Wednesday, June 11, 2008

US athletes study Chinese culture for the coming Olympics

The American Olympic Committee has prepared tutorials about Chinese culture and customs for U.S. athletes who will participate in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. The AOC wants to ensure that the athletes represent America's best while participating in the games. Something that is seen as polite in American culture could be considered rude in China.

I decided to look up some Chinese etiquette at Warrior Tours for your reading pleasure. The page begins by explaining that "China has often been referred to as the Nation of Etiquette. According to many westerners, however, Chinese people often act in what appears to be a discourteous manner. The reason for this anomaly lies in the different cultural and historical views of social decorum. In order to avoid unnecessary mistakes and embarrassment during communications, a better understanding of Chinese etiquette is essential."

Did you know that the Chinese shake hands only very briefly, and only to show respect to important people such as businessmen and government officials? Also, it is customary to give a gift to others you meet in China -- but there are several guidelines to follow in doing so. First of all, you should wrap it in a bright color, like red. Do not use black and white, it has a negative connotation. "It is not proper, and is even considered to be unfortunate, to take a clock as a gift or to choose one having to do with the number four, which sounds like death in Chinese. Even though even numbers are considered as good luck, the number four is an exception. Do not brag about your gift in front of the recipient, and you should use both hands when presenting it. Generally, the recipient may graciously refuse the present when first offered. In this case, you should correctly assess the situation and present it once again. If the recipient did not open your gift, it does not mean that he or she is not interested in it. It is polite to open it after you leave.... In China, a gift is also necessary when visiting a family. But it is not as complex as the above situation. Usually, flowers, common fruits and food are okay."

Just some interesting cultural notes. Remember to check back at NWI Connect often to stay posted about the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics!

For more information about the Olympic team learning Chinese customs, see CCTV International.

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