Some face-saving tips

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 April, 2009, 12:00am

We all know there are differences between Chinese and western culture. The most obvious one is 'face'. To Chinese people, face is paramount. They are really sensitive about it in social life and business because it is a symbol of their status. If we cause someone to lose face, the relationship will probably be ruined.

Insulting or criticising someone in front of others should be avoided. Westerners may think it is common to make fun of friends, but Chinese usually find it offensive.

Do not treat somebody as a junior when he or she is in a higher position. It will easily offend them.

Face can be given. You can praise someone in front of others because of their good work. Thanking someone for being helpful is a good idea. Helping a person to avoid embarrassment is the most direct and useful way.

Just bear in mind some things should not be done because, in some Chinese people's minds, the value of face is as precious as their lives.

Giselle Ng, The Mission Covenant Church Holm Glad College

From the Editor

Thanks for your letter, Giselle. Things can always be awkward when two cultures meet. No one likes to be ridiculed or publicly admonished, but yes, western people do joke among friends in a manner that some people could find hurtful.

Also, western people prefer people to be forthright and open about their thoughts and feelings, to a point.

You are quite right when you say we should always help a person to avoid embarrassment. The problem comes in over what people consider an embarrassment.

Susan, Editor