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Do as the Romans Do

Popularity 6Viewed 4102 times 2014-7-1 20:17 |System category:Life| cross, culture, globalization, foreigners, communication

Do as the Romans Do

Every continent has its own great spirit of place. Every people is polarized in some particular locality which is home the homeland. But the spirit of place is a great reality. It is necessary to attach great significance to this great reality especially in this age of globalization.


With the advent of globalization, various aspects of life of nations around the world are more closely associated than ever before. What also rises is the issue of cross-cultural communication when people are communicating with others with different nationalities, religions, cultural and social backgrounds and etc. Sometimes due to lack of understanding and tolerance, such kind of unconscious difference may incur grudge and grievance. Globalization not only provides us with more opportunities but also poses a major challenge for society’s cultural tolerance. As it goes with the good saying: when you are in the Roman do as the Romans do, the most wise and rational way for foreigners to tackle with cultural difference is to respect and embrace the local culture.


By respect, I mean to recognize and understand the different customs and norms instead of despising and even excluding them because of cultural hegemony. Take my foreign language teacher’s experience in China for example. Mr. C. was our oral English teacher who once won the “Chinese Bridge” Chinese Proficiency Competition. Having lived China for a year, he could be well described as a China hand. However even for a China hand, there was once a depressing and annoying occasion concerning the difference in melting embarrassing situation. What almost caused his anger was that a woman taxi driver who had taken the wrong way and wasted much time just chuckled rather than made a serious apology to defuse the situation. In Britain such behavior is recognized as restless and offensive which is likely to result in an argument and fight, he said. Despite it greatly disgruntled Mr. C., he didn’t lose his temper because he can respect the ways Chinese bear themselves.


And by embrace, I mean to truly fit into the local folks’ daily life by further adapting their habits and customs. For instance, Ms. T. my another oral English teacher was well qualified as an international talent who was not only proficient in four languages-English, French, Spanish and Chinese-but also traveled extensively around the world. What impressed me most was her deep understanding of Chinese culture and her active attitude towards learning and practicing it. Being a Chinese one is sure to feel her warm hospitality when she greets you, “Have you eaten yet?” The willingness to truly apply this Chinese common greeting to her daily social interaction showed Ms. T.’s awareness of cultural diversity and her passion to embrace it.       


Recently, the story of “rude Chinese tourist” triggered public’s discussion both at abroad and home. In my esteem, such controversies and even conflicts are inevitable as the world is entering into a new era of globalization. And this situation could be improved if people of both sides spontaneously assume their responsibility as a “diplomat” contributing to cross-cultural communication. In a nutshell, being a foreigner, when you are in the Roman do as the Romans do; what’s more, the Romans should also show greater understanding and tolerance. 

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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    seneca: Love is, as the Communists decreed, a "bourgeois" thing - not worthy of communist subjects. It is good to know that Communism in China has m ...
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