Sunday, September 27, 2009

Evaluating Intercultural Behavior

It is true that we always overlook the difference in culture when we interact with people from different backgrounds. It is not surprising that conflict can easily arise as we often judge others based on our perception where in this case, culture.

During my internship period I happened to chat with a construction worker from China. He was interested with the size of my home county, Malaysia. Apologize for my ignorance: I could not answer his question. The respond he gave was really unpleasant: nearly shout out with “how can you don’t know”. I was very embarrassed and frankly speaking, agitated with his tone of reproach.

Being unsatisfied, I ask around my friends from Malaysia and felt relief as nearly no one knew the exact answer, even thought we all been taught in secondary geography. It took me some time to figure out what cause this phenomenon. To us, the land area is not an issue of concern. On one hand, Malaysia is not big enough for her people to show off. On the other hand, it is not small enough that we are constrained in land use. People just do not care about it.

From the incidents around Taiwan and Tibet, we can see that the nations are very concern about the territory issue and no doubt that they are proud with their land area. To them, ignorance with this matter is unbelievable and equally not patriotic. I think this explained why the worker gave me such respond at that time.

I am a Chinese, same race with most China nation. We share the same tradition, festival, taboo or in short, culture. Still, we are different in some other part of the culture due to different nationality. The moral of the story is: before you get offended by something, think about the culture and background of the one irritates you.


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  2. Hi Boon Woei,

    I read with interest your analysis and afterthought of that incident with the Chinese man. I would very much agree with your reasoning for the man's behaviour. Indeed, the Chinese seem to place great importance and strong pride on their land; what belongs to them and what doesn't. Issues revolving around Taiwan and Tibet may likely be a manifestation of this Chinese culture.


  3. Hi Boon Woei,

    I found your analysis of the situation to be quite interesting.

    It may well be that the Chinese construction worker takes pride in the size of his country. However, there could be another explanation for his behaviour.

    You had mentioned that he was a construction worker. Perhaps his loud disposition was cultivated through his work. Construction yards are usually noisy areas and when one needs to communicate in such an ambience, it becomes necessary to shout. Also, perhaps you might have looked like a person with incalculable worldly knowledge and he was just surprised you could not answer him.

    Anyways, that was just a thought. Nice blog post.