Standing on the shoulders of giants to see further
Co-organized by Asia Society Hong Kong Center and Hinrich Foundation, the educational program “The Role of Business on Shaping the Future of Education” was held on October 21, 2014 in Asia Society Hong Kong Center. Lin Han (Aki), a Hinrich Global Trade Leader Scholar, shared with us her impression on the valuable experience she gained at the event.
East meets West
As a scholar of Hinrich Foundation, I invited 15 students from HK PolyU majoring in Master of China Business Study to attend the event. Before the presentation time, there was a free talking period with drinks and hors d’oeuvres on the roof garden. All attendees were given the opportunity to meet and talk to everyone.
I observed a cultural difference between our Chinese culture and western culture during that period. Many of the guests were westerners who were very open and free to talk. They approached me to say hello as well as introduce themselves nicely and directly, so it was easier to begin a conversation. While on the other hand, many of the Chinese students preferred to stand around their table, talking only to their familiar classmates. They were shy about talking to anyone they were not familiar with, especially westerners. After speaking with some of them, I learned some of the reasons for this cultural difference.
First, there is the language concern. Chinese students were afraid that they would not be able to express themselves clearly enough in a second language.
The next reason for the shyness is the difference in background or experience with others. Students considered most of the guests there experienced and even very successful businessmen or scholars, and they were afraid they could not find an interesting topic to talk to them about.
Finally, there exists a cultural difference in terms of communication ways. Many Chinese people communicate in an implicit and indirect way; we prefer a more gradual way to get to know a stranger, and it will take more time to warm up to each other. On the contrary, many westerners communicate in a more explicit and direct way.
The power of good communication skills
Understanding these cultural differences draws my attention to one important skill that the students need to prepare and equip themselves with – communication. Good communication skills are essential and key elements in professional and personal interactions. Good communication will reduce misunderstanding between people and improve efficiency in work, especially in an international company with cross-cultural management.
I’d like to share with the Chinese students not to be shy. Be free to open you mind, be brave to socialize, especially with the giant. By standing on the shoulders of giants, one may see further.
About the Author – Aki Han Lin