Harmonious Interactions and Relationship Building
An American and Chinese Comparison

In the US where individualism is valued, people are expected to take the initiative in advancing their personal interests and well being, and to be direct and assertive in interacting with others.

The Chinese people are completely different. Personal relations are predicated on the assumption that intra-group harmony should be preserved at all costs. The limited social and geographic mobility foster durable, deep relationships in which abrasiveness is condemned and personal assertiveness is branded as selfish and criticized.

Your Chinese friend may find it odd that you want to spend the evening alone. For an American this is a normal way of life, to want to spend time alone, but for the Chinese, this equates to loneliness and there is no word for it or for privacy in the Chinese language.

One behavior a Chinese person will not tolerate is anger. An angry person undermines the dignity and well-being of the group and is not considered worthy of respect, this is the cause of serious loss of face. Even if the anger is justifiable, it is considered in bad taste, where as American’s tolerate anger if it is justifiable. So what do you do when you encounter a situation where you need to express unhappiness? You ask to speak with the person in charge or the top administrators.

Friendship and Obligations

If you wish to befriend a Chinese person you must first enter their group. As soon as you become identified as an in-group member, the expectations of the partnership become vastly dependent and expectations are high. Many Americans are not prepared for such a high level of interdependence.

In the US you may change friends, but in China your friends are yours for life. In the US you may not share all aspects of your life with your friends, but instead focus on shared interests and activities, friendships in the US have limits. Whereas the Chinese have a limited number of friends, they are close, and a deep relationship remains intact throughout one’s life. Sharing all aspects of your life is expected and the duties and obligations of friendship are virtually unlimited.

In China, one has an enormous responsibility for one’s friends. If your Chinese friend senses you are in need they will come to your aid, you won’t even have to ask. You are also free to tell them what he or she must do in order to help you.

I end this piece with a quote: “You are a foreigner everywhere, except in your own culture”. © 2018, Candida Marques Global Arrival, LLC


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