TheChinese culture is rich in traditions and practices and one has totake caution while interacting with the Chinese people. For example,Mianzi means “the face” and involves respect and dignityassociated with particular behaviors(Qi,283).It is crucial to point that the idea of “face” is taken veryseriously by the Chinese as it implies protecting the dignity andintegrity of others. Just to demonstrate how "the face" ismade, there is a Chinese saying that "Trees can`t live withoutbark.Men cannot live without a face(Dongand Yu Feng 39)."Losingface is deemed appalling, while behaving in a way that makes someoneelse to “lose face” is taboo.Severaltypes of behavior are associated with “losing face” and are takenquite seriously(Dongand Yu Feng 36).The Chinese, for example, avoid public confrontation, and allconflicts are solved in private to avoid attracting the attention ofother people. The behavior demonstrates that the Chinese are highlyprivate people and do not expose themselves or their individual lifeto the public. The Chinese would not explicitly say no to aninvitation or a request, but would rather leave it open, as anoutright rejection of a request is considered rude and offensive. Theexpatriates working in China or even business people should be awareof some of these behaviors as they could significantly affect theirrelationships and business transactions.
Itis also, improper to point out one`s mistakes in public. Any personalissues and differences are all resolved in private so that theparties involved do not attract people who do not have an interest inthe matter. It is also considered unwise to broadcast personalissues, and all is better resolved in private. Pointing out one`smistakes in public is viewed as a way to demean the other party whichis not appropriate according to the Chinese. One does not have topoint out the mistakes when they take place rather a person shouldwait till they are in private to say what may have gone wrong. Evenin extreme circumstances when an individual is going the wrong way,it is important to inform politely that they are going the wrong way(Dongand Yu Feng 43)..The person can then change the direction when no one else iswatching. The behavior is considered appropriate according to theChinese culture, and hence a sign of wisdom, which is a significantvalue of the Chinese culture. When friends and relatives go to theeateries, it is considered appropriate to fight over who should paythe bills as a sign to “give a face”. Ultimately, the host isallowed to pay so that he does not "lose the face" of beingseen as poor.Theissue of the face is therefore all about dignity, honor and respect.
Mianzialso involves the idea of respect and politeness in the interactionof the Chinese. Modesty is also highly valued and called for at alltimes, and it is correct etiquette for one to be modest about theirabilities and not to show them off. It is wise to let other peoplerecognize your ability than boast about it and it is expected thatone denies achievements on being praised, rather than to expressgratitude for the recognition. The denial is a demonstration ofmodesty and humility and is a virtue highly regarded by the Chinese.The idea of face goes beyond the person to families, societies andthe entire nation, which implies that every Chinese has a duty toavoid anything that could make China as a country to "lose face"or to be disrespected. Any action or behavior that undermines thedignity of the person, family, community or the state is thereforehighly discouraged as it implies that one is undermining the dignityof the parties involved(Dongand Yu Feng 50).Every Chinese therefore has to strive to ensure that they don`t causeanyone, family, community or the whole nation to "lose face"but should rather always endeavor to make sure that they save theirface and those of the others as well as that of the country.
Connectedto the idea of Mianzi is the Guanxi factor which is taken veryseriously by the Chinese. The concept implies "relationship",although it goes beyond the literal meaning of the term. It implies"for better or worse" or "do to others what you wouldlike done unto you(Dongand Yu Feng 48)".It is the fabric that holds societies together. Guanxi is consideredmuch more valuable than the combination of talent, intelligence andknowledge. Getting a favor from a person may look like a smallgesture of appreciation, but it is crucial that one makes mentalnotes as the favor has to be returned at some point in future.Returning a favor is hence an obligation, and failure to do so isjust unacceptable in the Chinese society.Itis, therefore, the responsibility of the Chinese people to know thedebts they owe and also take mental notes of the flavors they haveextended to others and hence the favors that they are owed. TheChinese people are encouraged to be committed to the nurturing ofGuanxi and should not overlook the tradition of the extravagantbanquet, which is meant to build new Guanxi while nurturing old ones.The culture is treated like a bonding session, and although it maylook wasteful, it is important that the Chinese attend the function.
Ifone is a foreigner in China, they should be ready to meet the billswhenever they invite friends for dinner. One would "lose face"if you expect the friends they invited, to settle the bill. It wouldalso be a shock to the Chinese and such behavior would beembarrassing too. Challenging one`s boss is not acceptable, and itwould provide a solid background for a sacking. Instead, it isadvisable that one agrees with the sentiments of their superiors, butexpress an opposing view. Any direct challenge of the superiors isnot acceptable as it does not demonstrate loyalty as demanded by theChinese culture. Another important behavior is that people don`t calleach other by names unless they are peers. Relatives and individualswho are superior are referred to as uncles or aunties, among other"respectable" titles. The behavior is extended even tostrangers as long they are older or superior to an individual(Dongand Yu Feng 53).Forexample, students in the schools can`t use the names of the teachersas they address them. It’s also not respectful and is a lack ofcourtesy. It is also advisable not to approach women directly as itis more reserved in China(Dongand Yu Feng 46).Foreigners are advised to avoid political conversations as much aspossible. It would be improper to initiate political topics withpeople one has known for less than six months(Leeand Philip 30). Even when one has been in contact for long, it wouldbe proper to let the Chinese initiate the topic because they rarelyshare sovereignty issues with strangers. The Chinese value gifts andit would be easier to bond with them by sharing gifts. Although it isnot impolite not to provide gifts, they enhance interactions whengiven and could lead to lasting relationships.
Dong,Qiumin, and Yu Feng L. Lee. "The Chinese concept of Face: Aperspective for Business communicators." SouthwestDecision Sciences Institute(2007).
Qi,Xiaoying. "Face A Chinese concept in a global sociology."Journalof Sociology47.3 (2011): 279-295.
Lee,Don Y., and Philip L. Dawes. "Guanxi, trust, and long-termorientation in Chinese business markets." Journalof international marketing13.2 (2005): 28-56.