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Why knowing how to speak Chinese doesn't mean you know what to say in Chinese

Apr 10, 2020

• I am ABC
• I was assigned to live and work in Shanghai in 2011 where I stayed until 2017
• I speak 100% fluent Mandarin Chinese

My personal experience, as far as the receptiveness of local Chinese was all very positive.

If you discount the “honeymoon period” all visitors experience when they first arrive in China, then I believe there were several key reasons WHY my interpersonal experience in China was essentially even more positive than being Asian in America.

1. MINDSET - when speaking with locals, I was a local, which means I would speak of foreigners, even my American colleagues, as 他们 (they) or 外国人 (foreigners), and I would always refer to our collective as 我们 (us).

2. ATTITUDE - I was always curious about what my local friends, colleagues, clients, and even direct reports thought. This means I asked a ton of questions about everything. This curiosity conveys real empathy that people in any culture can feel.

3. APPROACH - We are all equal. Just as everyone is created equal under God and under the law in America, this is how I interacted with everyone in China, even when I disagreed with their perspective and worldview, and even when I felt they were coming from a place of ignorance. 

My rebuttal is always to ask more questions until I understood the context of their viewpoint.

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