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Jul 18

Make guests feel at home and follow the customs of your host

Written by DJ on Friday, July 18th, 2008 at 6:18 am
Filed under:Analysis, culture, language | Tags:, , ,
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There is a heated debate going on regarding the lack of Chinese characters on China’s official Olympics uniforms in contrast with those on German’s sportswear.

Personally, I see no point in not printing Chinese text on China’s official uniforms. But for this post, I will purposely play the role of a “CCP apologist” and try to put these things in positive terms. 😉 Besides, I will explain two frequently used Chinese phrases and hopefully cast some light on a particular aspect of the Chinese culture.

In the Chinese culture, it is a top priority to go out one’s way to make the guests comfortable. It is a high praise indeed if one could be said to make the guests feel at home (宾至如归). Beijing, along with many other efforts, has tried very hard to teach many of its residents English in anticipation of the need to give guides to some hopelessly lost foreigners. (Some of such efforts in China, not necessarily related to the Olympics per se, have produced rather amusing results.) Seriously , it would be unfair to simply dismiss such excises as just a propagandist attempt at image polishing. As such, it is perhaps easier to understand the English only design of the Chinese uniforms.

On the other hand, it is also expected for the guests to follow the practices and respect the values of the host (入乡随俗). There is a comparable saying in English, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” The fact that German uniforms have prominent Chinese writings will certainly endear those wearing them to the Chinese viewers. The actual Chinese words on the font of the German T-shirt, “Thanks Beijing!”, will definitely be appreciated as the marking of a gracious guest.

And now, here are some graphics and photos I found of Chinese and Germany uniforms.


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26 Responses to “Make guests feel at home and follow the customs of your host”

  1. Daniel Says:

    That’s quite nice from the German team.

  2. Buxi Says:

    Sigh. I don’t know how anyone can really be a CCP apologist on this issue. It’s ludicrous. This, and the decision to ban dog meat from Olympic restaurants strike me as incredibly misguided, and very unfortunate. I hope the folks at wforum are wrong, and there’s a zhongguo somewhere on those outfits.

    Let me give the German team a hearty round of applause, though!

  3. BMY Says:

    I don’t see no Chinese Text on the uniforms has anything to do with “make the guests feel at home”.

    If they removed all the Chinese characters in Beijing and replaced with all other languages and modified forbidden city to look like Buckingham or Kremlin and all Beijing residents speak native English and Spanish and Arabic then I would say it’s “”make the guests feel at home”

    what a shameful !!!

    (DJ, I am not upset at you, whoever on the top approved this design)

  4. Wukailong Says:

    If you want to make the guest feel good, and the guest is a foreigner, then include the Chinese characters please. 🙂 Whatever people might think about China in other contexts, nobody has anything but praise for the beauty of its writing system, and I think that should show on the uniforms. Also, English is not the mother tongue of everyone outside China…

  5. Wukailong Says:

    Wow, the dog meat ban… Perhaps in anticipation of something similar to the thing that happened in Seoul? Sigh. I respect vegans, but not meat-eaters who object to certain kinds of meat. Hope that muslims begin to protest more against pork eating in the West so people actually begin to use their brains on the issue.

  6. Theo Says:

    Perhaps the Germans are saying Xie Xie/Viel Danke to the Chinese for promoting a German company, Adidas on their uniform. Adolf (Dassler, naturlich) would be very pleased.

  7. Netizen Says:

    I see two reasons for Germany to use Chinese in its uniform.

    1) A friendly gesture to Chinese fans, as some commenters said.

    2) A marketing strategy, marketing Germany again to Chinese fans. If it doesn’t use Chinese, how do Chinese fans know it’s Germany’s team. Even average English-speaking Chinese may not know Deutschland is Germany. So, why not use Chinese as a direct sale approach, reaching 100% of its audience.

  8. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    DJ

    “…it is also expected for the guests to follow the practices and respect the values of the host (入乡随俗). ”

    This is an important and urgent point and you are quite right. I would like to add that “respect” is more important than “following” the host’s customs. The guest does not need to copy the host’s customs, but does need to conduct himself in a considerate manner. I have very limited physical exposure to foreigners in China. Most of the ones I saw on my trips were just minding their own business and not bothering anyone. But occasionally, I saw Westerners in China acting in very dis-inhibited and inappropriate ways, to put it mildly, completely ignoring the presence of the Chinese folks around them. I was in a museum standing in front of a Chinese painting. Suddenly a group of Westerners took the place by storm with their loud voices and vigorous body movements, acting in a way that was typical of frat parties and sports stadiums. I have never seen this type of conduct among the numerous Americans I have lived among for years. Sometimes I wonder whether there is something about China and the way it deals with foreigners that bring out this ugly stuff. I am worried about the guest-host relations at the individual level during the Olympics.

  9. HKonger Says:

    BXBQ, …”Suddenly a group of Westerners took the place by storm with their loud voices and vigorous body movements, acting in a way that was typical of frat parties and sports stadiums.”

    This year, French tourists in general are voted the most obnoxious and the Chinese AGAIN the least civic minded, loud, rude, messy, etc. I wonder if there’ll be a similar survey during and after the Beijing Olympics?

  10. HKonger Says:

    Oh, BTW, my American friend is always making fun of cantonese, spoken by 90%+ of the people in Hong Kong, saying that it is the ugliest sounding language in the world. Ha, little does he know, (I’ve only recently learned about this on HK radio) that Cantonese was in fact one of the Chinese languages of poets of old for the better part of China’s history, not Mandarin. Dr. Sun Yat Sen was a Cantonese, so, why did Mandarin remain new China’s official language, again ?

  11. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Hkonger,

    I hope there will be such a survey. The Chinese tourists may be loud and messy etc. But there is much heart-wrenching soul-searching in the Chinese society about our embarrassing behavior and a strong desire for self-improvement. Some Chinese go to other countries and disrupt people’s lives, due to their ignorance. At least they do not tell the host what a big favor they have done him.

    I agree Cantonese sounds cool. Mandarin is official because it is the only dialect that can be easily represented with the Roman alphabet.

  12. HKonger Says:

    Whatever people might think about China in other contexts, nobody has anything but praise for the beauty of its writing system, and I think that should show on the uniforms. Also, English is not the mother tongue of everyone outside China…Wukailong

    Very true….Even Han character tattoo’s the rage…what the hell was the designer(s) thinking?????

  13. HKonger Says:

    ” At least they do not tell the host what a big favor they have done him.” BXBQ

    ISN”T that the ABSOLUTE god-honest fxxking TRUTH! Thanks for that answer.

    The birth registra’s bloke who wrote my Romanised Chinese name bloody screwed it up.
    Because of him my name is different from those of my brothers!

  14. Fencer Says:

    According to this remark before the uniform was selected from different designs,

    “…Ma Jilong, director of the Administration Center for Sports Equipment under the General Administration of Sport, says that the uniform design should not only feature traditional Chinese elements but also include modern creative ideas that accord with the need of a great international event.

    He also added that the design must avoid nihilism and ultranationalism.

    The design competition organizer emphasized that the Olympic uniform design should be easily understood and accepted by both Chinese and foreigners.”

    http://www.china.org.cn/english/olympic/209603.htm

  15. Buxi Says:

    Just as further follow-up, according to posters at WForum, this is the uniform worn for medal ceremonies. And 2000/2004 uniforms also didn’t show “zhongguo”. Other competition uniforms will have “zhongguo” and other Han characters.

    Even so, what a shame…

    He also added that the design must avoid nihilism and ultranationalism.

    Ugh.

  16. snow Says:

    ” He also added that the design must avoid nihilism and ultranationalism.”

    Whoever gave the final say on the official choice of this design is spinless. No one is going to respect us when we are so shy and hesitate to say to the world loudly that we are Chinese and we are proud of being Chinese.
    Ultranationalism? my foot!

  17. zuiweng Says:

    Dear Bianxianbianqiao:

    “Mandarin is official because it is the only dialect that can be easily represented with the Roman alphabet.”

    The Roman alphabet has nothing to do with it. Mandarin (or 普通话 or 国语) is the modern day descendant of 官话, the trans-regional lingua franca of Imperial China:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandarin_%28linguistics%29

    Every Chinese dialect (as any other human speech) can be quite adequately (if not easily) represented by the Latin alphabet plus extensions, as for example in the IPA:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Phonetic_Alphabet

    For a closer look at the development of Mandarin check out this paper at Sino-Platonic Papers:

    http://www.sino-platonic.org/complete/spp004_mandarin_chinese.html

    P.S. Cantonese *really* sounds cool.

  18. snow Says:

    This just reflects a sentiment or (mentality or attitude/ideology) in dealing with the West in past two decades–overly looking down on ourselves and overly looking up (or overly sensitive and fearful of ofending others in the uniform case) to the Western other among government officials and intellectuals in past two decades . Strangely, although this sentiment or attitude is no less pervasive than the so called ultranationalism, you seldom heard that any Western China Watchers or media paid any attention to it. Let’s say both sentiments or attitudes are harmful (to China) and unhealthy, but why is that they kept such a silence on the former while making so loudly a critical noise on the latter?

  19. Wukailong Says:

    snow: I know this attitude very well, but unfortunately I have no blog yet to voice this opinion. That’s why no Western China Watchers have yet written about it. 🙂

    Seriously, I agree with this sentiment. Attitudes towards the West must be normalized. I understand the difficulty with the whole process, but a healthy self-image requires one not to always think about the others.

  20. Buxi Says:

    I am worried about the guest-host relations at the individual level during the Olympics.

    I’m not as concerned. I think Beijing’ers have been put on notice for years to treat international visitors as guests, and I think that’s what will happen. My experience with foreign tourists in China has almost always been positive.

    Other foreigners, non-tourists… specifically the young college-aged crowd… might be a little more obnoxious with their attitudes, but even then, that’s as much age as anything else. I think that’s the small minority.

  21. oldson Says:

    @ HKonger & Zuiweng

    I think Cantonese sounds soft and beautiful compared to the sometimes gutteral and snarling NE dialects 🙂 NE people always joke that Southern Chinese are afraid of them because the way they speak is so rough and hard on the ears. I personally think that things would have been different if more people followed through with Sun Dong Shan’s great legacy (instead of using imported Russian Communism). Then perhaps Shanghaiese or Cantonese would have been the official language.

  22. Buxi Says:

    @oldson,

    I personally think that things would have been different if more people followed through with Sun Dong Shan’s great legacy (instead of using imported Russian Communism). Then perhaps Shanghaiese or Cantonese would have been the official language.

    Not correct, at least according to this article. Many of the early revolutionaries were Cantonese, and correspondingly in the first national congress in the Republican era, more than half of the representatives were also Cantonese.

    Sun Zhongshan apparently lobbied hard on behalf of the northern Beijing dialect, arguing that Cantonese would be more difficult to spread nationally because it has 9 tones. Even with Sun’s backing, that first congress barely passed the motion to use the Beijing dialect by one vote.

  23. MutantJedi Says:

    Oh, I think Mandarin can sound so great. I remember listening to a poetry reading on the UofA campus by a fellow with a Northern accent – so powerful yet soft and beautiful. Impressive.

    My Cantonese experience is with college buddies – teasing, joking. Even now, when I want to say 好玩, it will sometimes come out in Cantonese. So, to my ears, Cantonese is more fun, down to earth.

  24. rocking offkey Says:

    In basketball terms, China is a big country playing small.

  25. Hemulen Says:

    Why is it such a big deal that there are no Chinese characters on the uniform? I can’t think of a more inane discussion, really. I mean, here we have a country that claims to have the longest continuous civilization and you fear that people won’t know who you are. As if the writing on the uniform is the only thing people will see of China in the 2008 Beijing olympics… It’s like those folks who wanted to reinvent “Han dress” that no one has used for centuries because qipao and the rest are originally Manchu dress…

  26. jasmine Says:

    to make someone feel at home you could just mate

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