Understanding Chinese culture

Hmm, that's a weighty topic. Not sure I'll make much of a dent on it, but there are some things that can trip up the visitor.

One source of confusion is when people use English that is directly translated from Chinese - but it's meaning is just slightly different. In a job soon after I arrived, we were providing support to a customer. Their engineer used to make a lot of quite basic mistakes, and after I'd explain the reason and the solution, he'd always say "I know".

It really used to wind me up, and I'd be thinking "If you're so smart and you already know, then why did you do it?". It happened with several other people before I realised that their use of "I know" is more like we'd say "I see", or "ok", just showing that they're understanding the conversation.

On a lighter note, "Beware" also pops up in some unexpected places, when "Take care" would be more appropriate. My favourite Beware sign is in the local public pool's changing room, which has "Beware of your own belongings". I always open the locker door a little gingerly when I come out of the pool, just in case my belongings have been conspiring while I've been swimming.

Any other "gotcha's" to watch out for?



wonder if it's more of a chinglish issue.

i've pretty much dropped the word "see" when i speak or e-mail my chinese friends. many seem to interpret is as strictly "look at" rather than "look into."

also, the excessive use of "very." e.g. i very understand your concern about the very expensive rent, my real estate agent once said to me and my hubby. reply: we're very grateful that you so very understand but can you find us something very much cheaper?

and while we're on the subject of $$, the interchangeable use of "cheap" and "inexpensive." e.g. my boyfriend drives such a cheap car. do you mean an inexpensive car or a wreck?