Intercultural frictions

I tended to think that the whole issue of intercultural awareness and so forth is overrated, but recently I had to rethink my position on that a bit. I have had several situations now in my job here in China where intercultural frictions caused some issues.

For example I recently had to write a report in which I had to assess the performance of some Chinese colleagues here at work. I thought my report was rather balanced and fair, but it seems to me that pointing out weaknesses is a very difficult thing to do here in China and my report caused some unexpected reactions that would never have occured in Germany.

I could go on and give you more examples of situations where intercultural awareness is key to do a good job in China. In many cases I think it is not really that easy to understand, foresee and handle these issues properly. I don’t think I would pay a consultant to help me with this but I think intercultural awareness it not as trivial as I always thought it is.

Not just between Germans and Chinese, also between Germans and British. Vera found a terrific article on this, called something like “why don’t the Brits and Americans just say what they mean?”

On the other hand, I find the Japanese are so polite, even by mealy-mouthed British standards, that it is very difficult for us to register when they are unhappy about something.