Authors: Tyler Candelora & Haipu Sun
An American couple (John and Betty Johnson) move to China, and they buy an apartment where a lot of Chinese tenants live. Several days after moving in they were coming back to their apartment, when they met their neighbor on the elevator. This was the first interaction between the neighbors. The Chinese neighbor, Li Meimei, greets the American couple with a warm hello and her name in English.
Li Meimei: “Hello, my name is Li Meimei, and I live next to you.”
John Johnson: “Hello, I’m John, and this is my wife, Betty.”
Betty Johnson: “Hello, how are you?”
Li Meimei: (Pensive and shocked) “So-so”
The American couple found this answer unusual.
Li Meimei: “Would you like to visit my home now and have some tea?”
Betty Johnson: “Yes! We would love to.”
They all get off the elevator together, and Li Meimei lets the couple into her home. The American couple are offered to sit on the sofa. Meanwhile, Li Meimei starts to clean the room.
After several minutes…
Li Meimei: “Would you both like some tea?”
John and Betty: “Yes, please.”
After thirty minutes of conversation about the community, transition to China, their families, etc…
John: “I guess it is about time we leave and get out of your hair.”
Li Meimei: (Perplexed) “Why don’t you stay a little bit longer?”
John: “Are you sure?”
Li Meimei: “Yes, of course.”
The American couple leaves very late from Li Meimei’s house. They are all feeling tired.
The American couple displays short-term orientation, being friendly, while the Chinese neighbor shows long-term orientation, trying to be friends. Also, the Chinese neighbor exemplifies low-indulgence, allowing the American couple to stay longer out of politeness, but not actually wanting them to. The American couple shows high-indulgence levels by wanting to excuse themselves from the Chinese neighbor’s house.
In China, sometimes people offer a visit, or staying longer is just to show their hospitality instead of a real offer. In China, people will call each other by their full name instead of their first name (especially when people are introducing each other). Moreover, Chinese people won’t speak anything informal to strangers, so Li Meimei might feel confused about the words “get out of your hair”.
A Chinese student, Han Lei, is studying abroad at a French university. They are in the courtyard outside the school. One of Han Lei’s teachers is walking on by.
Han Lei: “Hello Mrs. Dubois.” (He bows)
Teacher: (Kisses Han Lei on both cheeks) “Hello, how are you?”
Han Lei: (Shocked and Scared): “I’m fine and you?”
Teacher: “Fine, thank you. Could you please take my books to the class for me?”
Han Lei: (Lei will be late for his next class, but agrees): “Sure, my pleasure.”
Teacher: “Thank you.”
Because Han Lei comes from a country which is high power distance, Han Lei felt that it is not polite to refuse a request of his teacher. Coming from a long-term oriented country, Han Lei wishes to make a good bond with his teacher, so after she kisses him, he does not want the teacher to feel bad. He answers her question without questioning why she had kissed him.
An American businessman, Robert, travels to Japan to work at a Japanese firm. This is his first day at the firm. He has just arrived early in the morning. The American business man talks to each of the employees and the boss.
All the Japanese colleagues: “Welcome to Sumitomo Mitsui Financial.”
Robert: “Thank you! Hello to all of you too.”
Robert: (shocked, sees all the Japanese businessmen bow) “Thank you” (he bows)
After several days on the job, one of Robert’s colleagues approaches him…
Colleague: “Robert, can you go down stairs and buy a box of cigarettes for me?”
Robert: (Confused) “Oh, okay.”
After Robert comes back…
Robert: (Still Confused) “Here are your cigarettes.”
Colleague: (Points) “You can just put them there.”
Robert is even more confused because the colleague never paid him for the cigarettes.
One day a colleague is talking with Robert and asking something about his life in America.
Colleague: “Before you come here which company were you in?”
Robert: “Oh, I have been working in many other companies, about five or six maybe.”
Colleague: “How could you do that?!”
Robert didn’t know that in Japan, it is wrong to leave a company and work for another one.
Since Japan is a high power distance country, the colleagues who worked longer have higher status than the later employees, so they can command the new employees to do something trivial (this kind of situation will change only if the later employees have been given a promotion which would give them higher positions than those who come earlier).
Moreover, Japanese people are very collective; thus, all the members have to participate in the activities organized by the company, especially when there are bosses or managers involved. Besides, Japanese people are very loyal to the company they are working for and the company pays a lot of attention to the welfare of its employees; therefore, most of the time, Japanese people won’t change to work for another company.