Lie to me Because we’re Friends

Truth Hurts

“Lie” is a strong word but I’ve decided I’m going to use it anyway… As westerners get in closer touch with Asian counterparts, who seemingly hold the future of the global economy in their hands, we are tasked with understanding their ways. By “ways” I mean culture, language, and identity. You could read volumes on Chinese culture, history, and customs, but they wouldn’t prepare you for the actual events that you will inevitably experience. Just like reading the operation manual of a submarine, you might find that just jumping into one and tinkering with the controls would be loads more effective. But you should remember a few pointers and “lie to me because you care” is one of them. Continue reading Lie to me Because we’re Friends

Fibs are for Friends: Dishonesty a Virtue in China

Saving Face

The other day I found myself in a taxi on the way to pick up my girlfriend. It was raining heavily and a we were on the way to the Zhuhai North light rail station. I knew the taxi was a little grimy inside and the driver was smoking a cigarette, so I thought I should dump it before picking her up. At first I thought, “maybe I should tell him a lie to make a stop somewhere so that I can politely switch taxis. After all, this is China and this kind of excuse should be common to save the other person’s (the driver’s) face.”

I texted my girlfriend to call me and ask me to stop somewhere in order to make the deceit believable. Her reply was something like “What are you talking about?” She was confused, at first and didn’t go along with the plot.

After I managed to find a good enough “reason” why I needed to get out early, I called her and said, “Why didn’t you go along with my fib?” Continue reading Fibs are for Friends: Dishonesty a Virtue in China

Ben’s Dragon Year 2012

The Chinese New Year 2012 holidays have finished but I’ve had a great time visiting friends in both Taiwanand Wuhan. (I’ve posted photos in my Photo Album on QQ.) I was told that Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangdong province ID holders are allowed to visit Taiwan without a tour group now. So, if you are from one of these places, take advantage of your new freedom soon!

And, by the way, Wuhan is hiding most of China’s beautiful women (and handsome men) from the rest of the country!  


 图片   图片 (Alishan, Taiwan)                                                          (Wuhan, Hubei)

Continue reading Ben’s Dragon Year 2012

Get over the Great Fire Wall for free Forever

Are you in China and looking for a way to get over internet censorship which blocks you from not only social media, but also productivity tools such as Google Docs? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Just follow the next few steps and you will ALWAYS have a secure internet connection, for FREE, FOREVER!

Step 1: Go to Ninjacloak.com, which allows you to get over the wall anyway… but sadly, you can’t use all of the functions of websites requiring javascript. Most social sites and productivity tools require this, so you’re out of luck by using Ninjacloak alone.

Step 2: On this browser-based service, you have to enter the website which provides the most recent form of FreeGate (by Dynaweb). If you have FreeGate already and it stops working, you’ll have no way to update unless you get to step 3. Continue reading Get over the Great Fire Wall for free Forever

5 Ways to Keep from Losing Your Mind in China

"What the...?"

China is a very exciting country to be in for many reasons. For most foreigners here, you’ve come for business or travel. But with so many possible activities to do, there remains one thing you can’t avoid: communication. Communication in modern China is probably not much different than how it was a hundred years ago, before simplified Chinese came around. Contrary to one assumption, communication hasn’t gotten any simpler. In fact, if you aren’t prepared, it can be very easy to lose your mind. That’s where the group of foreigners in China gets separated… and the ones who can’t handle it end up going home “for good”. Here is what that group should have taken into consideration.

1) Laugh your problems away: This is one of the toughest things to get used to. It’s the awkward giggle/chuckle you hear when a something goes wrong. Perhaps you gave a direct comment that surprised your secretary. Maybe a friend didn’t help you do a task correctly. Anything that takes effort could potentially be done wrong, and a laugh is a way to combat losing face. In order to combat frustration, I usually make a game out of guessing what will go wrong. When a mistake is made, or a misunderstanding occurs, I compare it with my original guess. It is a little pessimistic, but it often helps me laugh the problems away. Continue reading 5 Ways to Keep from Losing Your Mind in China

Staying in China and Facing the Dip

Keep focused

What may come as a surprise for some friends, family, and students has actually been a defining moment for keeping the last 7 years of my life from gathering dust. Originally, my 5 year plan saw me coming back to New England, finding a job, and perhaps marrying a Chinese Harvard grad! But since publishing that plan I realized that none of my plans would appropriately take advantage of my valuable experience in Asia. I have made a decision based on the realization that completely moving back home would not have been the best investment of my time, business relationships, and experience. Some might be thinking, “Where did this change come from?” or “Isn’t this a little sudden?” I understand that reaction, but have a different way of  looking at it. Since it might be a bit much to swallow all at once, I’ll just describe what has been going through my mind over the past three or four weeks.

“Don’t Quit” … “Be a Jack of all Trades”  … “Diversify” Continue reading Staying in China and Facing the Dip

New Threat! Water Armies All Across China

The Water Army is Coming!

Although they  sound like a new villain from a Hollywood movie, they are less scary in person. They are soldiers of propaganda, using whatever free-speech tools they can muster to win the hearts and minds of a voting public. But this is not a political tale, rather, it is a commercial one; and the votes are cast with Ren Min Bi (Chinese Yuan).

So, where does this “Water Army” come from? In fact, it is a Chinese term which has been causing difficulties for consumer protection around the Chinese Internet.  Imagine you go to a forum online and look for information about insurance, a new car, or even a toaster. Hundreds or thousands of these soldiers are hired for cheap, usually ¥0.7 RMB ($.01) per post, and begin a campaign to sway public opinion toward or against various products. In a country where the average worker makes 20-25RMB ($3) per hour, it is economically feasible for Water Armies to exist. Continue reading New Threat! Water Armies All Across China

Zhuhai Hospitality- Catic Hotel

Catic Hotel – Zhuhai

March 12, 2007 – 4:00pm Meeting with …. The Whole Staff! Johnson (Wang Manager-Lobby) Simon (Yan Asst. Manager-Lobby)

A situation that I wanted to avoid became unavoidable today! My intention was to meet the manager(s) of the Guest Relations office or Front office. I hoped to discuss what their specific situation is like before meeting the staff altogether. I thought this would be a good step-by-step approach. This is China right?? But, i got a kind of rushed (almost Western) feeling.

I arrived on time, greeted by Wang Qi, the bellboy who was my initial contact. He had been there for 2 years and his English was severely lacking- my first conundrum, although extremely friendly. He took me to the 3rd floor and we stopped outside the VIP conference room. That’s when he said “Everyone is here.” I said “really?? well… this is not what i expected. I’m not prepared to hold a class. I should talk to the manager first.” Then, the Asst. Mngr., Simon, came out to talk to me. He said “Hello, nice to meet you!” I also met Manager Wang. They told me about 20 staff members were waiting in the meeting room…

Now, i wanted to just meet these two men and discuss returning for a few classes, however, a new situation slapped me in the face: an actual class! So, I told them it would be a short meeting with the staff and in I went… I was applauded and got a standing ovation. I was under pressure!

I basically adapted what i planned to say with the managers to suite a large group of people. I used my famous “Make a friend with you” example. This got an immediate response from about 5-8 people; the other 12-15 were lost. (I suggest this for future initial meetings. It helped me see how many intermediate and upper level students there were. Also, it lightens the mood!)

Here is the breakdown of the staff:
Most are at a very low level of English. A few have actual questions that could be useful to discuss. BUT, that’s not the case for most of them.

If they are ALL lumped together in one class, i’ll spend the beginning on simple conversation and dialogue + vocab. In the middle, I’ll discuss some upper level vocabulary with “contextual” examples. Finally, i’ll review the simple conversation with the lower levels. They will form pairs and repeat the dialogues.

Here is what the managers expect the classes to include:
VOCABULARY.

Of course, they want their staff to understand specific cultural differences between the languages, but they think a major focus should be vocabulary. So, i plan to give them relevant vocabulary and their various forms/ parts of speech. Looks like i’ll be in the book store tomorrow AM…

Specifics about the Catic Hotel:

1) They don’t have an “annual English program” for their employees. It doesn’t surprise me considering the low level of English most of the staff has. The lobby managers are young, with fair English, and very interested in helping their staff improve English. Good prospect!

2) The Asst. manager of their department is a slightly older woman who speaks no English. She looks a little impatient as well. I should consider her more next time I visit!

3) Hotels in general seem to have just a couple very good English speakers. Their abilities must be considered and we should allow them to take an active role in helping the class. It’s a chance for them to shine, not for them to feel isolated.

4) Simon mentioned “hui bao” or “repayment.” The hotel really seems to want to repay me in some way. I will be more clear about what I hope to do in the future in order to quench their curiousity. Maybe I need to up the ante after the first classes of both YinDo and Catic.

5) Catic’s design and managerial aspects are much more creative and youthful. Their strong support can really be useful for the website and future tutor offerings!

6)* Over a plate of Baby Japanese Octopus, Simon discussed the hotel’s goal to have the “Best Front Office/Reception” in Zhuhai. There must be some kind of award for this. If so, find the source and advertise future “Hospitality English” training programs there.

  • Zhuhai, China & Venice in a day (maepearl.wordpress.com)
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YinDo Hotel’s Invisible Wall

Gongbei Road
Yindo Hotel in Downtown Zhuhai

March 8, 2007 – 9:30am Meeting with Zhou Laoshi. (HR department- 13 years experience)

Meeting with Zhou Laoshi was a pleasant experience this morning. I found out, ironically, that she was probably in her late 40s and rather traditional, but ready to accept me and bring me in for a few test classes ASAP! One of the most important experiences of all, though, were the moments when her boss would speak Chinese with her. This was the “invisible wall” factor that most chinese count on and 99% can trust is there.

You know, it’s the “we speak our language with the foreigners present and assume they can’t understand it” wall. For example, they had already agreed on times for me to come in next week and then the HR Manager asked about “future cooperation,” “what does he want to do with us in the near future?” “Will these classes really be free?” etc. I knew about these discussions and waited for the translated version from Zhou Laoshi. (She was very diplomatic by the way. She didn’t want to discuss the future yet, so she just simply left it out of the conversation. I respected that invisible wall and didn’t bring it up.)

YinDo Hotel Class

This was perhaps the most victorious feeling i’ve had since my stay here in China. I’m now able to (listen through that wall and) consider all of these outside ideas, projections, and queries without responding to them instead of the translator. I feel like changing my name to a number… maybe 008!

We discussed the following points, which I will remember easier in a list:

1) Major problems for teaching English with the current hotel scheduling system:
a. Entire staff on different levels. Some think the lessons are too simple, while others find them too hard. Can’t be consistent with everyone!

b. A group works together one week, at the same time. The next week there is a time change for half of them. This creates different mixes of staff in the classes, creating inconsistant groupings in class.

2) Because of the above, there is always a dropping number of students no matter what is done to counter that; It goes from MANY to A lot… to some……. to few …………to very few.

3) 600 employees, but many don’t need English. IN FACT, only 15% of the guests are Westerners. This creates less demand for English study. *MORE Korean and Japanese* Although i did argue the fact that many Asian people can’t speak Chinese either.

4) March and April are the slowest times of the year. The times when hotels do annual English Lessons to reteach the basics to everyone.
a. May- (1-7) is Golden week, a big time for chinese travellers.
b. Summer months are usually busy because of Zhuhai‘s resort status.
c. Sept./Oct.- Moon cake time (Famous in ZH) they sell “1,000 million” I guess…
d. Oct. (1) is national day, busy time.
e. Nov./Dec.- Most people get married during these months to get ready for the New Year.

——————–

So, it was a productive morning. I had coffee after the initial meeting and I got a tour. I met everyone from high-level managers to trainees. All had rather mediocre English, but i stayed positive through it all. Sometimes i showed my chinese ability, but not in front of Zhou Laoshi or her boss. I will keep that a secret the staff doesn’t leak it first!

I further learned that the foreigners in this area are mostly Korean and Japanese. This is an idea that I would like to apply to my website- a kind of teacher search portal, but more on that in the next post.

-Ben杰明

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To MBA or not to MBA, there is no question.

My Chinese friend had a notice under her username recently on MSN. It said “Master isn’t equal to smart~Give me a break!” It’s obviously a complaint she’s making to her coworkers with whom she doesn’t get along. Did her point come across? It caused me to think about the very concept of an MBA…

Maybe I have mentioned a certain colleague while here in China, I’ll just call her AC. This woman is a native of Beijing and is proud of that. She is in her late 30s and still single, which isn’t so acceptable for women of her generation. She has TWO (2, 两个) MBAs from two of the most intellectually strong contries of the world: The United States and Germany.

I have been known to express some anger towards this woman; haven’t we all had someone we can only see eye-to-toe with? Without passing too much judgement, i’ll just say that the ears you see on her head don’t really have a use. The English you hear coming out of the mouth doesn’t sound like the level of an MBA, let alone a double-MBA. The decisions coming out of the brain seem to be lacking direction, purpose, colleague support, and a certain level of organization one would expect from at least a bachelor degree holder in the West.

I know that all comes out as a kind of “judgement.” I’m not saying that she is an evil person, although we’ve had some very personal and threatening confrontations. What I AM saying, is that there is “no proof” in that woman’s “MBA-pudding.” (If you’re picking up what i’m putting down…) Sadly, it seems that an MBA is just a piece of paper, which costs a lot of green paper.

When considering the loans I took out for my B.S. in B.A., it almost sickens me to think of how much in loans I am now responsible for. It’s ok because a Bachelor’s degree is expected of a common American. I can afford this in order to stay basically competative. However, I’m not faced with the pressure to get an MBA. Somehow we (in American society) feel so impressed by the MBA that we’ll borrow, on average, over $100,000 just to finance it!We expect to have an amazingly high paying job afterwards with this great, new, more expensive piece of paper. The REAL gain, i am told, is the networking/marketing you get from the experience… ah ha!

Well, I’m in China. I can use the language to communicate with quite wealthy, non-english speakers here. Starting a company here would cost much less and the economy is only going to grow and grow… Why not loan just $10,000 and start working on something really amazing out here? I find the life more interesting than back in the US, the food is more appetizing and healthy, and the women really treat my eyes well 🙂

It’s not everyone’s solution; it’s just my personal solution and that is really what’s important for us all. We each have a “best solution” which could quite possibly rest on the shoulders of an MBA education. Ask yourself, graduates of the recent class, should you run out and get an MBA? I know, at least for me right now, there is no question. What’s best for you?

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