Sunday, October 10, 2010

In China, where you never say "No"

"Chinese never say 'No'!" Warned us our laoshi.

So do they always say 'Yes'? - Was my very first thought. Once again, too easy.

Chinese culture is a fascinating array of unspoken rules that date back thousands of years, how can I understand them in only two months? With a rich oral tradition, Chinese people proudly perpetuate almost unconsciously the lengthy heritage of their ancestors.

I'm usually quite direct in my responses, but I admit some difficulty in delivering a blunt "No" when I get invitations for something I'm not too keen on, so probably at least in this case I won't need to make an effort to adapt to Chinese customs.

Apparently this is also the tradition when it comes to dating: "Careful!" laoshi advised my male classmates this time. "If a girl tells you she's tired, she's just not interested, so admit defeat and leave her alone!"

As long as this happens in contexts such as dating, shopping or among friends, it might be annoying but no harm is made. However, awkward situations might be caused when it comes to business. The whole not-saying-no thing, in fact, rules also in trade and economy, and this is why Westerners consider doing business with Chinese people exhausting.

Apparently, if a Chinese businessman says "I will think about it", he means "No way"; on the contrary, if he says "Wo qing ni chi fan" (I invite you for a meal), there is hope.

Although so far I've been regarding the Chinese not exactly fussy when it comes to manners, probably they consider saying a direct "No" a sign of impoliteness, and they always prefer a "middle way".

This "middle way" of thinking is actually the foundation of Chinese culture: the word "China" itself in Mandarin sounds Zhong Guo, looks 中国 and means "the middle country". This is not to stress that China is the "centre" of the universe, but it's because the Chinese think the philosophy of staying "half-way" is the best one in pretty much all daily occasions.

This entails also never be "too sad" nor "too happy," for that matter, because after a too strong sentiment, inevitably follows the opposite. Now, although I think (and have experienced) that this is often true, and I do admire their ability to master their feelings, I'm not quite sure I'll be able to do the same.

Let's see if my stay in China will teach me how to be "less Italian" and better manage situations with a too high emotional burden. Starting point? Unavoidably Confucius.

13 comments:

Fida said...

Very interesting, but sooo tricky. No wonder a lot of as feel lost in that country :)

AngelaCorrias said...

Indeed, their culture is so vast, and especially so different from the one I come from, that I definitely need to sit down and do a thorough research in order to understand them!

Ayngelina said...

China has such a diverse and fascinating culture. I'm always in awe of the formality.

AngelaCorrias said...

Fascinating and diverse indeed, so much that I still get lost. But I'm truly enjoying the process of learning and understanding it little by little.

Faster Computer Secrets said...

Great post, as the Chinese always take the middle of the road approach, I’ll need to ask the Chinese lady when I pop in for my usual curry, what’s best, the curry or chow-main, I wonder if she will take the middle of the road and give me half and half.

I think it’s more likely she will through me out the shop, ah well, I enjoyed your post, an excellent read, keep up the great work.

All the best
David.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Nedemgirl said...

I agree with Fida, that must be very tricky.

SpunkyGirl said...

China is such a different world. There are so many things to know and learn. This is a very helpful post for anyone traveling to China. The more a person knows before their trip, the easier the trip will be.

Connie said...

China and Chinese customs is definitely a hard concept to wrap your head around! My mother is Chinese and even I had trouble understanding a lot of what was going on when I was in China last month!

AngelaCorrias said...

China is different and complicated indeed. At first I even questioned my plan to stay for six months, now that the first six months are almost over, I've already applied for a visa extension!
The first shock overcome, I'm finding so interesting exploring their rich culture that I'm not sure about when I will leave the country :)

AngelaCorrias said...

Thanks Connie, I feel a lot more reassured now :P

Truth be said, I'm increasingly loving it here in China, and I'm finding myself more similar than I thought to the Chinese population :)

Rajasthan Tours Operator said...

a very nice post love it awesome china we cant say no to china

Rajasthan Tours said...

nice post and its very interesting ...

Rajasthan Tours said...

Excellent post . its very interesting. thanks for sharing

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