The occasion to work with international students in preparing presentations in cross-cultural aspects has allowed me to reflect on my cultural sensitivities and differences. We had a group leaders from different cultures and countries. I was one of the Chinese persons on the team and the interactions with the team were challenging not because my team members were negligent or indifferent, but because we perceived the world a bit differently. Some of my observations are described below.
One of the major differences that I observed with my Chinese peers is regarding the mode of communication. Most Chinese students communicated their point indirectly and with symbolic manners such as sarcasm, proverbs, similes, anecdotes, etc. They rarely communicate their wants and needs directly. Due to this mode of communication often discordant behavior arose and we lost valuable time in arriving at a common understanding. As we progressed, I have learned to understand their indirect communication and they also became more direct in their messages.
The next aspect of cross-cultural differences that I encountered is related to the decision-making style. Our group leader was inclined to take decisions faster, but I and my other Chinese peers were slow in decision making, not because we are not able to understand the issues, but because we have many social considerations that need to be fulfilled in every situation. A great deal of social factors affects Chinese decision-making. Chinese students are relatively slow in decision-making and problem-solving. Once they make a decision, they are most likely to endure it, and rarely do they change. Their problem-solving methods are social and not independent. A sort of hierarchy forms in the team when Chinese students are present. I have a feeling that in Chinese culture those who have higher intellectual capability are considered superior and occupy the top position in the hierarchy.
The sense of time and urgency to complete a task is different among us. While our leader tends to make decisions faster and wishes to complete the tasks at the earliest. My Chinese colleagues (including me) do not feel the urgency to make decisions and complete the task. We finish our work slowly and in multiple stages. For example, we make two or three slides at a time and leave the work incomplete. Even if the situation demands quick action and decision, the Chinese students take their time to respond to the situation. However, their quality of workmanship is superior.
Concerning managing personal boundaries, Chinese students consider private and public issues together. They have no hesitation to knock at the door of their colleagues at any time. While discussing work, they also introduce their matters in conversation. The boundaries of private and public life are fuzzy among Chinese students.
The most common conflicts that happened in our team were arriving at a common agreement concerning understanding the problem and arriving at a solution. Even the simplest of the decision-making took an extremely long time. Chinese people are inclined to listen to the authority and decision from higher-ups is accepted without question. The teamwork has allowed me to understand various cultural dimensions, my sensitivity, and my capacity to adjust to others.
These differences are due to the exposure to a specific culture that has different beliefs, values, and norms in dealing with the world. The Chinese students share a common culture that shaped their mindset and have an inclination to behave in a specific way. Since culture is a learned phenomenon, people can unlearn a culture and acquire a new culture. The hidden assumptions and values influence the culture of people and a specific culture shares common values and norms.
Baba, Y. and Hosoda, M., 2014. Home away home: Better understanding of the role of social support in predicting cross-cultural adjustment among international students. College Student Journal, 48(1), pp.1-15.
Moran, R.T., Abramson, N.R. and Moran, S.V., 2014. Managing cultural differences. Routledge.Order Now