Saving Face

After immersing myself in learning about China over the past week, I was amazed by how much the history of China has played an important role in shaping the complex culture of the Chinese people. However, the concept of mianzi has been the most striking aspect of Chinese culture that has made an impact on how I will interact with others inside and outside the workplace.

Mianzi is the abstract concept of “saving face” and is a very crucial element to understanding the Chinese social structure. We have had moments in our lives where we feel embarrassed exposing our flaws or failures to our friends and family. We have to deal with the shame for a certain period of time before they forget about it. In Chinese culture, losing face affects the individual’s sense of self-respect and can destroy the guanxi between people. In the United States, we have the tendency to express our emotions in order to let other people know how you are feeling and react accordingly. However, I find it very interesting that the concept of mianzi affects the lives of the Chinese people to the point where it is difficult to determine how the other person is feeling. Furthermore, the consequences of losing face make many Chinese people strive and try their best to save face for themselves and for others. They tend to suppress negative emotions and opinions in order to avoid causing any shame or dishonor on the other person or their family. Ultimately, the root of mianzi is caused by fear which is an emotion that can drive people to do irrational things and sever the guanxi between people. Therefore, over the next two months, I must take into account the concept of mianzi when conducting business in China. Being culturally sensitive to the emotions of the Chinese people and understanding the idea behind “saving face” will go a long way in achieving guanxi and making this global experience more positive and enjoyable.

I look forward to venturing into the unknown over the next eight weeks and making China a very memorable experience using the knowledge I have learned.

 

-Jonathan Nassar

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