I recently saw a short article with advice for foreigners on doing business in China. It's on Bloomberg Businessweek, and was written by Juan Antonio Fernández, a professor at CEIBS, a highly ranked b-school in Shanghai.
Below I'll give the link to the article, and some notes on the words & ideas in the article.
Most of these tips are short and simple, so the sentences start with imperative forms, e.g "Get...", "Know...", "Use...", "choose". Meaning: "You should get...", "You should know...", "You should use...", "you should choose...".
Other vocabulary & ideas:
Soon after I posted Explaining Food, Part I, I read that the Beijing authorities have made a list of sensible names for many Chinese dishes.
I found out through an article on ChinaSmack, a blog translating Chinese internet news into English:
Which is based on this article from Beijing Ribao:
Communication difficulties between English-speakers & Chinese-speakers is about more than just language...
Recently I was reading an interview with an American linguist who has written a book about her time living in Beijing and studying Mandarin Chinese.
culture affects what words we use and what things we choose to talk about.
From the point of view of a Westerner: "How can you suddenly leave off the 'please's when you have lived a life where 'please' and 'thank you' are drummed into you from the get-go? Or how can you not be taken aback when asked about your earnings, your rent, your age, or asked which of your children you like best?"
Westerners meeting someone for the first time (or even the second or third time) would never ask such questions. And as children, English-speakers are taught to always make requests with 'softeners' like "please" or "could you...?" And to say "thank you" when receiving something. A native English-speaker might feel a person is being rude to them if these 'softeners' are not used.
And from the point of view of a Chinese person: "One Chinese woman told me an involved story about her childhood experience with a western missionary couple. The couple took her and some school friends on a picnic, [during which] the husband asked his wife to “please” pass the water. The schoolgirls were shocked – horrified – that this husband would ask his wife for something in such a formal way."
So remember: when communicating with people from another country, consider their language AND their culture to avoid unwanted offence or confusion.
2013-10-31: Updated to replace broken links to Bing online dictionary.
Deference or Confidence... or both?
When researching for a class about the career ladder, I found an interesting blog post by Susan Adams on Forbes (a major US business magazine) about Asian-Americans in business titled: New York magazine titled:
These articles reminded me of another article I saw recently:
Children raised according to the principles of East Asian cultures (like China, Korea, Japan etc) will do very well in school grades and exams but they are at a disadvantage in the business world and later life in America (it might not be a problem if living in Asia), compared to those children raised according to the principles of American culture.
He says that East Asian cultures value things like extensive academic learning and deference, while American culture values things like confidence, independence and socialization (Socialization is the process by which people, especially children, learn to how behave with others and become social and able to interact and socialize well with others).
Why does that affect becoming a business leader in the US? Because in business you have to be able to network and sell yourself. Sometimes Asian-Americans are not as comfortable with that as non-Asian-Americans; sometimes non-Asian-Americans simply assume that Asian-Americans are not confident or independent or comfortable socializing. And so Asian-Americans, for whatever reason, miss out on opportunities to rise up the corporate ladder in America.
Yang "cites one study showing that while Asian-Americans comprise about 5% of the U.S. population, they make up only 0.3% of corporate officers, fewer than 1% of board members and 2% of college presidents. There are just nine CEOs of Asian descent among the top 500 publicly traded companies."
What do you think?
Or all these ideas simply wrong?
Your comments appreciated.
I know that at least one of my students is in the alcoholic drinks import business, distributing foreign wines & liquors in China.
British newspaper the Daily Telegraph has an article describing UK-based drinks conglomerate Diageo's efforts to crack the Chinese market.
The article author refers to the homegrown drink as "a fiery grain spirit called baijiu (which literally translates 'white spirit’ and to a foreigner can taste pretty much the same)".
The last part is a joke: in English, white spirit is a form of strong alcohol used in painting, not for drinking. The author means that for some foreigners, baijiu can be too strong.
Just created my page on Weebly, as I only just found that my students in China couldn't see my existing pages on PBworks and Blogspot; the Communist government blocks those domains.
I googled up a web page with some handy links:
How to Check If Your Website Is Blocked In China or Not
Using the links there, I confirmed that my PBworks and Blogspot pages were not accessible in China. I've also confirmed that this Weebly website is. For now.
G.A.L.E.S.L. / joe3
Some tips and links on learning English.