The art of beautification in China

Embellish, my first Chinese teacher used to tell us, “Chinese people often embellish the other one in society. ” Students can see this when they say a few sentences in China to their interlocutor. They will often be remarked: “You speak Chinese very well, 你,中文说得很好 ! ». Even if three sentences later, they find themselves stuck! I’ve noticed this, especially in the business world.  Meals with business partners are sometimes quite playful. We toast and toast again.  The first glass tinkle often brings all the guests together at the table; then, the ceremony sometimes takes place in small groups or one-on-one. A salesperson will join a vital boss; the financial director will have attention to the supplier that he shakes all year round.  I learned the first rule.

drink in China

A little speech is necessary

It will be necessary to “embellish”, to raise the person that we invite to toast. Some people have become masters in this discourse. Our marketing director, little Liu, was a master at it. To show and praise the alleged skills of our manager in Wuhan, who does not have the highest position, she called him Professor Wang (王老师), saying that she had learned the whole job from him.  Using this clever tactic, she gave Wang face in front of the department store bosses and gave him credibility despite the bosses’ familiarity with the situation. Everyone accepted the game and approved of the praise and embellishment. When I told her that she was “coming on a little strong”, Liu liked to explain that a statement repeated over and over again became true over time and we had a great time!

Speak up then!

Sometimes I didn’t shine in this kind of operation. One evening, around a yellow wine in Jinan in Shandong province, I was sitting next to the boss of a group that was important to us. I raise the glass to toast, but perhaps a little tired from a busy day, I forget the rite. He looks at me and, after a few seconds, launches at me with a big smile: “你说啊!在中国,要说话!Parle then! In China, you have to talk! » 

In the beginning, this type of exercise didn’t amuse me much, but over time I learned the ropes and got a taste for these critical rituals. I keep an amused look on my face, like a child enjoying the world passing before his eyes. In society, conviviality and interpersonal skills are handled with great art and small strategies are put in place at mealtimes to bind or unbind alliances.  The positioning around the table, the face you have to give to this or that interlocutor, the number of times you toast with a person, but these are other stories, to be continued…

Articles about the company and its life in China, it’s here.

12 June 2020

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