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Thread: ask a teacher

    • Join Date: Oct 2006
    • Posts: 29

    ask a teacher

    this is a cross-culture communication question i saw from a book:
    an American student eagerly wanted to buy a book of a famous Chinese professor, however, he could not get one from the bookstore. One day he met the professor in the campus and asked him if he had extra copies to sell to him. The professor is pleased to help the American student. After a week, the student receive a copy of the book and a note saying this is a gift. The student did not feel comfortable about this and telephoned the professor to thank him.
    I wonder why the American student felt uncomfortable. i am a Chinese. i think if i were the student i wouldl be thankful and pleased when i got the book.
    hope your reply! Thank you very much.

  1. Ouisch's Avatar
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    English Teacher
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    • Join Date: Mar 2006
    • Posts: 4,142

    Re: ask a teacher

    Although we Americans have a reputation of being somewhat loud and full of bravado, in many ways we also tend to be self-deprecating in certain circumstances.

    For example, it's often difficult for an American (particularly a woman) to accept a compliment.
    A:"What a beautiful new dress!"
    B:"This thing? It's just something I had in the closet."
    A:"It's very becoming on you."
    B:"I didn't know what to wear, so I just threw this on."
    A:"You look very pretty in it."
    B:"No way, it makes me look as big as a house!"
    A:"Well, I think you look great."
    B:"Thank you, that's very nice of you."

    We often have the same reaction when someone gives us an unexpected gift (a present when it's not our birthday or Christmas, etc):
    A: I saw this in the store and thought of you. (presents gift)
    B: Oh, you shouldn't have! (opens gift) My goodness, it's beautiful! I can't accept this, you probably spent way too much on it.
    A: Oh, just take it! It was on sale, anyway.
    B: Thanks so much, I love it. But now I'm paying for lunch today, no arguments.
    A: OK, you're on.

    We quite often see on TV and learn in school that most people in China don't earn as much money as we do in the U.S., so the American in your example felt guilty about accepting a free book from the professor when he knows that the professor could use the money. This fact, combined with the traditional reluctance of accepting an unexpected gift, made the student feel uncomfortable. He was grateful for the gift, but felt guilty in accepting it.

    • Join Date: Oct 2006
    • Posts: 29

    Re: ask a teacher

    I am so happy to get your answer and thank you very much! I read it carefully and happy to know that maybe Americans and Chinese are just similar to each other. We Chinese are exactly the same when we accept compliment or presents. In fact, I feel cheated by the textbooks. Our teachers and books often tell us when somebody give you compliment, the Americans often expect the answers like "thank you very much or it is very kind of you." , while you can never say "Oh, it is just so-so or it is aready out of date." which are regarded as a chinese style answer. From your examples I can know some authentic opinions of American people.
    You mention that we Chinese earn less than Americans, that's true, but may be you don't know it is cheap to buy things here. A professor's salary is about 3000-5000 RMB per month and maybe he can get extra income by publishing and doing research work for companies. So if he sends you a book as a present, it is nothing serious and because the book is written by himself, he will be proud and pleased to do so. That you happily accept the present can make him satisfied. There is also another hint, that is he shows friendship to you and want to make a friend or have further relationship in the future. If you also want to make friends with him, i think there is a lot to do in the future. Yes, you can invite him to dinner as a return as you mentioned in the conversation, however, in China, this can be done a little later after someone did a favor to you, not just quickly back. Maybe chinese will think that is like to sell and buy. In a word, although different countries have different custom, they are mostly the same in many aspects.
    Hope there will be chance to exchange ideas with you, thank you again.


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