chinese culture.
“International visitors are often surprised to see how many American teenagers have jobs. The teenagers earn their own money for entertainment, clothes or a car by working in a fast food restaurant, clerking in a shop…from [American] parents’ viewpoint, having a job allows their children to gain valuable training in acting independently.”
This would never appear in China because the Chinese think parents should pay for the fees of their child, it is a natural phenomenon. It is difficult to explain, it has a long reason of history. The ancient Chinese would do this. The modern Chinese just follows the last generation’s way according to their different culture and religion. However, Americans do it their way.”
Guanxi is an important word in China. It includes a lot of information for history, culture and relationships among people. The Chinese think guanxi is so powerful that it can help them to get a lot of unfinished things accomplished. First of all, a definition of “guanxi” according to Eagan and Weiner (2007) is the following: “…a way to get ahead is to know someone who can help provide a better opportunity…to know someone in a position of power willing to help you.” (p. 63) Perhaps Americans hold to a similar concept of “networking” where we try to meet as many people as possible to maybe help land a job. Maybe for the more outgoing and gregarious, Americans like to have many acquaintances and “friends.”
Over twenty-five years ago, as an unsuspecting American, I had never experienced the power of the word “guanxi.” After living in China in the late 1980s, it was interesting for me to learn more about it. I believe most westerners may have an idea about what it is like, perhaps akin to “I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine.” However, as I learned from my living and teaching in China for two years that it was much more powerful a concept than a random scratch to an occasional itch. I will provide several examples of when guanxi was used in my experience and how maybe we as Americans might have something similar in principle or practice while being totally unaware of it.
At the time, I did not know why Carolyn (her English name) who was one of my Chinese students, knitted a beautiful green, cabled wool sweater for me. I bought the sufficient amount of skeins of yarn at the store and she did the rest. Harbin, in the northeastern part of China is known to be very cold and she knew I needed to wear something warm for the oncoming winter. I do not know that I did anything for her except have her over to practice English. Later I found out that perhaps I was supposed to help her gain entrance to a university in the U.S. I wonder about Carolyn these many years later. Every time I had put on that sweater I thought good thoughts about her.
Another instance of how guanxi was used in my case was when Stephen (English name) wanted to practice doing an oil painting portrait of me. I still have the painting today but I don’t recall doing anything for Stephen except sitting and posing for him for several hours. He told me through his friend that he wanted to practice painting western noses (Dai Baize = BIG nose) Stephen, as an artist, had been sent out to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution and so he had not learned how to speak English. He had been penalized for his talent. Fortunately we were able to communicate through his Chinese friend who was one of my engineering students. So maybe Stephen wanted to be close to the power structure of my university at Ha Gong Da. I also still wonder why Stephen went to Dalian with me and my sister and another student to help transport my 3 meter by 4 meter carpet for me that was put in a crate that was about the size of a coffin. I was never able to repay Stephen for his service mentality of helping me. I never got him a job or found him other people he could paint for profit.
My young Chinese friends, Carolyn and Stephen’s expectations were that I help improve their lives in some way. According to what Eagan and Weiner (2011), they claim with the beginning of communism, people of authority may not have been paid much in high salaries, but they had prestige and authority given them. With these privileges of helping others, the senior ranking government officials could amass more power by gaining respect and trust of others under them.
I believe that Americans may be confused by this concept of “guanxi” because we have a different value orientation in place where westerners may do acts of kindness for others without any expectation of it being reciprocated. The following anecdote is what one of my Chinese students wrote about his experiences in China concerning this:
“I have seen many examples of how Chinese depend totally on “GUAN XI”. I have a friend who hadn’t high enough scores to study in high school. And his father found an officer who is a manager in education. Now my friend studies in a famous high school. Also I met a businessman who was ready to apply for a project but he had many opponents. He had a friend who is in the management for this project. Obviously, he got this project at the end.”
I’ve known about this enigmatic concept of “guanxi” since I taught English in Harbin, China back in 1986-88. I haven’t thought much about this term while teaching English in Ukraine and Kazakhstan and elsewhere since my China experience. However, this word came up again this summer in the textbooks our Chinese students were using as they oriented to American university life in a communications class. The following is a laudable paper written by an 18 year old female Chinese student explaining what guanxi really is.
Chinese communication of the social dinner
“Communication is an important part of the human life, especially in modern society. Through it, people have a chance to express themselves and get the information they want. It is a normal social activity and communication can happen everywhere. But it still has some important differences in China and the most remarkable condition happens at the dining table.
In Chinese adult society, people can solve many problems at the dinner table. Sometimes in China, the relationship can be even more important than the rule. The demand of solving problems are too difficult to settle by one’s own power, people need to show their deepest respect to someone who is in the authority of position or someone they trust can help them. Therefore, they may have the chance to get help from these powerful people.
So the dinner is not as easy as we take into consideration what is “normal” when there are essential people for you. The words you use should be more impersonal so that you do not say anything that will make others feel displeased, such as, you must address others respectfully. And the pleasant intonation and the smooth speed of talking are also not to be neglected. You need to find the topic you can join in and let your decent speech and demeanor be noticed by others, especially that one rule is the most important. In the meantime, you should also take care of others’ feelings so that you make a whole good impression. A perfect impression is a huge wealth for interpersonal activities, because it will let people trust you and let that important man believe you are a person who is worthy to receive his help.
Non-verbal communication is a very important part in China, because Chinese are always veiled so that they need some unspoken Chinese to express their mind. Showing the good Chinese table manners is an effective way to evince your respect. Another rule is the seat which is the farthest from the door is considered the most honorable place. You should let the most important person sit there. When food comes, you should let that person get the food first and you always need to drink much wine to show your sincerity. During the dinner time, you need to let that person feel good about you from beginning to end. It demands you to be very careful and polite to treat others, because “non-verbal cues in China are often more subtle than in the West.” (Eagan & Weiner, 2007, p. 218)
The appearance of these situations in China is known as GUANXI. Guanxi is “the way to get ahead is to know someone who can help provide a better opportunity. Through the advent of Communism, the best way to create an opportunity for yourself was to know someone in a position of power willing to help you (Eagan & Weiner, 2007, p.63)”. This is a very important keyword for Chinese because they need to build the guanxi when they are in contact with others. It’s different from American values about individualism, which is “a key European, American (and Canadian and Australian) value, places importance on the individual rather than the family or work team or other group (Nakayama Martin, 2011, p.15-16)”. Because primarily guanxi reflects that Chinese always think more about gregariousness and cooperation.
In conclusion, a dinner party has special meaning in China because it is a channel for people to find effective help in a relaxing environment. This kind of social intercourse is based on Chinese cultural background, because of Chinese cautious character but also the favorable opinion of guanxi. Through your cultivated style of conversation and behavior, you can leave a nice impression on the person who can potentially help you. Build the relationship with him and let it become the social resource for you, so that you can get the help from him. And it also means you obtain the success on the table today.”
My former 38 Chinese students continue to amaze me. One was recently having trouble with Amazon.com, she claimed she HATED it. What she thought she ordered was a brand new book but it had a broken spine and obviously used. She ranted to me by instant messaging, “I’m not blind, I can tell this is not a new book.” I advised her to write to the seller at Amazon and register her complaint. She should get her money back but I told her she has to be assertive and proactive. This happened within two months of their arrival to the U.S., she will learn she has to take action.
Here is another student’s thoughts on the differences between education in China and the U.S. Read yesterday’s blog that is similar:
“Becoming an International students in US university,I am really concerned about how to have good performance in my academic career. It seems like there are many things I should pay attention to, and one of the most important point is the Professor-Student relationships in an American university.
As my small research through my high school classmates who study abroad, many of them are confused about how to have good relationships with their professors. Gary Althen(2011) answered the question that why this relationship complicated with the following analysis, “Differing ideas about formality and respect frequently complicate relationships between American professors and students from abroad, especially Asian students (and most especially female Asian students).” International students’ confusion can focus on one behavior, that is, showing respect.
My Chinese friend, April, a student in College of William and Mary, made a “joke” these days. She contacted with her professor through E-mail and one day her professor told her that she can be more relaxed in communication with him. She felt perplexed. After showing me the E-mails, I found that she wrote “Thank you very much, professor” eleven times in just one E-mail! April said she really want to show her respect and thankfulness to the professor, but maybe professor thought it could be a little strange.
Actually, according to my 2-week-experience in my Communication, Media, and Rhetoric class, it could be quite different of relationship of professors and students between China and America. I think this may result from learning styles and teaching styles which was explained by Martin(2011) that,” The culture clash over learning styles (the different ways that students learn in different cultures) and teaching styles (the styles that instructors use to teach) is common as students increasingly travel to study in other cultures.” In China, learning and teaching style is more inflexible that students often need to sit quietly and receive knowledge which instructors give without asking or challenging the material and professor may become uncomfortable because of students’ interruption so the relationship between professor and students is likely to be unequal in class. That means, a professor gets power and a student should have high regard for professor. But in America, as I know, there is a style that students and professor can be put at the same position to have a discussion in every class about the topic. It is welcome for students to have objections and other opinions and this style leads to a more friendly relationship in which professors can be regarded as an old and intelligent friend.
Many Chinese students are afraid of being impolite and disrespectful maybe because of the relationship they have experienced in China. But, their behavior is not a good way to improve the relationship between them and their American professor. They feel odd to call professor’s first name instead of Doctor and his or her last name (Some professors may not want their students to do that, it depends on the American.) or to raise your hand to show your different view in class, and even to shout out the answer the professor needs. Effectively, these are behaviors many professors are glad to see their students show.
Finally, I would like to point out that I did surveys of my friends who are older than me and have been studying for several years in American universities. I appreciated seeing that most of them can adapt to their new environment, be confident and active in classes, and keep a good relationship of their professors.”
“Every country has has its own style of education. In China students study many kinds of subjects from primary school,they study for passing the tests and graduate from school and finding a job. In China, the most important exam is the university entrance exam. It will decide which university you can enter and it will effect your job in the future. “Anybody can get into college in the USA” which was said by Malaysians. It is true and if you want to graduate from the university of USA you should get enough credits, so you must study if you want to graduate. In China,it is hard to enter the college,but it is easier to graduate than the universities of USA.
Students’ reaction in the class are also different between China and America.I have studied in the university for 1 week now and I have found American students are more active than Chinese students. Maybe Chinese students come to a strange situation may be one reason why they are silent in the class. But as being a Chinese student for 14 years, i think it is not the focal point. Because in China when teachers ask a question there will be few students who will answer the question actively. Most students will be silent, just sit there and look at the teacher. Not like the American students will stand up quickly and call out excitedly, “Pick me, pick me.” This kind of situation only appears in Chinese primary school. I think it is because Chinese education focus more on the exam than the students’ ability at ordinary time.
In the USA professors may put more emphasis on the students’ ordinary ability and I feel that American students get on with professors well,they just like friends.They can call professors’ name like we can call Dr._________ only common name of “Tony!” In China there is a estrangement between professors or teachers and students.We are asked to call teacher DR.*** or sir/madam.Maybe this is a reason why Chinese students keep silence in the class,not because of “Silence is golden.”
In China students are always studying in the classroom,there is few social practice and the subjects in senior high school there will be only 4 at last, so it is boring when you always learn these 4 subjects all the day. Students become inanimate, they only know how to pass the exam.It is the disadvantage of Chinese education.
Many rich men like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs….they succeeded in their enterprise but they had not finished their academic studies in college. And it has many examples in USA, but there are few in China. In China people regard degree as more important than one’s real ability, so it is hard to appear a talent who can carve out without graduating from high degree. It will bury many talents and it is a kind of outflow of talents. In USA,there is more free space to learn, that is one reason why many people in China want to study in USA.
It is just my opinion about the difference of education between China and America.And there are many other ways to know the difference between the Chinese and American culture, not only from the education,but also the other culture like food or language.”