何毓琦的个人博客分享 http://blog.sciencenet.cn/u/何毓琦 哈佛(1961-2001) 清华(2001-date)

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For Students studying abroad - Western Customs to Know (II) 精选

已有 12930 次阅读 2009-10-29 05:25 |个人分类:生活点滴|系统分类:诗词雅集

Fornew readers and those who request to be “好友 good friends” please read my 公告first.


More note added 11/29/09 below

Notes added below 11/25/09

Some of my Chinese American friends here read my earlier blog article with the above title  http://www.sciencenet.cn/m/user_content.aspx?id=251481 . They in turn gave a few more pointers for me to post.


1. “RSVP” means please reply with your answer as to whether you are coming. “Regrets only” means you need to reply only if you cannot go. But don’t ignore the request. Invitation also usually are very specific if children are invited. Children usually are not invited unless the invitation says so (e.g. “you and your family”).
2. Although westerners hug when greeting each other socially. They otherwise generally maintain a personal space around their body which they don’t want others to invade. Thus, unless unavoidable such as on a crowded bus, do not stand very close to others. Also holding hands among friends while walking is not done except between lovers.
3. Telephone etiquette – It has also been my experience, especially among the older Chinese, that one never announces oneself when on a telephone. Somehow you expect the other side to know who you are just from your voice.  This habit often creates problems.
4. Similarly when introduced to others, Chinese usually don’t declare his/her name. Westerners by and large will clearly announce their names.
5. In China, many entertainment, meal, and other expenses can be considered as official expenses and thus reimbursable by the office. In the US, with the exception of commerce, government and academia has very strict limit on what can be considered as official expenses. For example if the program monitor  of your research contract visits you and you take him and other  people in your office out to dinner, the program officer in the US will insist on paying his share; nor can anyone in your office eat free and have the dinner cost paid for by your contract/grant. I have heard of at least one professor who was forced to resign his lifetime job for using grant money to pay for some expenses of his girl friend.  If your professor/adviser treats you to a meal during which technical things were discussed, the fund often comes out of his/her own pocket and not the grant on which you are being paid as a research assistant. Thus, remember to thank him/her and don’t take it for granted that this is your right.
6. A thank you note for any favor is always nice and never hurts.

7. (added 11/25/09) 

The phrases  “thank you” and “excuse me” are used so often in everyday American English conversation that sometimes they no longer carry their original sincere meaning. However, their absence in usage will be noticed immediately. For example, if you walk through a door when someone holds it open for you and you did not say “thank you”,  or if you accidentally brushed against someone or trying in to makeway  through a crowd without saying “excuse me” , people will sarcastically say the phrase for you to remind you of your lack of courtesy.  Yet, I find that many Chinese whether it is shyness or lack of confidence in their English will often neglect to employ this bit of social lubricant overseas. This can lead to bad impressions and consequences.

8. (added 11/29/09). I am in Tsinghua now. Early this morning ,a Sunday morning, I cannot sleep due to jet jag. So I decided to walk from my apartment to my office to do some work. There was hardly anyone on the road. Along the way, my path starts to merge with another youngman, obviously a student, walking towards the same high rise office building. However, because of my age I walked slower and by the time we enter the building I was about 15 steps behind him. There was only one elevator operating at that hour which happens to have its door open and ready on the first floor. We were the only two persons walking in the lobby.  This young man entered the elevator ahead of me, selected his floor, and closed the door without ever a glance at me who was following. It probably never entered his mind that I wanted to be in the elevator too and would appreciate if he just waited a couple of seconds. I know this is China where everyone minds his own business and never get involved (if I don't know you and have not been introduced, then you do not exist in my mind) . But in the US, it is expected that you display such common courtesy. The behavior of this student would be considered rude even if unintentionally. Thus, don’t practice such Chinese behavior while in the US.



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