Cultural differences on politeness

By Leonard Cole,2014-06-29 23:33
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Cultural differences on politeness

    Cultural differences on politeness between western and Chinese can be found in many aspects of daily communication, including, greeting and parting

    addressing,compliments, apologies, thanks, etc. In the following, we will look at

    some cultural differences between China and western.

    1. Greeting and Parting

    When people meet friends, people usually greet each other. The purpose of greeting is to establish or maintain social contact. In English, people often employ the following expressions to greet each other “Good

    morning/evening/afternoon. “Fine day, isn’t it? ”How is everything going?” Have you eaten yet?” What are you going to do?” Where have you been?”etc. Westerners treat them as real question. While in Chinese, we always say “你吃了

    吗?”“你上哪里去?”“你干什么去?”to show our consideration.

    Parting may be divided into two steps. Before the final prating, there is usual a leave-taking. Western and Chinese cultures have diverse ways to deal with leave-takings. Firstly, in English society, during the closing phase of an encounter, from ”I” perspective, Typical comments are associated with expressions of

    apology, such as “I” am afraid I must be off, I have to relieve the baby-sitter” etc.

    Western people believe that to terminate the visiting is not of one’s own free will,

    therefore they always try to make their leaving sound reluctant by finding some reasons and apologize for it to make the leaving acceptable for both parties. In Chinese society, during the closing phase of and encounter, usually, from a “you ”perspective. Such expressions include“你挺忙的?我就不多打扰了。”“

    一定累了?早点休息吧?我要告辞了。”, etc.

    2. Addressing

    Both western and Chinese people have two kinds of personal names---a surname

    and a given name. But the order and the use of these names in the two languages are somewhat different. In Chinese, the surname comes first and then the given name. And people like add“”before their family name. Such as“小王

    小李小徐”and so on. While westerners names are written and spoken

    with the given name first and the family name last. So John Smith's family name is Smith, not John. In a formal setting, address men as "Mister" (abbreviated as "Mr."), married women as "Misses" (abbreviated as "Mrs."), and unmarried women as "Miss" (abbreviated as "Ms."). In an informal situation,westerners will introduce each other by first name, without titles, and occasionally by just the last name. If you are introduced to somebody by first name, you can address him or her by first name the next time you meet. Another difference is about the

    form of addressing. In calling their superiors or elders, the Chinese are accustomed to the nonreciprocal or asymmetrical addressing, in other words. They use “title +surname” to address their superior or elders rather than call

    them surnames, while the superior or elders call the addressers their names. The But in English speaking countries, people have a tendency to follow the

    reciprocal or symmetrical addressing. Although they are different in age and status, they can call the other directly, namely, their names, even first names

    demonstrating the sense of intimacy and the conception of” Everyone is created


     3.Compliments and Response To compliment is to praise the addressee. Western

    and Chinese culture are at polar opposites about compliment. The English-speaking people are more active to praise others and to be praise than Chinese people. For example, the Americans are “straight forwardness”, the Chinese take pride in “modesty”. A western hostess, if she is complimented for

    her cooking skill, is likely to say,” Oh, I am so glad that you liked it. I cook it

    especially for you.” Not so is a Chinese hostess, who will instead apologize for giving you “Nothing”. They will say“随便作几个菜?不好吃。”If translate this

    into English“I just made some dishes casually and they are not very tasty. Perhaps the foreigner will think why you invite me to you family and have the untasty food. You aren't respect me.

    Chinese are tend to efface themselves in words or refuse it, although they do feel comfortable about the compliments. So many westerners simply feel puzzled or even upset when their Chinese friends refused their compliments. The Chinese people are not intending to be modest with the sacrifice of friendship in so doing, but it is rather due to the traditional Chinese philosophy, that of modesty. 4.Apologies and Responses

    If wrong things are done, there must be apologies. Both western and Chinese people may “I am sorry….”,”I apologize for…”. Etc. The ways to respond to

    apologies are different, too.

    A: Oh, I’m sorry. I forget it.

    B1: It doesn’t matter.

    B2: That’s all right.

    B2 is westerners. B1 is a Chinese person. “It doesn’t matter” is a translation of 没关系”from Chinese, which is a common pattern in Chinese to respond to

    apologies. If a Chinese uses this to respond to apologies, westerners will think that he is a sharp person, who simply cannot forgive a very little wrong thing. 5. Thanks and Responses

    Cultural differences exist between Chinese and western in how to express thanks and responses. In fact, “Thank you” is uttered in English for more than acknowledging favor or gratitude, and it is often a means to show politeness. On many occasions, the English use this utterance while the Chinese may say “有劳

    您了。”or do not say a word at all but just smile or nod.

    “Thank you” not only shows politeness but also carries a person’s grateful feeling for those who offer help. Without using expressions of gratitude, misunderstandings may arise because the help seems to be taken for granted and is not appreciated, For westerners, each person is an equal individual, whether he is a family member of not. In Chinese, “谢谢”is not frequently used between

    intimate friends and family members because it may imply a certain distance between the addresser and the addressee.

    Native speakers may respond to “Thank you ” by saying: You are welcome /It’s a

    /my pleasure/ Not at all/ Don’t mention it/That’s all right. While Chinese people

    may say:“这是我应该做的 which may convey to westerners the message that the Chinese did not really want to do it, or that he

    /she did it only because it wall his/her duty.

    6. Asking Personal Affairs

    People from China do not regard it as asking personal affairs when they ask others nameyearmarital statuswagespersonal lifebelief and political points.

    It is regard as concerns. While the westerns will think you violate their right of

    privacy. when we talk to the westerns, we must avoid asking some questions like

    “How many children do you this:“How old are you?”“Are you married

    have“How much do you make“What’s your weight?”“Do you go to

    the church

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