Sea Eagle Consulting has helped host a second delegation from Taizhou, the biggest city in China known for their production of medicines.
Throughout their stay, we visited an institution that specialises in pharmacy research and aretirement village because aged problems are a big challenge for Chinese officers.
I would like to share some interesting stories from this visit about how I helped manage the cross-cultural experience. As a facilitator and trader, I make it a priority help with both the communication and the understanding of one another’s culture in order to build the best relationship possible. Besides our regular work routine, we all had very lively experiences, getting to know each other well and understand one another’s culture.
We introduced the Chinese delegation to Lower Hutt’s mayor at Days Bay café, a local Kiwi restaurant. This gave our Chinese guests a chance to taste the world-renowned Wellington coffee in the relaxed Kiwi culture. The mayor treated the guests to a coffee, tea and a muffin. In an effort to break the ice and get everyone comfortable with each other, we kept the Kiwi experience going by bringing them to taste some New Zealand ice cream by the beach. This was quite a relaxed and beautiful moment for everyone!
On our trip to the retirement village, other cultural similarities and differences came about. One of the Chinese officers wanted to record the visit on video, but quickly learned this wasn’t appropriate in order to give the older generation respect and privacy. When we were touring the village with the manager, we were surprised and excited to see four ladies playing the popular, traditional Chinese game marjiang. We could hardly believe they were playing such a traditional Chinese game! It built a cross-cultural connection we never expected to see and we were all able to relate to the game. TheChinese delegation even promised to send a set of marjiang to the retirement village when they got back!
Another interesting experience was educating both our Chinese guests and New Zealand hosts about variances in the restaurant culture. On the first night, we hosted our Chinese guests at a meal by the waterfront. We were able to try the increasingly-popular handcrafted beer made in Wellington. Before the meal, I gave a brief ‘course’ on some of the cultural differences. I took time to explain to everyone they had to be patient when waiting for a meal in New Zealand, because the dining process differs from China. It’s customary in China to be able to tell the wait staff how quickly you want the meal, however, patience is simply the key in New Zealand – you’re never sure how long you will wait! It’s also common in China for groups such as this to be given a fancy VIP room, however, in New Zealand, a quiet corner in a restaurant is acceptable. Another difference is in the ordering of meals. In China, it’s common that the table would order many dishes that everyone would share from. In New Zealand we order our own individual meals.
As a person traveling between New Zealand and China for business often, I realise these differences quite easily, but have to constantly remind myself which culture I am in and how to act accordingly. When I am facilitating groups from both countries, I work hard to educate everyone as quickly as I can if something is different, in order to prevent any embarrassment or misunderstanding. I also emphasise the importance for New Zealand hosts to make an effort at understanding how things are done in China. For example, if a New Zealand officer were to visit China, the Chinese hosts would cover the guests for all meals. In New Zealand, however, guests may have to cover some of their meals. Since hosting guests from around the world is a strong part of the Chinese culture, I encourage our New Zealand hosts to compromise and treat them as often as possible.