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Communicating With the Chinese

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[Photo of Handshake]In recent years, business interactions between the Philippines and China have been increasing dramatically as more and more Philippine businessmen set their sights on a mainland business. To equip themselves with more knowledge about China, many choose to learn Chinese.

Since the establishment in 2006 of the Confucius Institute at the Ateneo de Manila University, the number of classes and students has increased very rapidly.

From just 6 classes with 98 students in the first cycle of classes, the fifth cycle, which is ongoing, has more than 30 classes with nearly 400 students.

However, there is an indivisible link between learning a language and knowing the culture behind the language.

Language helps us communicate, but lack of knowledge about a certain culture could result in misunderstanding or even offense.

Take the daily greeting, for example. The Chinese will seldom greet you with just “hello” (nihao). Instead, they’ll ask you if you’ve eaten and where you’re going.

Without some knowledge about Chinese culture, a person may feel offended to be asked such these private things.

To avoid misunderstanding, we have to understand how the Chinese behave.

First of all, punctuality matters. In the Philippines, people are very tolerant about being late. In China, it is impolite and unacceptable, especially in business activities. Being late means you do not care about your business partner and it may result in failure of cooperation.

If you are not able to arrive on time, it is advisable to give prior notice via SMS or a phone call. Usually, your business partner will forgive you.

Second, the Philippines is a Catholic country and religion plays a very important role in people’s daily lives.

However, most of the Chinese do not have a religion, neither do they go to church. When it comes to religion, do not be surprised that they do not go to church or pray.

If some Chinese do not understand your religious belief, do not get mad. They were raised up in a different cultural environment. Moreover, do not try to convert them since it may cause offense.

Third, as Western influences go deeper, more and more Chinese value their privacy. But many still do not value privacy all that much.

The traditional Chinese usually live in a certain community and have very close contact with each other. They know everything about one another.

Therefore, age, marriage, and family are not considered private. If your business partner asks you about these things, do not feel offended. Most of the time, they do not really care about your private life. They merely want to start a conversation.

Finally, most Chinese are reserved—which means they tend to express themselves in an indirect way.

At the dinner table, when you ask what dishes a Chinese would like, the most probable answer would be “whatever,” even if they have a particular preference.

In a meeting, the Chinese seldom use direct words. Sometimes, you have to guess what they want to say. Therefore, if anything is not clear, you should ask questions to avoid misunderstandings.

Always keep these rules in mind and you will find it easy to make friends with the Chinese.

They may even save you some business losses!

print ed: 04/08


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