In preparation for our upcoming move to Shanghai, NIKE connected us with a intercultural consultant. We spent a couple hours with Julie discussing what we wanted to gain from the experience of living in a foreign country and what our expectations might be. She spent focused and dedicated time on Greg as the spouse is usually the one in for the biggest lifestyle change. The employee is quickly swept into the NIKE world no matter what country and quickly becomes busy with work.
She talked to us about the idea of differences and gently shared with us an example of shopping for chicken in a local street market in Old Shanghai. She said as alarming as choosing the chicken from a cage and watching as the butcher chops its head off, plucks it, strings it and hands it to you might be, she is working with a Chinese woman who just recently moved from Shanghai to Beaverton and was appalled to see a “chicken” wrapped in plastic, stacked in the refrigerator section at Fred Meyers. “How do I know it’s fresh? Where did it come from? How long has it been dead?”
She shared with us that the Chinese often spit. “What’s that?” As most people know I have a bit of a germ problem and the idea of spitting just here and there anytime one feels like it seems, well, just wrong. She then explained that when she’s working with the Chinese about moving to the U.S. they feel that blowing your nose into a piece of paper and sticking it in your pocket is well, just as wrong.
She left us with a book titled Culture Shock. I have found it to be very helpful and have found some interesting useful tips when dining out. First is that slurping one’s soup is considered completely acceptable and burping at the table, during and after a meal is a compliment. But the most telling lesson I read was that when dining with a business client or out for a special event, eating everything on your plate only means you are still hungry and the host will pile on another serving.
This is in direct conflict from the way I was raised. I was told, to eat everything on my plate. I was shamed into believing that “children in China are starving” and I was contributing to their hunger by not finishing the liver and onions served that night. Well, according to Culture Shock – this is simply not true. In China, had I left the nasty liver and onions on my plate I would have been sending the message that I was full, happy and content. And had I delivered a large belch at the end of the dinner, I would have been paying the highest level of compliment to my mom.