Tuesday, July 11, 2006

reversing the view


So here I am going on about China, but, in an attempt at fairness, I'm going to regularly share Chinese views of the West and Westerners here too. And how better to kick this off with than a quote from "Westerners through Chinese Eyes"? Published by the Beijing Foreign Language Press this is a great, if slightly random, collection of stories that do actually manage to reveal quite a lot about both the West and East and how people approach foreign cultures. In one chapter a contributor defines American character traits:

"Enter and exit human relationships quickly
'Go for it' is a moto
Impatience is a trait
'Me-first' attitude
Penny wise and pound foolish in value judgments
Nosiness is tabooed
Quest for influence
Risk is the foundation of the firm
Teasing is a sign of being liked
Vulnerable to temptations
Woo fame and fortune
Yen for yen, the Japanese currency"


Of course, this was published back in 1990 so this probably needs updating now as Americans yen for the Renminbi these days and I'd suggest a lot of Chinese now have a 'Go for it' attitude, but when I've asked Chinese friends and colleagues about their impressions of Westerners/the West I've heard similar things. I particularly love how this highlights key differences in attitudes towards things such as privacy ("Nosiness is tabooed"). It's quite common in China for people to ask you about how much you earn, how much rent you pay, why you aren't married/ don't have [lots of] children and other personal topics but obviously the author noted that this wasn't welcomed in the US. The individualistic versus the collective mentality is also highlighted ("Me-first attitude"). Its also telling that "Teasing is a sign of being liked" is such a revelation but laughing at yourself or others is a trickier thing when maintaining 'face' is such a big issue. "Enter and exit human relationships quickly" is also an interesting one, and says quite a lot about how attitudes towards friendship differ.
But, more on these big subjects later as I've just run out of patience and need to go off and quest for some influence.

4 comments:

Rob @ Cynic said...

I love this evaluation of Americans and whilst it does need updating, it's still pretty accurate.

My personal fave is the 'enter and exit human relationships quickly'.

Why do I love it?

Well apart from the fact it is true of many expats living in Asia ... it ignores the fact that many Asian men, whilst loyal to their family, still have a 'mistress' and don't see this as wrong.

Hell, in Singapore, many men keep mistresses on an Island [Batam] so [1] they can visit them in peace and [2] the women can't escape from them.

Anyway, enjoying the blog ...

Rob Mortimer said...

I find the importance of face in China so interesting. Bt its certainly true that in the west we are just as quirky!

My girlfriends family are from right on the border between HK and China, and when I visited there the amount of stares I got demonstrated to me that not many people there have much experience of westerners!

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