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Peter lived for nearly a half-decade in China, including two as a Peace Corps volunteer, and is the author of Socrates in Sichuan: Chinese Students Search for Truth, Justice and the (Chinese) Way. It is the intention of his blog to foster the sort of intercultural understanding necessary for long term relationships.
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Don't Mess with China, Part 4: Lessons Learned    

By Peter V
671 Views | 10 Comments | 2/7/2018 3:01:32 PM

I started this series by describing an incident that occurred while Yong and I were travelling in which she uttered a statement about the superiority of Chinese culture that seemed dubious to say the least in light of the historical record. Rather than confront the situation with reason and logic (which in my experience are of limited value in any relationship), I suggested that the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) is a more useful tool to bring to an intercultural relationship.  According to the DMIS, there are six levels at which we can relate to a culture other than our own:  Denial, Defense, Minimization, Acceptance, Adaptation, and Integration. As we progress through the various levels, we come to realize the filter through which we inevitably view other cultures, abandon the ethnocentric belief in the superiority of our own culture and ultimately adopt an ethnorelative stance that grounds itself not in critical judgment but in clear-eyed understanding.

 

Although achieving the highest two stages (Adaptation and Integration) requires an extended presence in another culture, anyone who is willing to exert a reasonable amount of effort is capable of achieving the level of Acceptance, and it is the very least that should be expected of ChinaLoveMatch members hoping to engage in an intercultural relationship. At this level, I not only recognize that vast cultural differences exist between cultures but begin to understand the underlying mechanisms behind these discrepancies and accept this as part of the inevitable way of things. Culture is the soil from which the individual springs, and to think your partner will act in a way that is unmoored from her cultural groundings is like expecting palm trees to bloom in Wisconsin. This is especially true when it comes to China, where they say that it is not two individuals that marry, but two families. I would add that when you marry a Chinese woman, you also marry 5,000 (or however many) years of Chinese culture.

 

In the situation that prompted this series, I recognized that a sense of cultural superiority is not unsurprising trait in a collectivist culture like China, where one’s identity is inherently tied to the larger whole. By contrast, coming from an individualist society, my sense of worth is much less invested in the appraisal of my culture.  I do not lose a lot of face when my culture is diminished, nor am I particularly uplifted when it is praised. Individualism is neither superior to nor inferior to collectivism. They are just different ways of being that will produce different results the way that planting apple seeds and orange seeds will yield different fruits. At the level of Acceptance, I acknowledge these discrepancies, cease to judge one way of doing things as superior, and move on.

 

In my experience, reaching this level of development is neither natural nor easy.  Like Aristotle said of happiness, achieving the level of cultural Acceptance requires study, effort and time. In the case of dating, having a relationship with, or marrying a Chinese woman, one needs to both learn about the culture as well as experience it first-hand. The latter does not require you live in China, though that is the most efficient way. But you do have to expose yourself directly to the culture and its peoples, and if you can’t spend time in the country, discover outlets where you live that will allow you to explore and learn about the culture.

 

If this seems like a lot of work, well, the truth is that intercultural relationships/cross cultual dating is a lot of work. True, all romantic relationships are a lot of work. But if a relationship between members of the same culture can as complicated as a Fred Astaire dance (forgive the culture bound reference), then an intercultural relationship can be compared to his dance partner Ginger Rogers, who had to do everything he did but backwards and in high heels. Deciphering another culture is just one of the steps along the way. I personally believe you will find the reward more than justifies the effort.

Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
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(Showing 1 to 10 of 10) 1
#2018-02-07 14:58:00 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

Peter, you've put into perspective for me much of what I was feeling, thinking and intuiting but never actaully defining, with regards to my growing acceptance of Chinese culture. And I too believe that, like you, I have reached the level of acceptance of Chinese culture as being dramatically different thanmy own, but in very few ways inferior and in many ways superior.



In fact, watching the goings on in Europe, America and my own Canada, I have come to believe that our culture is deteriorating quickly, while Chinese culture is improving. The truth is that our culture seems to be casting aside its individualistic nature and adopting a universal soul crushing enslavement to everything politically correct, while China is for the most part adhering to to its collectivist nature while adopting just enough individualism to soften the rough edges of Communism as enforced by Mao.



And while China is beginning to bask in the glow of economic advancment and taking pride in many achievements of its culture, we of the Euro White culture are busy guilting ourselves out of existence. Hence I must declare that my acceptace of China and Chinese culture might better be described as envy and admiration, well beyond mere acceptance. But in no way amd I anywhere near to the level of adaptation.



I did not think of any of this in those terms before, but doing so now has greatly assisted me in understanding my own relationship with both China and my Chinese woman, so I much appreciate your presenting it here. I hope the other readers have gained some serious insight into themselves and their journey they have embarked upon here.


#2018-02-08 21:16:30 by paulfox1 @paulfox1

The problem with 'culture', on any level, is that it's 'learned behaviour' and is not in the least individualistic.

If I try to explain by example - I can remember a time when I was going to visit one of my students at his home. He lives in a 'gated community' that is, how shall I say....rather 'exclusive'. I guess the cheapest house there would be around USD$2million.

As I drove past the first gate guard, standing in what could be best described as a glass phone box, he turned and saluted both myself and my Chinese colleague who was riding pillion on my moped.

As we neared the barrier, and the gate-house, the 6 guards that were inside all waved at me as the barrier lifted.

I had been going there every week for more than 2 years in order to give him his private English tuition.

Once past the barrier, I drove towards his house and passed a couple of street cleaners who lifted their heads, waved at me, while shouting 'Ni Hao'.

I shouted 'Ni Hao' back at them, and when we stopped at the students' house, my Chinese colleague asked me 'Why are you speaking to those people? They are JUST street cleaners'.

As the hairs began to stand up on the back of my neck, I reminded her that they were NOT 'just' street cleaners, they were PEOPLE ! They were human beings that have as much right to respect as any other person does.

At 50 years old, my Chinese friend received a valuable lesson that day, because all her life, due to 'Chinese culture', she has been led to believe that people such as Teachers, (who have such high 'social-standing'), should never lower themselves to talk to such 'low-life' as a mere street cleaner.

 

China's 'collectivism' has a lot of plus-points, however, in this case it was a huge negative one.

#2018-02-08 21:33:49 by kalzorch @kalzorch

I disagree that individualism and collectivism are separate but equal.  Collectivism punishes the individual who marches to the beat of a different drummer, whereas individualism has nothing against one who puts the collective good ahead of his personal wishes.  Clearly individualism needs to be tempered with consideration, respect for others, and enlightened long-term thinking.  As human consciousness evolves, this will increasingly go without saying.  Individualism is like a multi-cultural society, which has significant disadvantages compared to monoculture, but also some critical advantages.
 

#2018-02-09 19:42:33 by paulfox1 @paulfox1


@kalzorch

Human conscienceness is NOT evolving in the way you might think it is. We are getting dumber and dumber as each generation comes along.

If you haven't see it already, I suggest you watch the hilarious 2006 movie 'Idiocracy'.

 

My 11 year-old granddaughter couldn't work out what 200 divided by 10 was, unless she had a calculator, and the 20 year-old girl in a local 7/11 couldn't do 38 x 10 without a calculator.

In a local supermarket, my bill was $17.20, and as I gave the young lad a $20 note plus a 20c coin, he looked at me in a total daze!

 

Culture, per se, is BS because it tramples all over moral values.

It's like the Biblical Ten Commandments - do we NEED to be told not to murder, steal, covet, etc?

I'm not being 'religious' in any way, I'm just trying to make a point. We inherently know what's 'wrong' and 'right' because we have MORALS !

 

Some cultures allow a 30 year-old man to marry a 12 year-old girl - is that MORALLY right?

I came across an African Tribe that cook and eat their first-born. Is that MORALLY right?

Of course not - it's 'excusable' because it's their 'culture', and since everyone does the same thing, it must be OK - whether morals come into it or not

That's my point !

#2018-02-09 21:35:26 by kalzorch @kalzorch

I disagree that individualism and collectivism are separate but equal.  Collectivism punishes the individual who marches to the beat of a different drummer, whereas individualism has nothing against one who puts the collective good ahead of his personal wishes.  Clearly individualism needs to be tempered with consideration, respect for others, and enlightened long-term thinking.  As human consciousness evolves, this will increasingly go without saying.  Individualism is like a multi-cultural society, which has significant disadvantages compared to monoculture, but also some critical advantages.
 

#2018-02-10 13:09:28 by Map1 @Map1

Interesting story, Mr. Fox to illustrate your point. But I'd like to correct your misconception regarding culture. There are at least 50 factors that are pretty much common in all cultures. The most important being their worldview, values and religion. These are the foundation of a particular culture and have overarching influences. I think that your illustrative story has more to do with discrimination deriving from learned behavior. It violates the worldviews, religions and values of Chinese culture such as Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, and Communism. Hinduism does have a discriminatory caste system, but it has little influence in the PRC

#2018-02-11 22:13:01 by paulfox1 @paulfox1


@Map1

Here you go again on your religious 'high-horse'. I put it to you that you know NOTHING about what religion TRULY is....

Religion is a man-made control matrix that is designed to fool the masses into a false belief system. This isn't just my opinion, but is a proveable FACT!

If you want to chat further then I would be happy to educate you, but CLM is NOT the place to do it. Ask John Abbot for my personal e-mail address and I will PROVE to you that the 'BuyBull' is 80% BS and 20% historical fact.

 

Though I doubt you have the testosterone with which to take up my challenge.....

 

 

 

#2018-02-13 09:13:43 by woaizhongguo @woaizhongguo

@JohnAbbot: I agree Chinese culture is becoming more individualistic/capitalistic. I am less sure if that is exactly a good thing. As commentators much more learned than I have pointed out, once you throw off Confucianism and Maoism—both philosophies with a collectivist base—what is left to ground moral behavior?  At least the West has a moral grounding in the Bible, for better or worse. But I am not sure that China has come up with anything to replace the previous moral compass.  Perhaps religion in one form or the other will ultimately assume the role of moral compass.  I personally hope not.

@PaulFox1: I agree that the behavior you cite is culture related; however, I am not sure the behavior you site is related to collectivism, although there is more social stratification in China than in the West, and certainly than in America, which has a much more democratic (with a small d) foundation. Still, America has its own level of social stratification as well, though perhaps not as pronounced.

 

@kalzorch: I agree there are both plusses and minuses for individualism and collectivism. The plight of elderly being left on their own by their children is connected to the individualistic ethos, while collectivism has been responsible for the obligation Chinese children demonstrated towards their elderly parents. But see above, as this may be being eroded. Still, the West does not seem a model to follow on this point, although I agree on other points there is much to admire.

#2018-02-14 07:42:01 by melcyan @melcyan

Peter, I agree with your view that when you marry a Chinese woman you also marry her family and 5000 years of Chinese culture.

 

You also suggest that reason and logic are of limited value in any relationship.

 

The Canadian philosopher John Ralston Saul would disagree with you. Used alone, reason and logic will be inadequate but used in conjunction with ethics, history, intuition, imagination and common sense they can work. He argues this quite persuasively in his book titled “Equilibrium”.

 

Your six level model is definitely heading in the right direction for overcoming the inadequacies of using reason and logic alone. Thank you for introducing it to us.

#2018-03-16 15:14:45 by sandy339 @sandy339

hehe, yes I would keep on constant  study, effort and time on it, thanks:)

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