Expats try to tackle cultural differences
SHANGHAI: "Chickens have all the bones in them. And they keep the feet."
"People stare at us."
"Personal space is very different."
New expatriates in Shanghai explored cultural and practical differences of living in the city, and China, during a seminar on Saturday.
About a hundred new and not so new foreigners now living in the metropolis shared their experiences at a restaurant closed for the event in People's Square.
Early September and after the Chinese New Year traditionally see the largest influx of new expatriates coming to Shanghai, said Scott Rosenberg of Cross Cultural Interchange, the company that sponsored the seminar along with Kathleen Lau, author of Riding the Dragon, a guidebook to living in Shanghai.
The company provides cultural training, helping companies and individuals communicate better with people of different background. It is slowly growing, as corporations realize that just plugging in a foreign executive and his family here may not always work.
"At my last job at Microsoft," said Rosenberg, "they brought an expat and his family."
Without support to build a life here, he said, "within two months they were gone." A lack of cultural understanding "affects the lengths of assignments," he said.
Business relationships, said Lau, are often more personal and require a deeper connection if they are to succeed.
"We are talking about a relatively rigid (social) system," Lau told the audience.
"As a foreigner in China, basically your status is a guest."
Ultimately, she said, there is a need among business associates to create a connection that goes beyond a simple five hours meeting. There is a need for the basics of friendship.
"In this country you don't do business with associates," she said. There is no avoiding friendship if business is to be done.
"A lot of the things are different because it's a different culture," explained Anna Rundshagen, of Cross Cultural Interchange underscoring the overarching message.
Things are rapidly changing in Shanghai. Even in the 11 years since Rundshagen first arrived in the city the standard of living has risen dramatically.
"Shanghai is a town that is very dynamic, but because of this dynamic nature you get a lot of surprises that you don't get anywhere else."
(China Daily 09/26/2005 page2)