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Cross-cultural Encounters

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1 Cross-cultural Encounters
Scenarios We need to be able to interact effectively with people from other cultures. These exercises are designed to improve inter-cultural communication skills.

2 Culture Shared knowledge Shared values Shared perspectives
Shared beliefs Shared behaviour Generalisations and stereotypes Stereotypes are dangerous!

3 Culture Ethnocentrism
We tend to use the norms of our own culture as standards when we judge the behaviour of people from other cultures. We need to try to understand the world from other cultural perspectives. We are often not even aware of the cultural assumptions that we make.

4 An Individualist culture The need for personal space/privacy
English Culture An Individualist culture The need for personal space/privacy Independence/self reliance High achievement/career Take credit and responsibilty for what we have achieved

5 English Culture Reluctance to accept compliments
Reluctance to answer personal questions A clear and firm distinction between your private and your public life Westerners tend to speak directly-plainly and openly- We ‘get to the point’ Tolerant of behaviour that does not conform to cultural norms-accept a wide range of views and values Family relationships-care of elderly/independence of the young.

6 Chinese Culture A Collectivist culture-view themselves as members of a group-family/work unit/-consider the needs of the group to be more important than the needs of the individual Obligation to help others in their group Generosity The host culture Modesty Tend to communicate in a way that is more indirect and subtle High degree of conformity is expected-a clear consensus as to what is/is not acceptable behaviour. Pressure to conform Self respect, dignity and ‘face’ are perhaps more important in Chinese culture.

7 Understanding other cultures

8 Intercultural communication
Rule 1: Be careful, and don't jump to conclusions too quickly. Rule 2: Try to see things from the foreigner's perspective. Is it possible that this foreigner means something different? If so, what could it be? Rule 3: Always keep trying to learn more and understand better.

9 Encounters 1.Why didn’t she want my help? 2.The shopper
3.Reading Alone 4.Not Eating 5..The taxi 6.Getting to Know You 7.The Gift 8.Out of the Nest 9.Grandma 10.The Compliment 11.Who should pay for the meal? 12.The Banquets 13.The Kiss 14.The English Teacher 15.Grades 16.The Interview

10 The Encounters-short stories
Critical incident exercises start with a presentation of a short story describing a problematic encounter between two different cultures-an encounter in which there is some kind of misunderstanding. There are different possible explanations for what may have gone wrong. A broad range of possibilities are considered when considering the behaviour of people from other cultures. There is no ‘right ‘explanation of the situation.

11 Encounters Encounters builds students awareness of how they go about interpreting the behaviour of foreigners. They encourage the habit of pausing to consider alternative possible explanations of puzzling or problematic behaviour on the part of foreigners, rather than jumping to often ethnocentric and wrong conclusions.

12 Why didn’t she want my help?
This summer at your school there is a short term English Training Course being offered by several western Teachers and you have been assigned as one of the assistants for the programme. The western teachers have not been in China before, and don’t speak Chinese, so your duty is to help them with daily life issues and to generally serve as a host while they are in China. It is also your duty to make sure that they remain safe while they are in China. During a break between classes, you overhear Jane, one of the older western teachers, say that she needs to buy some T-shirts. You offer to go out shopping with her this afternoon, but Jane says, ”No thank you” and then rushes off to class. The next day you overhear the students talking about how Jane got lost yesterday when she went off alone to a market on the other side of the city to shop for the T-shirts.

13 Why didn’t she want my help?
1. First, decide how you would feel when you heard the students talking about Jane. 2. Think of several possible explanations for why Jane turned down your offer of help to take her shopping. (There is no single right answer but there are a number of likely possibilities.) 3. Talk with your teacher about this situation and see what she thinks of the explanations you suggest.

14 Why didn’t she want my help?
Discussion questions Why do you think westerners think it is impolite to ask how much money someone makes or how much they spend on an item? Why do you think westerners feel privacy is so important? Why do you think westerners place so much importance on independence?

15 Group analysis/discussion of one of the Encounters

16 Working together-one person writes-but all share ideas

17 The shopper The Shopper Xiao Wang is out shopping and in a store he sees a middle aged western woman who is trying to ask the storekeeper how much an item costs. The woman looks frustrated and is using lots of sign language but the storekeeper still does not understand what she wants. Xiao Wang decides that this would be a good chance to practice his English, so he goes over, explains to the clerk what the tourist wants and then tells the tourist how much the item costs. The tourist says thank you, and then begins looking at other items in the store. Encouraged by his success, Xiao Wang asks the tourist if she would like him to acts as interpreter as she shops. The tourist however says “no, thank you” and then walks off to another part of the store.

18 The Shopper How do you think Xiao Wang might have felt when the shopper refused his offer of help? What do you think Xiao Wang expected? Why do you think the shopper refused his offer of help? List several possible explanations and then decide which seems to be the most likely.

19 Reading Alone At Xiao Lee’s school there is a western teacher called Mrs. Coates who Xiao Lee often sees and chats with in the cafeteria. Several times Mrs. Coates has told Xiao Lee that she would be welcome to come over and visit her some time and so one evening, after dinner, Xiao Lee decides to go to visit her. Xiao Lee arrives at Mrs. Coates apartment, knocks, and Mrs. Coates opens the door. When Mrs. Coates sees Xiao Lee she smiles and says, “It was nice of you to come over, but I just want to spend an evening by myself reading. Could I ask you to come back at another time?” Why do you think that Mrs. Coates says she wants to read rather than inviting Xiao Lee in? List several possible explanations and then choose those that seem to be the most likely.

20 Reading Alone Many westerners feel that it is a good thing to have some ‘personal time’, i.e. to spend some time alone doing whatever they would like to do. ‘Alone’ does not necessarily mean ‘lonely.’ In China do people feel that they need ‘personal time’ or time when they are alone? In China, when guests visit, what are your obligations? Are there occasions when you can turn them away? Among westerners some invitations are ‘polite’ and others are ‘real.’ In China, do you have both polite invitations and ‘solid invitations?’ If so, how can you tell the difference between them?

21 Not Eating Why do you think that Nancy is eating so little?
Xiao Wang has invited an American friend named Nancy home for dinner and Xiao Wang’s family has prepared a large meal in honour of the guest with lots of local specialities. However soon after the meal begins it is obvious that Nancy is not eating much. Several times Xiao Wang and his family encourage Nancy to eat more, and each time she is urged to do so Nancy eats a little bit more, but still not very much. However, each time the family urges Nancy to eat more, she comments on how wonderful the food is. Why do you think that Nancy is eating so little? List several possible explanations and then choose those that seem to be the most likely.


23 The taxi - Xiao Lee Scholarship - study in UK
Arrives by plane at Heathrow Waits in the queue - takes a taxi Luggage in back Shows address to driver On arrival - taxi meter reads £32.50 Driver asks for £50! Why? In groups discuss and think of as many possible reasons -good /bad, likely/unlikely

24 The Taxi-Solutions and counsequences?
What could she do? What should she do? What would you do and why? What could be the consequences?

25 The Taxi Is tipping a good custom or a bad custom?
Are their situations in China where it is appropriate to tip? If so, how much? How and when do you present the tip? What kinds of extra charges might surprise a western tourist in China?

26 Getting to Know You Xiao Lee has recently arrived in a western country to study English and moves into a dormitory with western graduate students. Xiao Lee is the only international student in her Hall. On the first day there is a party for all the people in Xiao Lee’s Hall of Residence. First they have a planning meeting where they all sit in a circle and introduce themselves, and when Xiao Lee says where she is from, one of the other women say, “You will have to tell us all about your country,” and the other people all agree. Xiao Lee is pleased because she wants to tell them about China. Later, when the party starts, Xiao Lee waits for people to come and talk to her about China, but instead all of the western students talk to each other, and nobody comes over to talk to Xiao Lee.

27 Getting to Know You How do you think Xiao Lee might have felt?
What do you think she expected? Why do you think that no-one went over to talk to Xiao Lee about China? List several possible explanations and then choose those that seem to be the most likely.

28 The Gift Xiao Wang has been granted a special scholarship to an American University, and his English Teacher, Mrs. Coates, wrote a recommendation for him that was instrumental in his getting the scholarship. Xiao Wang feels very grateful to Mrs. Coates, and so decides to buy her an expensive gift, a landscape painting, as a way of saying thank you to her. One day after his class has ended and the other students have left, Xiao Wang presents the gift to Mrs. Coates. Looking surprised, Mrs. Coates says thank you, but says that she can’t accept it. Xiao Wang offers the gift several more times but Mrs. Coates insists on refusing it.

29 The Gift Why do you think that Mrs. Coates will not accept the gift?
List several possible reasons and then decide which seems to be the most likely. What are the customs for gift giving and receiving in China? In China, what are some appropriate ways to express thanks to someone who has helped you? Is there a clear difference between a gift and a bribe?

30 Out of the Nest When Xiao Lee is getting on the bus, she drops one of her packages. A young man picks it up for her, and as the bus starts Xiao Lee begins to chat with him. He says that he is 18 years old and has always lived in this town. Although his family laso live in the same town, he lives alone in a small apartment. He has just graduated from High School this year and is now a student at the local university. Xiao Lee asks him where he is going and he says that he is going to work-he has an evening job at a restaurant to make money to pay for university. He says that although his family is not poor, he doesn’t want to live with them or ask them for money. Why do you think that this young man does not live with his family or get any money from them? List several possible explanations and then choose those that seem to be the most likely.

31 Out of the Nest Most western cultures place great stress on self-reliance and independence, and young people normally leave home at around 18 years of age. In China, do students take part-time jobs?

32 Grandma Xiao Wang is visiting a western teacher he knows and looking at pictures of her family. He sees a picture of her grandmother and asks the teacher about her. The teacher says that her grandmother is 83 years old and lives in a small town. Xiao Lee asks if the grandmother lives with any of the other family members, but the teacher says that she lives alone-all the other family members have moved away. Why do you think that the grandmother lives alone, instead of with the other family members? List several possible explanations and then choose those that seem to be the most likely.

33 The Compliment Xiao Wang is visiting a local museum, and there he meets an older western man. Unfortunately the explanations of the exhibits are not translated into English and the man can’t read them, so Xiao Wang offers to explain all the exhibits to him. However, as he begins he soon finds that it is very difficult to explain about all the ancient artefacts in English because there are many words that it is very difficult to explain in English. He makes a lot of mistakes, and often has to admit that he doesn’t know how to say what he wants to say in English. By the time they reach the end of the museum, Xiao Wang feels very tired and discouraged because there are so many things that he can’t say in English. However, the man smiles and thanks Xiao Wang for his help, and then says “Your English is very good.” Xiao Wang says, “I’m sorry. My English is very poor.”

34 The Compliment What do you think the American really thought about Xiao Wang’s English, and why did he compliment him? List several possible reasons and then decide which seems to be the most likely. When and how are compliments usually given in China, and how does one respond? In some western countries there is a saying “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” In China, is it better to say nice things, even if they aren’t true, or to always be honest?

35 The compliment Culture note: Chinese people sometimes respond to compliments by directly rejecting them (“My English is really poor”) Westerners more often respond to compliments with the following strategies: Accept it-Thank you and then to return the compliment. Deflect it-Often Westerners will accept the compliment by saying thank you, but then quickly pass the credit on to someone else. Thank, but decline- they may feel that the compliment is unjustified or cannot be accepted and so they will thank the person for the compliment but without accepting it-“It’s nice of you to say so.” “That’s very kind of you.”

36 Who should pay for the meal?
Who pays? Marie is an American exchange student who has recently come to China to study. A Chinese friend met her in town and after a while invited her to go for dinner. They went to a small restaurant nearby and they each had a meal of noodles. The Chinese friend felt that as she was new to the town that she should pay for the meal and that she should treat her to the meal. The Chinese girl paid for the meal. However Marie, the American student was not happy and wanted to pay for her own meal. The Chinese student kept refusing to take her money and finally Marie agreed but she still did not seem to be very happy about the arrangement. The Chinese friend found the experience a little awkward and unpleasant. She did not have that good feeling that she usually had when she treated her Chinese friends to a meal. Why did the American student feel so strongly that she should pay for her own meal?

37 The Banquets Xiao Wang works for a Chinese Company and has been given the responsibility of making arrangements for Mr. Smith, a westerner who will visit the company for a week. Xiao Wang arranges all the meals for Mr. Smith and makes sure that there is always plenty of food at each of the meals. Mr. Smith says that he enjoys the meals, but after three days of these banquets he starts to get annoyed with Xiao Wang for some reason. He says that he likes to make his own decisions about what to eat, at least some of the time and that he doesn’t like being served more food than he can eat at each meal. He becomes more unhappy and annoyed and Xiao Wang cannot understand this and begins to feel that he should be more appreciative of all the efforts that he has made for him. He thinks that Mr. Smith is being ungrateful. Why are there these problems between Mr. Smith and Xiao Wang? How could this misunderstanding have been avoided?

38 The Kiss May is a Graduate student in China and over the past few weeks has become friends with Earl, a western student studying Chinese at the same university. They often see each other at social gatherings and they have got to know each other very well. One weekend, Earl asked May to go to the cinema with him. They went for a meal and then to the movie and afterwards they talked for a long time and then Earl walked May home. When it was time to say goodnight, Earl took May’s hand and then kissed her. She was a little surprised, but was not unhappy because May liked him a great deal. May then started to tell her friends that Earl was her boyfriend. However, one of May’s Chinese girlfriends advised her that westerners were very casual about relationships between men and women. She said that May should be careful about letting him kiss her because he probably wasn’t very serious about his interest in her. What do you think? What did Earl’s good night kiss mean? What do you think Earl’s intentions are towards May?

39 The English Teacher Situation:
Xiao Wang is taking an English class which is taught by a Western teacher. Xiao Wang's teacher never lectures on grammar; instead the class usually consists of conversations in pairs or large group discussions of cultural issues. Today, Xiao Wang was confused about how to use "the" and "a" in English, so in class she asked the teacher to explain. However, instead of explaining, she said: "I generally prefer not to explain grammar rules. Tell me what you want to say and I will tell you how to say it correctly." Why do you think the teacher refused to explain? List several possible explanations and then choose several which seem most likely.

40 The English Teacher Some possible interpretations: The teacher avoids explaining grammar because she doesn't know how to explain grammar very well (and doesn't like it very much). The teacher doesn't think grammar is important. The teacher's main goal is to build students' communication skills, so she focuses more on communication and fluency than on grammar.

41 The English Teacher The teacher refuses to give long explanations because she thinks they will slow down the lesson. She feels her method is more efficient. The teacher thinks the students rely too much on memorizing grammar rules, so tries to encourage them to figure out rules for themselves.

42 Grades Situation: Xiao Lee's first semester at a university abroad is coming to a close, and next week she needs to turn in her final paper for an economics course. Today in class the professor of the course says that next week when everyone turns in their papers he also wants everyone to give him a note saying what grade they think they deserve for this course. Why do you think the professor asked students to give themselves a grade? List several possible explanations and then choose several which seem most likely.

43 Grades Some possible interpretations:
The professor feels that he is being fair or democratic; he feels that students have a right to have their opinion considered in the grading process. (He may not give students exactly the grade they think they deserve.) The professor wants to know students' opinion of their own work because it will be helpful information as he decides their grades. (He may not agree with their assessment.)

44 Grades The professor asks students to give themselves grades because he wants them to reflect on their own performance. He feels students will learn better if they evaluate themselves. The professor doesn't feel grades are very important, and he wants to minimize the pressure of grades. (He will give students more or less what they ask for.) The professor doesn't feel grading is right, but has to give some kind of grade. Having students decide their grades cuts down on the professor's work.

45 The Interview Situation:
Xiao Wang is being interviewed for a job with an American company. The interviewer, a middle-aged American woman, first asks several questions about his educational background, work experience, and why he wants this job. Then she asks Xiao Wang what salary he would expect. Why do you think the interviewer asked Xiao Wang what salary he expected? List several possible expectations and then choose several which seem most likely.

46 The Interview Some possible interpretations:
The interviewer is testing Xiao Wang to see how he deals with an awkward question. The interviewer wants to see if Xiao Wang knows the profession and normal pay scales in it. The interviewer wants to see how confident Xiao Wang is of his worth.

47 The Interview Follow-up discussion questions:
For Westerners, one part of the purpose of a job interview is to get a sense of what candidates are like and how they handle themselves. It is therefore not uncommon for interviewers to ask at least one or two questions that are awkward or difficult to handle, in order to see how candidates perform under pressure. The question about salary in the situation above is one example. Another might be: Why do you think you are qualified for this job? (Issue of balancing modesty with confidence.) In China, do interviewers ever intentionally ask difficult questions?

48 The Interview British and American folk tend to avoid asking or talking about what their salary is, possibly because it is such a potent marker of status and because we try to be relatively egalitarian. How do Chinese people feel about this topic? In China, when is it acceptable to ask about someone else's salary, and in what situations? Is it ever rude?

49 The Interview Describe a strategy for coping with job interviews in China (how to prepare, dress, etc.). How much are interviews used in China as a means of recruiting? If interviews aren't used for selecting candidates for jobs, how is it done?

50 Encounters with Westerners
Encounters with Westerners: Improving Skills in English and Intercultural Communication Don Snow ISBN Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press


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