Thursday, December 13, 2007

Honor and Shame in Practice

A lot of people know that China is more of an honor-shame culture. In America, we really have no parallel. It’s far more than mere pride or peer pressure. It’s a group dynamic where conformity is valued, sought after, and enforced holistically.

Recently, we’ve seen a few noteworthy examples of the daily implications of this honor-shame dynamic. Example #1: Bank loans—we asked one of our tutors about what would happen if she did not pay back her student loans, what would happen? She replied that they bank would post her name on the internet. “So…?” we thought. When asked about it, she explained how horrifying it would be for that to happen to her. We asked, “Who would read it?” She said probably no one, but nevertheless, she would know and be humiliated. Example #2: No Smoking in Beijing Taxis—recently it was announced that smoking in Beijing taxis was prohibited (at least by drivers, we think passages but can’t recall). The punishment was that people would have their pictures posted online.

Though we laugh at how crazy this sounds to American ears, we see again how much we all desperately need help if we are to learn to communicate with so many people in the world who think so differently than we do. When we surround ourselves with like minds, it’s easy to forget our narrow our vision can become.
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