Friday, April 07, 2006

Culture clash

We had a delegation of Chinese businessmen visiting the New Building this week. They were hosted by my colleague X, who is Chinese herself, and who asked Plumbing S to give a presentation about emergency work. Which she did, after they'd all walked round a bit videoing everything that moved and some things that didn't.

Plumbing S is an inspiring presenter, regularly moving people to tears and/or standing ovations, but she found this presentation quite hard going. First of all it was via a translator, which slows it all down a bit. Then her wireless 'wave in the air' mouse packed up, so she had to perch on the edge of the desk and use the fixed one. Various of them talked all the way through it in little groups, and they had no qualms about getting up and leaving the room in the middle, to answer calls of nature or calls of other kinds.

But she got there in the end. Any questions, she asked. There was only one -- one of them said to the translator "Why is the English woman sitting on the desk?" How spectacularly rude.

The translator didn't translate the question, but what nobody in the room knew is that the English woman studied Mandarin at Cambridge, and understood it anyway.

It would have been the coolest thing in the world to have replied in Mandarin: "Because that's how we give presentations in England. Why are the Chinese men talking at the back?"

But, having studied Mandarin at Cambridge, she knows a bit about face, so she didn't. Instead, they all had their photo taken with her (she's a bit of a babe, is Plumbing S) and everyone bowed.



Blogger GUAGUAU said...


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Blogger Spine said...


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