The Deal with China

The Premier of China was in the UK this week and signed a deal with the UK worth £14 billion. That’s more than the entire GDP of Bahrain.    And with so many teaching opportunities in China, I think it’s worth taking a deeper look at who the Chinese are because I think we judge them by the news headlines, which isn't fair to do to anyone.  I’ll look at two facets of Chinese culture in this blog: Love of learning and Relationships.

Love of Learning: The Chinese have lived for many centuries with a monarch or ruler, and culturally Chinese are comfortable with hierarchy.  At the same time they have for many centuries had an alternate path to success- if you were clever enough and could afford the education and pass tests, you could enter the government as a scholar-bureaucrat. This respect for and love of learning (as well as passing tests) permeates society even today.  When you meet a Chinese person, don’t be surprised if they tell you where they went to University, where their children went to University, what they studied and so on. Educational attainment is a prized possession and teachers are revered. Good news for you!

Relationships and Saving Face: China is a collectivist society, meaning family/group relationships are more important than individual attainment. Care and respect for the elderly, close ties with the extended family and favouritism towards one’s family/group members are expected.  It also means that harmony within a group is important – dissent may be expressed with silence or non-verbal cues rather than open confrontation because of the importance of saving ‘face’.  ‘Face’ is the respect you get from others and it’s important to act in a way that does not publicly demean another.

A bit of fun trivia

  • Four is an unlucky number, but eight is the luckiest number.
  • When introductions are made in a group, the oldest person is introduced first.
  • You may find people look at the ground when being introduced to you as it’s considered disrespectful to stare into someone’s eyes.
  • There are over 50 ethnicities but 92% of the population are Han Chinese.
  • The Chinese have a terrific sense of humour and are happy to laugh at themselves
  • It is a great honour to be invited to someone’s house. You should be on time (or early), remove your shoes before entering and take a small hostess gift.
  • If at a dinner with Chinese you should try everything offered but don’t eat the last item off a serving tray. The guest of honour (might be you!) is given the seat facing the door.

China is a fascinating place – a huge country that is diverse in so many ways; in climate, religion, ethnicity and language – yet one that has for most of our lives been hidden. But now, the opportunity to learn about China first hand is at our fingertips.  

学习是永远跟随主人的宝物 [學習是永遠跟隨主人的寶物]    Translation: Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere (old Chinese proverb)