Saturday, April 12, 2008

Learn the language and experience the culture

I love learning languages. I think it is the best way to understand the culture and people of any place. Even if you can't speak the language fluently, the effort you show to the native people will help you exchange friendship with them.

When I was working in China, I could see how the trust between the employees and the management built when both spoke the same language. Most top management were expatriates and seemed to be in a world of their own. For those who could speak Mandarin or at least make an effort to learn a few words quickly earn the respect of the local employees. There are also differences in culture and language is always an important link.

Even if a foreigner means good in his speech, it may turn out to be totally obnoxious when it is encoded back to the native language. For example, most Chinese show respect to people older than them or are senior to them in terms of rank. Even if they do not agree with their superior, they may not express it or disagree with them on the spot. On the other hand, Americans are very direct and tend to express their disagreement regardless of the seniority of the parties involved. Many Chinese do not appreciate that kind of behavior and often feel embarrassed or shun away from such "conflict."

Learn the language, experience the culture and see the place for yourself. It will open up a whole new world to you. It is a world different from books and photos.

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