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Gareth is an Australian who has lived in JiangSu, SuZhou (Heaven on Earth) for a few years - he is a keen observer of the Chinese people, Chinese culture and the changes that are occurring in China at break-neck speed. He can often be found on his a nightly 'perch' in front of his bar in the famous Bar Street in Suzhou, talking to the locals in his bad Mandarin, teaching the 'flower-selling girls' English, eating street food and smiling at the local chengguan (neighbourhood police). Gareth also has several other businesses in China around Business and English training. His experiences have been varied and interesting and his years in China have taught him to be wary of promises but excited about prospects, not a bad situation to be in!
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Part 1: Anthropology in China – what the hell is going on here??

By Garreth Humphris
3052 Views | 1 Comments | 5/14/2010 1:10:38 PM

Come on in, hang out and "anthropologize" with AussieGhump. A good time will be had by all.

I am not an anthropologist by any means – but I guess I have a keen interest in the things around me and like to observe and ponder!

People who know me will often see me sitting in front of a well-known watering-hole (Pub) on a well-known street in a small (Chinese-small!!) city not far from Shanghai observing the world go by from a plastic chair. One Man, One Location, One View (Now that is Chinese-style plagarism at it’s best!!)

I’ve been doing this every summer for about 8 years now, so I am becoming, through detailed observation of the high-heeled young women wiggling past, mothers window-shopping, old men with transistors connected to their ears sliding backwards down the roadway and grannies in pyjamas (sorry, ‘house suits’) flip-flopping by, that I have a bit of a handle in the city I have chosen to call ‘home’ for a while.
Being humble, I don’t go by the ‘labels’ others give me –- sure ‘大 胖子’(big fatso) might be a very apt and descriptive term, while 胖哥哥 (Fat Older Brother) is a calming and supportive name (at least to Chinese women) – it doesn’t appeal to my inner Alpha male! I have been force to settle with 老大 (oldest one – respected in China) which somehow appeals to my sense of voyeur fashionista, social commentator and semi-celebrity in my own mind. (well, the taxi-drivers all seem to know me!!)

So this brings me to some of the broader questions people will be wanting to discuss and think about on CLM forums. What the hell is China, and how do I get and live there?

My other ‘job’ in China, apart from holding council over the street-kids and fruitsellers, is as a language ‘trainer’. Notice I don’t say ‘teacher’, but ‘trainer’. The reason for this will probably become more obvious in some of the future rants I get into, but alas, I digress!

In order to be an adequate trainer, you need to know a little something about your audience, and in a cross-cultural situation, this can mean a lot of trial-and-error!! What topics are taboo?, what is funny?, what do people have opinions about?, because what they might say in a given situation or scenario are ‘broadly’ culturally based. And here is where my friend ‘The Fons’ comes in…

Fons Trompenaars is a Dutch author in the field of cross-cultural communication. His books include: Riding the Waves of Culture, Seven Cultures of Capitalism, Building Cross-Cultural Competence, 21 Leaders for the 21st Century and Innovating in a Global Crisis .

Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner have developed a model of culture with seven dimensions. There are five orientations covering the ways in which human beings deal with each other and in addition there is a different way in which societies look at time, and lastly the last important difference is the attitude of the culture to the environment.


Giving a potted run-down of their ideas (conveniently ‘stolen’ from Wikipedia), here the 7 things are;

1. Universalism vs. particularism.
What is more important, rules or relationships?

2. Individualism vs. collectivism (communitarianism)
Do we function in a group or as individuals?

3. Neutral vs. emotional
Do we display our emotions?

4. Specific vs. diffuse
How separate we keep our private and working lives

5. Achievement vs. ascription
Do we have to prove ourselves to receive status or is it given to us?


6. Sequential vs. synchronic
Do we do things one at a time or several things at once?

7. Internal vs. external control
Do we control our environment or are we controlled by it?

So, now we have the ‘big 7’ from ‘The Fons’ and Mr Turner, that is all I really want to take from them – the topics of their research! If you are interested in these areas more, go a websearch on the name – also related is earlier work by Hofstede. (But you know I’m really just putting this in the blog so you think that I look smart and knowledgable about these things!!!)

So, in order to try to get some lively discourse happening in the future, I will super-impose my own observations/opinions under these headings based on the things I have seen, felt and heard during my short stay in China! I’d really love for people to comment and see what we come up with!!

Keywords: china chat, women in China, real Chinese women

Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
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#2010-06-09 21:31:18 by justpmitch @justpmitch

1. In China relationships trump all else.

2. The nail that stands up gets hammered down.

3. Very carefully if you're Chinese. Depends on the relationship, personal or professional. In either case take care.

4.In China, completely separate. I've had close coworkers whom I've worked with for more than a year suddenly surprise me with a mention of their spouse, gf, bf or child. Ever notice the lack of family pics on Chinese office desks? There's your first clue.

5. Huh? What's your definition of "status?" Back up and try again. Money matters for most, but not all.

6. Multi tasking is a concept in progress here.

7. China "controls" its environment. Its still Middle Kingdom mentality. See the rain making artillery in Beijing and loose disregard for pollution everywhere else here.

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