Currently being in a foreign culture makes me realize how useful intercultural communication is. It benefits me in many ways.
First, traveling has always been my dream. However, traveling is not always about having fun. Cultural difference can be exciting but also frustrating. Therefore, knowing about the culture before visiting the country would be a wise idea. Second, I am interested in being an interpreter or translator. Since language and culture are intertwined, learning about intercultural communication helps me with my translation skills. Third, learning intercultural communication actually helps me make adjustment while I am in a foreign country. When I encounter cultural difference, which happens almost every day, I would refer to some of the theories or concepts that we learned in class.
Personally, I think the most important concepts in this class are cultural dimensions. One can never know everything about a culture. But one can at least know something about that culture. And know cultural dimensions give people directions what kind of research they should do before they go to another country.
What I learned from this class will be with me for my whole life wherever I go. It will help me to adapt to another new environment easier and quicker. Even if I can’t, I will still know the reasons for that. I am truly glad that I chose to take intercultural communication class. It will be useful for a lifetime.
Time Is Changing
All cultures change through time. No culture is static. Even though China is high uncertainty avoidance Culture, as time goes by, Chinese culture is changing too. The changes are more obvious in big cities, such as international cities Beijing and Shanghai. And the changes are easily seen in people’s daily life.
More than 300 million Chinese people, or nearly a quarter of the country’s population, have studied English either as a major course or as an elective subject. Experts with the workshop pointed out that it is imperative that China improves the level of English among its population to cater for market demand. Language teaching in China also requires more advanced methods and materials from English-speaking countries. Since language and culture and intertwined. The learning of English leads to a knowledge of western culture.
Over the last two decades, McDonald’s has already established 560 of their restaurants in China and soon will be adding 100 more. KFC has been even more popular. There are 1000 KFC outlets throughout the country with more than 100 in Beijing alone. Taco Bell, A & W, and Pizza Hut are not far behind. People’s wide acceptance of western food shows that people are very open to western culture.
The culture collision has an increasingly broad and deep impact on Chinese culture nowadays. Chinese culture is no more the pure and typically eastern culture. The changes in a culture make it more complicated to understand the culture. Understanding a culture nowadays requires both knowing the history and observing changes.
It is commonly assumed that China, like most eastern countries, has very few conflicts. It is true that Chinese have very few court litigations. Chinese value harmony more than justice. They tend to avoid conflict. Chinese don’t use institutions to resolve conflicts with other Chinese. In fact, big parts of Chinese social behavior have evolved with the implicit or explicit purpose of avoiding Chinese institutions like police, courts, and government structures. Therefore, Chinese seem to have less conflict.
However, most of the conflicts are solved inter personally. When there are issues between counter parties, they always have dinner together and talk. There are seldom sharp words since no one wants to lose face.
China focuses on common ground which is obvious in its foreign policy. China has consistently insisted to solve issues in the principle of “shelving disputes” and seek for mutual interest. It is the same in business. They focus on shared goals, visions and interests. There should not be absolute winners or losers during conflict resolution. Both sides should be prepared to make concessions and compromise.
Since relationship is a major part in Chinese business, developing good relationship beyond work is a good way to resolve conflict. It refers to one’s personal network of family, friends, coworkers, and associates. It is a complex web of social connections. Maintaining relationships with others can ensure respect, emotional support and possibly economic assistance from others in times of need. So when it comes to conflict, people would take relationship into serious consideration so that they avoid being rude and losing face.
Showing respect in China is of vital importance in social interaction. There are two different ways to say “you”. Therefore, when you are speaking to a stranger, elder or high authority, you are supposed to use the formal one. It doesn’t matter that much if just between friends.
In Chinese culture, the oldest person in a family or an organization has the most respect, honor and dignity.So when the elder is talking, you should never interrupt or question him/her. Chinese people not only respect the elder, but also admire them. It is commonly said that Old men, who walk more roads, eat more rice, read more books, have more experiences, enjoy more happiness, and endure more sufferings are experienced and knowledgeable, with rich life experience. So in China, you are expected to offer your seat to the elder on a bus or subway.
When giving a gift to a Chinese friend, do not expect him/her to open it right in front of you. In western culture, it is common to open the present immediately and show surprise and tell the person how much you like it; however, in China, people will say thank you and put the present aside and keep talking to you. Do not feel offended by that. Because Chinese people think it is impolite to open the gift immediately rather than talk to their friends.
Leave your chopsticks vertically in China is definitely a “NO”. It is very inappropriate and disrespectful to put your chopsticks vertically on the rice. It symbolizes death and funeral. It is very unlucky. To show respect, you should really watch your table manners in China.
One may say that by the influence of Confucius’s philosophical thinking, the Chinese have become more reserved or at least the gestures expressing emotions are comparatively less expressive. In China, couples do not show public affection to each other. It is preferred that people do not use too much hand gestures when talking. However, nonverbal communication traditions change over time. The young generation encourage themselves by that “if you love him/her, say it loud enough to let the world know”. But kissing in public is still considered “degrade social conduct”.
For greetings, when you meet your professor, you should lower your head and bend slightly to show respect. The same posture is also used when a young man is greeting an old man. And shaking hands is also a way of greetings. It is not used between people of radically different status, but between socially equal people, friends or businessman. Nodding of the head or slightly bow is also sufficient. Hugging can be used between close friends, but not usually with the opposite sex. Kissing is very rare for greetings in China.
One of the interesting Chinese nonverbal communication customs is the gestures for counting. The gesture for 1, 2, 3, and 5 are similar to the corresponding European gestures but the rest are different. For example, this is 6 .
Most of the counting gestures come from the Chinese characters for the numbers. The other thing that I noticed is “V”. In America, “V” stands for peace and friend, whereas in China or Japan, young people use the palm-outward V sign when posting for informal photographs. And it pronounces like “yay”, which also means something like “yay” too.
Power distance is the degree to which less powerful members of an organization tolerate unequal distribution of power. So in a high power distance culture, people tend to accept the inequalities between employers and employees, or parents and children. In the opposite, people from a low power culture cannot easily tolerate the unfairness. Uncertainty avoidance is the tendency to behave so as to arrange things in a way that minimizes unforeseen consequences. In a high uncertainty avoidance culture, people value traditions and routines, whereas in a low uncertainty avoidance culture, people have a propensity to change. It is easier for them to adapt to new things.
According to Hofstede’s cultural Dimension, China sits in the higher rankings of PDI, at 80. People in China don’t always agree on “all men are equal. They respect or even fear of the elderly and authority. Children are expected to “behave themselves”. However, China has a low score on uncertainty avoidance. It can be well explained just by the rapid and amazing changes China has made in the past 30 years. With 30 years of reform and opening to the world, China has quickly accumulated tremendous riches that makes the national power boost up and the international status further improved.
Doing business in a high power distance culture, like China, requires the preparation to be real professional. People are expected to be called by their title and last name. So be specific about the titles. During a meeting, be a good listener. Don’t interrupt or question in the meeting, especially do not question authorities. When at a business dinner, learn about the dining rules ahead of time. But since China is a low uncertainty avoidance culture, new ideas and technology are always very welcome. So be open-minded to new ideas and keep up!
Mandarin is the official language of China.
“Thanks Mom!” A sentenced uttered daily by children and teenagers in America, but seldom spoken by those of the same age in China. Simply saying please to one’s friends or family members among Chinese is also rare, and if uttered, you might be asked if you’ve gone insane.
“Can I have a glass of water?” is a question asked by many Americans even if they’re at their friends house or visiting a family member, but a Chinese would simply say, “I want a glass of water.” It seems American’s have an unquenchable thirst for recognition and attention. If you ask that question about getting water, someone might say you forgot a word at the end, or reply, “say please,” as if the act of getting water is so significant in one’s life and is so difficult that it requires a please, and a thank you, but it first must actually be a question.
When in China, saying thank you to someone indicates you really appreciate what they did for you, and that your thank you is what you’re giving them in return. On the contrary, in America, if you do not say thank you it is considered rude and in order to show great appreciation one my repeat thank you or add a very much after word. Sometimes an invitation to dinner or an offer to buy a drink is extended.
I believe both of these can be explained by one simple phrase, “Americans talk too much.” In China, we are told to be succinct and to only talk when we have something beneficial to say, or when something needs to be said. On the other hand, Americans tend to talk about anything and everything if someone is interested or at least pretending to be interested.