For passionate globetrotters, traveling is never as simple as it seems. Language lessons, transportation logistics, and financial preparations all take part in the pre-departure processes that many endure before leaving their native homes.
Additionally, we are taught to navigate international travel with constant theories of culture shock looming over our heads, motivating us to do basic research into the native culture, language, and life customs of our new countries. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, culture shock is “a sense of confusion and uncertainty sometimes with feelings of anxiety that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation”.
Therefore, how does one avoid the anxiety that this term describes?
While it is inevitable to feel slightly anxious in experiencing foreign lands, it is important to prepare oneself in overcoming the unexplainable adventure of traveling.
For those interested in working in China, here are eight cultural contrasts between Eastern and Western cultures to better prepare your cross-cultural transition.
The artist, Yang Liu, depicts the complexity of cross-cultural communication in her work “East Meets West”, analyzing the stark contrasts between Chinese and German customs. Yang was born in China, but has lived in Germany since she was fourteen years old, drawing from her own experiences in creating an infographic book that depicts the differences between the two cultures. The blue side represents Germany (Western culture) and the red symbolizes China (Eastern culture).
1.) Business Hierarchies
In the business realm, the Chinese seem to place greater importance on organizational hierarchies. Because bosses are seen as having more experience and wisdom, they are given more authority and prestige by their associates. Yang Liu argues that while this may be common in Germany as well, they typically have less influence and status in Western cultures.
2.) Facial Expressions
As a citizen of two Western nation-states, this slide stuck out to me the most, as I am used to displaying a full-range of emotions through my facial expressions. Conversely, here in China, people seem to be more reserved and modest when expressing themselves, which may make it more difficult for Westerners to understand their body language.
The boisterous stereotype of most Westerners seems to bear some truth in comparison to Chinese norms, as most Chinese are not accustomed to sharing personal achievements and opinions in public. They maintain the importance of modesty and respect to others when reviewing their own status in society.
Fun fact: waiting in organized lines or queues is practically nonexistent in China. You will also not hear a plethora of “I am sorry” or “Excuse me” statements while being pushed or shoved through mass groups. This is not a lack of respect toward foreigners or other Chinese people, as it is just a custom that many Chinese are used to.
While in China, it is important to maintain good relationships with every individual you come across. Accordingly, business and private lives constantly intertwine. On the other hand, networking is seen as a more linear act in the West, trying to get from one point to the other in order to build one’s professional network.
This slide is also defended by the Geert Hofstede country comparisons, as most Western nation-states have more individualistic approaches rather than group orientations.
Overall, Eastern cultures have a more flexible view on punctuality than Western nation-states. For example, a group meeting at 10 a.m. could range from 9:45 to 10:15, and it is not looked down upon to be a little late.
Last, but not least, are the differences between German and Chinese problem-solving techniques. While one is not better than the other, they both possess very distinct approaches. In Germany, Liu saw that they were more direct and efficient in solving problems in the workplace. The Chinese, though, sought more complex routes that required more communication and time.
If you are interested in seeing Yang Liu’s complete book, click here to read the full PDF document.
Do you agree or disagree with the research provided? Let us know what you think!
By Chiara Evelti