Are you a China Alien or a China Expert?

Eating Centipedes in China

Eating razor sharp centipedes in Guangzhou, China

Coming home from China or some other foreign land?

Naturally, your fellow countrymen will ask you about your experience.

So, what is the best and most effective way to respond? I have 4 important items to remember when responding.

1. Remember you have to be sensitive to your own culture.

In my situation, China and America have a very complex relationship. Many conservative Americans don’t like hearing about a successful communist country and many liberal Americans don’t like hearing about a successful mass polluter and human rights violator.

2. Realize what they are really asking!

If it is just chit-chat, it may be better to offer up the odd differences that make people laugh, such as chewing with an open mouth or how you never figured out how to use squatty potty without peeing on your shoes (hopefully you are not wearing those same shoes when you tell them that story). However, if it is a question of more depth, then give a more in-depth answer that still considers their feelings. If you are unsure, go with the first reply and see how they respond or just ask them what they really want to know.

3. Figure out where your personal pendulum has swung!

Are you so pro-(insert your country) that you see the rest of the world as friends or enemies of your home country? Has the pendulum swung so far the other way that you have fallen in love with your new cultural friends at the expense of loving your home country altogether? Try to find that balance. Loving Chinese food doesn’t mean you have to hate American food (yes, there is such a thing!).

4. End with a great conclusion!

If you end with an opinion statement, it can be quite powerful. However, if your strong opinion is just taking sides on a complex issue, you may not be effective in reaching your ultimate goal with the person with whom you are speaking. Is it so important to claim your home country is at fault only to make the person you are speaking with feel you are brain washed? Consider how you want people to feel about you. With some people you many not care, but they may tell someone you want to think well of you, such as potential employers or customers. Make yourself an expert and leverage your experience rather than using it to threaten everyone with your “foreign” opinions!

Good luck in your conversations!

About Global China Blog - Biz, Culture, and Life

I am a lover of China. I graduated from the University of Hawaii's China International MBA in 2010. At BYU, my undergraduate degree in history focused on modern US and Asian history. I am an expert negotiator and recently negotiated a multimillion dollar contract with the LPGA and IMG to bring the first ladies professional golf tournament to Mainland China since its first tournament in 2008. While in Utah, I helped an online marketing start-up company grow from 20 employees to over 120 employees as Director of Operations and later VP of Sales and Marketing. Whether its China, strategy, or sales, I love being with people and helping them see their own unique offering and how to align themselves accordingly.
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