Joined: 26 Jun 2007
Location: Harbin, China
|Posted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 10:01 am Post subject: Adjusting to Eastern Expectations: China and "chabuduo&
|The following article is part 3 of a series of articles being posted by my colleagues and I at Will-Excel TESOL.
Adjusting to Eastern Expectations: China and “chà bù duō”
Moving smoothly into your new life in China requires that you learn about cultural differences. Sometimes Chinese words and expressions are a good guide towards some of these differences. In particular, when a word or phrase is complex to translate, it often means there is a cultural difference involved.
“Chà bù duō” is one such expression. Directly translated, it means, “not much off,” and can mean “close enough”. So if you’re buying a new shirt and it’s a little too big you might say, “chà bù duō,” and buy it anyway. However, chà bù duō is also used to describe sloppy work. A carpenter that installs a door that scrapes on the floor when opening and closing or a tailor whose buttons fall off of a new shirt can be said to have done chà bù duō work.
In the West poor workmanship, low quality and carelessness also occur. However, in China, chà bù duō is a more insidious problem because it often means a problem has been identified but no attempt is going to be made to improve the situation or fix the problem.
This occurs frequently with specific workers/employees and specific office tasks. Below are some examples of how many schools can be chà bù duō.
o Frequent last minute schedule changes.
o Failing to notify teachers when changes have been made.
o Giving little or no information about new classes.
o Requiring teachers to give speeches or put on performances with little or no notice.
o Misleading teachers, such as inviting them out to dinner when the dinner is really a promotional event to impress somebody.
o Taking excessively long to repair something in a teacher’s apartment or classroom equipment.
If a school is foreign managed, many of the above problems can be reduced. However, the foreign manager(s) must be very knowledgeable about Chinese customs in order to prevent them from happening. That’s because many Chinese staff and managers may not see these problems as things that need to be reduced.
Many foreign teachers also take a chà bù duō attitude without realizing that they are inviting it in return. Below are some examples of how many teachers can be chà bù duō.
o Being poorly prepared for classes.
o Dressing inappropriately for classes or other duties.
o Being unreasonably inflexible with duties, customs, or special situations.
o Not preparing class information for substitute or replacement teachers.
o Calling in sick when not sick.
o Partying heavily on a school night, leading to missing classes or teaching hung-over.
Although many teachers are professional and do not do the above things, there are many teachers who do. “Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” This expression applies very well in this situation. When Foreign teachers want reduce the amount of chà bù duō at their school, they must work on making sure that they are not being chà bù duō themselves. Every time you are chà bù duō you are giving your school permission to be chà bù duō. If you are never chà bù duō you’ll have much more luck in convincing your school to minimize how often they are chà bù duō.
Looking for ways to reduce your chà bù duō frequency also requires you to consider what is most important to your Chinese school, employer, co-workers, and friends.
Foreign teachers all know the “golden rule” which says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
Thinking about this rule in your work is a great idea. However, in international dealings, there’s another rule that is even better. Let’s call this the “platinum rule”. This rule states, “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them”. This is more complicated since it requires that you know how they would like you to act.
If you act in a way that you would like others to act towards you, (Golden Rule), you will only make others of your culture comfortable. You may make people from other cultures very uncomfortable. Therefore, to make sure you’re not being chà bù duō? Learn and think about what others’ expectations and desires are.
Learning about and understanding cultural differences are essential for you to enjoy and receive the greatest benefits from your time in China.
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