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Talking at Cross Purposes Intercultural friendship on the international campus Joy van Helvert

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Presentation on theme: "Talking at Cross Purposes Intercultural friendship on the international campus Joy van Helvert"— Presentation transcript:

1 Talking at Cross Purposes Intercultural friendship on the international campus Joy van Helvert

2 The international campus: Intercultural dialogue? Is social interaction between host students and other ethnic groups really taking place at more than a cursory level? Is prejudice challenged or reinforced? Overall – insularity, despite a desire to connect – which suggests the claims for the international campus may be overstated. Prejudice can be both reinforced and challenged

3 The real question… What can we do to reduce prejudice promote friendship and dialogue…..? Aims: Shed light on three potential barriers encountered by Chinese students in their relationships with their British hosts. Consider the implications of these barriers and finally, what might be done to help students overcome them.

4 The research…. In-depth interviews with 20 Chinese students (single campus) Focus on micro-experiences of adjustment Voice of the student Situated in appropriate social, cultural & historical context 3 focus groups involving total of 13 teaching staff Use of Sense-Making gap metaphor

5 The gap metaphor GAP Questions, confusions Muddles, riddles Angst SITUATION Histories Experiences Identities Past horizons Present horizons Barriers & constraints Adapted from Dervin (2003) CONTEXT Power structures & dynamics Domain knowledge and systems Cultures and communities BRIDGE/ WAY FORWARD Ideas, cognitions, thoughts Attitudes, beliefs, values Feelings, emotions, intuitions Memories, stories, narratives SPACE-TIME

6 Three barriers to friendship: 1.Ethnic group strength The difficulty of going beyond the co-ethnic friendship group 2.Expectations of guest-host etiquette Holding back for others to break the ice 3.Contrasting patterns of friendship making The difficulty of developing trust

7 Chinese interpersonal connections Chinese society is based on networks of reciprocal personal relationships (guanxi) Each person is the centre of a unique web or relationships. Skilful handling of these relationships, including face maintenance, is regarded as an art or science –extensive vocabulary of terms every day use. Inside/Outside dichotomy (nei, wai) Strangers or those you have no connection with are outside – cannot be trusted. At times it depends on the situation - behaviour between individuals depends on this classification In virtually every case a boundary between what is inside (nei) and outside (wai) is significant. (Scollon and Scollon 1994) Instrumentality and affective feelings co-exist Connections are about sentiment but also about achieving things mutual usefulness framed by etiquette that demonstrates for each others dignity (Gates 1987:15)

8 Hwangs framework Sliding scale from stable expressive tie (family & friends – sentiment overrides instrumentality) through mixed tie (sentiment and instrumentality) to instrumental tie (functions to achieve the goals of each party – affective component minimal) (Hwang 1987) Sentiment (renqing) Instrumentality Expressive Tie Mixed Tie Instrumental Tie Adapted from (Hwang 1987)

9 Mixed Tie Relations (Hwang 1987) Bonds formed on the basis of a common attribute (tong qualities) Classmates (tongxue), members of the same village (tongxiang), colleagues (tongshi) Sentiment (renqing) Empathy – emotional response Gift or favour with reciprocal connotations Maintaining contacts with reticulum – exchanging gifts, greetings, visits do a renqing for someone. Established slowly – distinction between inside and outside

10 Three barriers to friendship: 1.Ethnic group strength The difficulty of going beyond the co-ethnic friendship group 2.Expectations of guest-host etiquette Holding back for others to break the ice 3.Contrasting patterns of friendship making The difficulty of developing trust

11 Those who expressed a desire to make a connection with host students cited shyness and lack of common ground (tong qualities) as obstacles. KTL: I just feel strange because I dont know how to talk with the foreigners because we dont know each other and I dont know how to start the topic…If somebody would have talked to me I would have talked to them! Yeah, its quite hard for me to talk to somebody first…If somebody talk to me and then I will think OK, quite easy. Understandable for any stranger coming to terms with a new environment – KRL reveals and additional more subtle expectation : KRL: I think Chinese students sometimes are really shy. So you know a Chinese student in England and in China is very different. In China they are very open…but here they [think] OK its up to you…Guest always very shy and is very careful…but host is very open and look after everything – is very good. Expectations of guest/host etiquette: You speak first

12 Western notions of shyness tend to be attributed to the nature of the person as a whole – S/hes a shy person. Historically in Chinese society the self was realised in accordance with a particular (dyadic) role (husband/wife, father/son…guest/host) with its associated etiquette: The host demonstrates ke qi (politeness) by doing everything to make the guest feel at home, and the guest returns ke qi by not imposing on the host (Gao and Ting Toomey 1998:46) Successful guesting and hosting can be part of a process of moving from being an outsider to being an insider – from being a stranger to being a trusted friend. (Yang 1994) Barrier to host friendship….

13 Implications If British students are framed in the role of host, Chinese students may expect them, for example, to break the ice at gatherings and take the initiative in friendship overtures. Shyness, at times could = non verbal communication to elicit corresponding host behaviour Failure to respond could damage face and reinforce Chinese students outsider status and therefore their preferences for co- ethnic friendships.

14 Cultural stereotype of Western friendship – neither deep nor enduring (Yang 1994:121) Difficulty establishing trust: JHN: Sometimes British people I think they dont know, they just talk to people they want to find something from that person. Like they want you to help them to do their work so they come and talk to you very nicely. After you help them yeah, they say OK, thanks, bye and they never talk to you again. Not remembering names : YWH:Its because of the social skill of China, which means you don't know where your business [will come] from. So, it should be better for you to remember everybody's name. Chinese people are very good at remembering peoples names. Which means we met once, we introduce each other and I will remember your name next time I will call a name, maybe you have forgot it but I will remember it, OK so if I call name again and again and again, which will make us closer… Its associated around guanxi. Expectations of friendship:

15 Contrasting friendship patterns Tendencies in British friendship patterns: Disconnection of sentiment and instrumentality – Western Enlightenment ideas – rise of market rationalism (Silver 1990) Range of friendship types (Spencer and Phal 2006: 65) From simplicity of an associate to the complexity of a soul mate. Intermediate type = Fun friends Some of these friendships may be quite casual, but they can also be very warm and affectionate relationships…Some friends are more fun than others, and friends who are especially good fun are often forgiven for lacking other friend like qualities, for example, they may be fun but flighty or irresponsible and feckless but their good company more than compensates for other short comings…The key point about fun friends is the lack of excessive obligations on either side University setting – Fun friendships - students left behind long established home based ties – new milieu – first taste of independent living.

16 Implications Overall value of British-style casual friendship as seen through Chinese eyes appears minimal. Lack of understanding of the cultural contrasts in friend-making behaviour makes it difficult to establish trust and therefore meaningful ties. Rejection can reinforce preferences for co-ethnic group friendship.

17 Conclusions Be mindful of ethnocentrism in developing strategies to encourage engagement between different ethnic groups on campus. Notions of friendship are culturally constructed Encourage British students to take on the host role? Raise awareness of different perspectives by creating opportunities for intercultural dialogue - spaces, places, events, forums – ad-hoc, formal, face to face, on-line – wherever! For example World Café style discussions: What is the nature of friendship? How do you become someones friend?

18 Overcoming barriers When I first arrived in the UK I felt very scared - maybe because Im a very shy person, but also back in China we were told in Western countries we should expect to experience discrimination. I never talked with any other British students and I only had a few very close friends but this year they all left, and I was on my own. So I stayed in my room all day. In my flat there was one Japanese girl and all the other students were British or European. I was in my room and my flatmates knocked on my door and invited me to the bar. I was so surprised you cant believe. I was like oh my god, you invite me to the bar! You know when you are lonely and people knock on your door its special - its so exciting. I thought oh my god they like me – maybe they wont discriminate! The first time was more exciting than I expected – I behaved like a kid! So I went to the bar and they asked me where I came from and whether I was a Communist. My British friends all study politics so they were interested in Communism. When they said they hated Communism I felt surprised because most of the time Chinese people would show their friends a positive face even if they didnt like something. But I began to understand about the British students – that is how they are, if they dont like something they just express it. I think for British students it is quite normal to challenge the opinions of others - but I surprised myself when I asked Japanese students about Japanese government policy towards China. Most Chinese students get misunderstood by Westerners just because they hesitate to ask these question - they never get to know the other persons opinion. Now I get on well with Japanese students whereas before I hated them. I was always thinking you Japanese people, you did lots of nasty things in WW2 and you never said sorry! It began to change when I was with some Japanese students watching a television documentary on the WW2. I was surprised when they cried because they felt ashamed of what their ancestors did to the Chinese people. After that I started to get along with them and we talked about the issue more and more. I understand now that as a small island country they felt they needed to protect them selves. So now I try hard to understand the perspectives of people from other countries.

19 Thank you Joy van Helvert References: Gao, G. and Ting-Toomey, S (1998) Communicating Effectively with the Chinese. Thousand Oaks: Sage Gates, H (1987) Chinese Working-Class Lives. Ithaca: Cornell University Press Hwang, K (1987) Face and Favour: The Chinese Power Game In The American Journal of Sociology Vol 92 Issue 4 Kim, Y. Y. (2001) Becoming Intercultural: An Integrative Theory of Communication and Cross-Cultural Adaptation Thousand Oaks: Sage Scollon, R. and Wong-Scollon, S. (1994) The post-Confucian Confusion, Hong Kong City Polytechnic University Silver, A (1990) Friendship in Commercial Society: Eighteenth-century social theory and modern sociology. The American Journal of Sociology 95 (6) Spencer, L. and Phal, R. (2006) Rethinking Friendship: Hidden solidarities today. Princeton: Princeton University Yang, M (1994) Gifts, Favours and Banquets: The art of social relations in China. New York: Cornell University Press

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