A taste of African culture for mainlanders
Different languages, cultural traits, misleading stereotypes - all the usual suspects of cultural misunderstanding emerge in a study of the African trading community in Guangzhou. But there was a bright side to the findings, published this year by the China Quarterly: half the respondents said they never or seldom had communication problems. Many said they communicated via calculator and basic English or French.
The study was conducted by Dr Adams Bodomo of the University of Hong Kong, who sent out 100 questionnaires and received 77 valid replies. The study's authors interviewed four community leaders, from Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Cameroon, who said they were an essential link in the business chain between Africa and the mainland. They complained about the negative image of Africa and Africans.
'In the media, African people are portrayed as dying of Aids, hunger and starvation,' one said.
Africans in Guangzhou can provide its people with a direct experience of the continent and African culture, they said. They also spoke of their contribution by employing and training Chinese people.
The study included an in-depth interview with a Chinese assistant at a casual-wear shop in the Canaan market. She described her customers, mainly from Ghana and Nigeria, as avid buyers. But she complained that many did not keep their promises, not collecting goods on the date agreed or not having the money to pay.
She found Africans too direct, with some asking for her phone number and her address on the first meeting. 'Some of them have even said 'I love you' on the first meeting, behaviour she cannot bear as a Chinese person.'
This is an edited version of a story which was published in the Sunday Morning Post on November 29