Cultural Differences and Learning Moments.

I was teaching a business class the other day, and I suggested we were Chipoltle and we want to open a franchise in Shanghai. I showed them the Mission statement, the plan and the menu, and we had a meeting on how we could make this happen. This is how I found out why there is no Mexican food in China.

When I showed them the pictures of the food they thought it looked horrible. It wasn’t the dairy products, most love cheese. Chinese people don’t like their food touching. This was a HUGE surprise to me. And then I thought about it. My nanny makes meat, and separately she makes onions and/or peppers or mushrooms, and then maybe a vegetable, and rice, and then put it in sectioned plates or separate bowls. When I buy curry, the rice and curry come in two containers. For some reason, I never really noticed before. The idea of plopping a bunch of ingredients on a tortilla and then smooshing it all together was really unappealing to them. So now I know.

As I mentioned on Facebook, I can add a few more foods to my list: raw apples with the skins on (Honestly, I can’t get enough of them.) with peanut butter and honey or nutella (a new find for me), cheese and crackers, and chocolate. I never thought I would be able to eat these things again.

We had a Halloween Party on Saturday at work. It was an interesting learning experience – even more so for my co-workers. First, it looked like a party decorating store exploded in our school. I mean MAJOR over-kill. A month ago they asked John and I about some ideas for the party, and we gave them a few. John, being British, has never celebrated Halloween or known anyone who has. I have always hated Halloween, but I could still explain general things and I told them that I would be in charge of pumpkin decorating. We also talked about bobbing for apples, and face-painting and having a haunted house. I told them exactly what I would need for the pumpkins and this was the last we heard of anything until the day before the party.

We were given our supplies which would never work. They gave me glue sticks and water-color markers instead of craft glue and permanent markers. Then I was told they had gone way over budget for the real things. They were over budget because they bought things like clappers –nothing says Halloween like a light-up clapper. And gobs and gobs of corny decorations, and other unnecessary things. Then they asked John to give the opening presentation (which began about Halloween being a Christian holiday –we fixed that right away). This is like asking a Chinese person to talk about the Cherry Blossom festival in Japan. Then they had everyone playing games that didn’t even resemble what we told them. Everything was explained and done in Chinese. AND there was no candy!

My assistant, a Chinese tutor who is also named John, couldn’t figure out what the problem was. I told him, this is not an English party and this is not a cultural exchange because it doesn’t even resemble Halloween in the states. He said that he had to tweak it for the Chinese students. I told him that it’s like having the Dragon Boat Festival in America and providing pizza, because that’s how Americans would like it. We finally reached an understanding, and I think it was a good learning moment for everyone. Hopefully we won’t have this problem for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I didn’t take pictures because I didn’t want to, but I dressed up like Mary from Downton Abbey.


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