speak chinese like a native

What do you think about my observation?

Posted by xiaophil July 22, 2010 in the Group General Discussion .

At the training school I have worked for during the past few years, I have had the opportunity to sit down and chat with small groups of Chinese professionals about their opinions on various matters.  Somewhere in the back of my head has been lurking in my head that I should start writing down what I have learned because it is possible that my experience could become valuable someday.  I just thought I would leave my very first one here to start a conversation and find out if I am in fact full of 胡扯.  And yes, I do know this is anecdotal and not scientific.


“I hope to someday become a manager in this company.”

Question: if one of your Chinese subordinates said this to you, what would you think?

Typical American answer: wow, this person is self-confident, and since this person has expressed ambition, perhaps we can count on him or her to work hard to obtain that dream. 

Typical Chinese answer: wow, this person really doesn’t understand society.  Chinese culture dictates that we should be modest, and this person clearly isn’t.  Furthermore, this person has too many plans.  We might not be able to trust this person as he or she might work solely for his or her profit.  This person might even try to get my job.  It might be better to keep this person at a distance.

What we can take home from this:

  • Chinese may not be willing to tell you if they want something.  To understand what Chinese want, it is sometimes more important to watch carefully than to listen carefully.  Employees who have ambition are likely to try to obtain their dreams through hard work or through careful cultivation of relationships.
  • Furthermore, if a manager fails to notice that an employee is hinting he or she wants something, that manager is risking inadvertently causing discouragement in that person, possibly worse.
  • In a nutshell: keep your eyes open and don’t expect things to always be spelled out for you.



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