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 Post subject: Tips for making Chinese immigrants feel welcome PostPosted: 2013-11-22 01:20pm
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My neighbourhood recently saw a new family move in; the couple comes from urban China (one of the southern provinces, though I didn't catch where) with their two young children. Their boy and my son have hit on a good friendship, and his English is perfect. Unfortunately, his parents' English is...essentially zero. Right up there with my Chinese.

We're managing with translator apps and having their six-year-old serve as interpreter, but I'm curious if there are any steps I could take that would provide more engaging and familiar hospitality when they come over, or any typically Western behaviours that might make them uncomfortable?

I don't think there's anything to do other than mind the common courtesies, but it would be nice to be aware of any cross-cultural pratfalls I wouldn't know about.



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 Post subject: Re: Tips for making Chinese immigrants feel welcome PostPosted: 2013-11-22 01:30pm
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I'd avoid politics...no telling if they support the current regime or not.

Also no jokes about cats.



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 Post subject: Re: Tips for making Chinese immigrants feel welcome PostPosted: 2013-11-22 03:56pm
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Borgholio wrote:
Also no jokes about cats.


Could you please elaborate?



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 Post subject: Re: Tips for making Chinese immigrants feel welcome PostPosted: 2013-11-22 06:01pm
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It's a fairly common "joke" that Chinese people eat cats, or that the food in a Chinese restaurant is made out of cat, rat, pigeon, or other vermin rather than actual chicken or duck.



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 Post subject: Re: Tips for making Chinese immigrants feel welcome PostPosted: 2013-11-22 08:16pm
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Darksider wrote:
It's a fairly common "joke" that Chinese people eat cats, or that the food in a Chinese restaurant is made out of cat, rat, pigeon, or other vermin rather than actual chicken or duck.


Chinese people do eat cats and dogs. Not often, but sometimes. It's kind of a delicacy.

And yes, you should probably avoid joking about it.

EDIT:

And just in case someone decides to take offense at that, I have eaten dog in China on multiple occasions, so I do know what I'm talking about.

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 Post subject: Re: Tips for making Chinese immigrants feel welcome PostPosted: 2013-11-23 06:11pm
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Borgholio wrote:
I'd avoid politics...no telling if they support the current regime or not.


That's a pretty good point, there's a guy who does a Vlog on YouTube about living in China as a Westerner, and that's he's number one advice for people; don't talk politics. Whether is a faux pas across the board or just a faux pas to speak about it with an outsider he doesn't say, but he just says they don't like it.



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 Post subject: Re: Tips for making Chinese immigrants feel welcome PostPosted: 2013-11-23 06:33pm
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Does that refer to politics in general, or specifically to politics in China? I could understand it either way, but not sure which you (and the Vlog guy) mean.

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 Post subject: Re: Tips for making Chinese immigrants feel welcome PostPosted: 2013-11-23 06:38pm
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I would say Chinese politics ...or comparison with western government.

In other words, don't go, "Hey, welcome to the U.S. Glad to actually be living in a free country for a change? By the way, don't you hate those evil communists?"



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 Post subject: Re: Tips for making Chinese immigrants feel welcome PostPosted: 2013-11-23 08:43pm
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And just in general that it's likely ingrained in them that politics is a dangerous subject to discuss.

And it goes without saying you should hold off on saying anything negative about China.

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 Post subject: Re: Tips for making Chinese immigrants feel welcome PostPosted: 2013-11-24 12:02am
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Don't give them a clock as a gift.

No I am serious. It stems from how Mandarin has lots of homophones so the word for "pay last respects to" (ie associated with death) sounds the same as the words for "giving a clock", so traditional superstition makes it sound like you are wishing death on them if you are giving them a clock as a gift. Although I doubt anyone believes that superstition, it still might be considered rude.



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 Post subject: Re: Tips for making Chinese immigrants feel welcome PostPosted: 2013-11-24 04:18pm
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GuppyShark wrote:
Does that refer to politics in general, or specifically to politics in China? I could understand it either way, but not sure which you (and the Vlog guy) mean.


Can't remember to be honest mate.



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"So have I, and I'm going to do them all to you." - Sylar to Arthur 'Heroes'

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 Post subject: Re: Tips for making Chinese immigrants feel welcome PostPosted: 2013-11-25 07:14am
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So basically, the Chinese word for a clock is the equivalent of "duh-eth," and you're saying "here, let me give you the gift of duh-eth!" Cool.

Frankly, in general talking politics with a recent immigrant, or any person you don't know very well, is a bad idea. There's a large chance that they take for granted things you strongly disagree with, and vice versa. And one thing you do NOT want when you're coming into a new community is the idea that their approval is contingent on your sharing their political or religious views.



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 Post subject: Re: Tips for making Chinese immigrants feel welcome PostPosted: 2013-11-25 09:35am
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Borgholio wrote:
In other words, don't go, "Hey, welcome to the U.S. Glad to actually be living in a free country for a change? By the way, don't you hate those evil communists?"


There are so many jokes to be had with this statement....


Anyways, isn't there something about never complimenting the food? I remember someone telling me it was a real faux pas.

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 Post subject: Re: Tips for making Chinese immigrants feel welcome PostPosted: 2013-11-25 10:59am
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Do they have goths in China? I'm suddenly picturing a far-east version of Dr. Emmett Brown's room-of-clocks...




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 Post subject: Re: Tips for making Chinese immigrants feel welcome PostPosted: 2013-11-25 11:51am
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Simon_Jester wrote:
So basically, the Chinese word for a clock is the equivalent of "duh-eth," and you're saying "here, let me give you the gift of duh-eth!" Cool.

Frankly, in general talking politics with a recent immigrant, or any person you don't know very well, is a bad idea. There's a large chance that they take for granted things you strongly disagree with, and vice versa. And one thing you do NOT want when you're coming into a new community is the idea that their approval is contingent on your sharing their political or religious views.

Not the word for "clock." The words for "giving a clock".



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 Post subject: Re: Tips for making Chinese immigrants feel welcome PostPosted: 2013-11-26 07:00am
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Same for knives - a gift of knives represents the cutting of a friendship - it can be dodged by a monetary token so you 'buy and sell' them. (Bit like not giving people an empty wallet.)

Shoes off when you enter the house. Someone described it to me as a concept of clean zones.

Don't assume they're cold - Northern China (let alone tibet area) is fucking freezing. LIght deprivation SAD is pretty common for southerners though.

I can't comment on shrines or anything without knowing more about them.

I've never met a single cook who dosen't like being complimented on their food :) For a family in a new country, food is one of the most important links back home. Showing you can appreciate that will mean a big deal. Chinese new year in the states will be a huge deal to them (probably). Vietnam rule is first day is for family, 2nd day for further family and close friends, 3rd day is general, inc business contacts. First footing is just as big a deal in China as in UK. Tall dark and handsome is preferred (as ever). We're going into year of the horse leaving the year of the snake.

People are people are people. Be genuine, be friendly, and if something puzzles you, try and work out the context. (Wife always walked on the shady side of the street. Makes sense in Vietnam, less so in the UK. She didn't even realise she was doing it.) Golden rule stuff.



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 Post subject: Re: Tips for making Chinese immigrants feel welcome PostPosted: 2013-11-26 09:24am
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Thank you to everyone who contributed. Was nice to be able a little more confident when going over for a playdate lunch.
madd0ct0r wrote:
I can't comment on shrines or anything without knowing more about them.

Hard to say, but there might have been one. Pictures of people I didn't recognize, candles and two bowls of fruit (oranges?) seemed to be the focus. I didn't ask.
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I've never met a single cook who dosen't like being complimented on their food :) For a family in a new country, food is one of the most important links back home. Showing you can appreciate that will mean a big deal.

Good thing, too, because I liked the dumplings they put out. Not a single fork in the house, though. I've been on assignment in some of the most rural places on earth, and I always packed a spork. Ten feet down the block, and I had to improvise a method of using chopsticks.
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Tall dark and handsome is preferred (as ever).

Funny you should mention that. My son, at 6 years old, absolutely dwarfs their boy of the same age, so I was anticipating that the parents wouldn't be too tall. Turned out to be an understatement; these people must have been considered short even back home. And I'm on the tall side by western standards, so I was somewhat nervous about appearing intimidating.



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 Post subject: Re: Tips for making Chinese immigrants feel welcome PostPosted: 2013-11-26 01:39pm
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Lagmonster wrote:
Thank you to everyone who contributed. Was nice to be able a little more confident when going over for a playdate lunch.
madd0ct0r wrote:
I can't comment on shrines or anything without knowing more about them.

Hard to say, but there might have been one. Pictures of people I didn't recognize, candles and two bowls of fruit (oranges?) seemed to be the focus. I didn't ask.
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I've never met a single cook who dosen't like being complimented on their food :) For a family in a new country, food is one of the most important links back home. Showing you can appreciate that will mean a big deal.

Good thing, too, because I liked the dumplings they put out. Not a single fork in the house, though. I've been on assignment in some of the most rural places on earth, and I always packed a spork. Ten feet down the block, and I had to improvise a method of using chopsticks.


You can't use chopsticks? ok. Take a fork with you, they'll laugh.
Seriously - as big and as intimidating as you feel - it's pretty lonely in a new country, especially with a language barrier. It's nice of you to go over.

Shrine sounds like standard ancestor worship deal - not a big thingie, each family tends to have their own traditions, but again, it's an important link back home for them. Worship varies, probably along the lines of fresh fruit, incense and water as needed with monthly ritual worship. It's also the focus for funeral rites in the 49 days after someone dies. No special rules that I know of, don't be a dick, and don't pick the picture frames up until invited.



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 Post subject: Re: Tips for making Chinese immigrants feel welcome PostPosted: 2013-11-26 01:42pm
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Other than what's been mentioned be careful with your use of the colour red, I remember from cultural awareness training I received when I worked for a charity there being a story of a volunteer visiting a Chinese persons home to take a statement, the volunteer used a red pen and it did not go down well, red is considered a lucky colour and such trivial use is insulting.



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 Post subject: Re: Tips for making Chinese immigrants feel welcome PostPosted: 2013-11-26 02:13pm
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Lagmonster wrote:
but I'm curious if there are any steps I could take that would provide more engaging and familiar hospitality when they come over, or any typically Western behaviours that might make them uncomfortable?


Treat them like anyone else. If someone from across town came over and they were black or latino or white or any other race different from your own you wouldn't automatically start making assumptions about them. You're not going to play rap music and serve tacos and have NASCAR on the TV when they first show up. They know they're in a foreign country and things may well be different. I'm sure they'll appreciate it more if you just be yourself and not try to pander to what you think all one billion Chinese people are like.

As far as sensitive topics goes, if you're no shit curious about how the Chinese government runs, ask honest questions. Most people have opinions about their community, and are happy to clear up any misconceived notions foreigners may have. You don't need to start debating them over the merits of capitalism or anything, but if you want to know say how China's president is selected, better to ask than to be ignorant.



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 Post subject: Re: Tips for making Chinese immigrants feel welcome PostPosted: 2013-11-29 12:34am
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madd0ct0r wrote:
Don't assume they're cold - Northern China (let alone tibet area) is fucking freezing. LIght deprivation SAD is pretty common for southerners though.

The OP mentions they are from the South though.



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