[Mageia-discuss] Cultural difference: indirect request <---> direct request

Marja van Waes marja11 at xs4all.nl
Fri Jul 13 21:24:22 CEST 2012

As said in the other Cultural difference thread, I'm putting this in a 
new one.

I know of a very bright Chinese woman who works in the IT, who went to 
great lengths to do something she thought a colleague had asked her to 
do, while he actually never asked her.

What was the case?

He (my brother Remi) has friends who adopted two Chinese girls. One of 
the girls, Eline, was a foundling from Chongqing. She was very concerned 
about her biological parents, always asking her adoptive mother, Wilma, 
questions about them.

Then Remi had to transfer work to Jocelyn. When he heard she came from 
Chongqing, he told her about Eline.

Jocelyn then said she'd try to find them. She did a tremendous job, she 
contacted local media and even found a local television station that was 
willing to broadcast the story about Eline at prime time. Later she put 
up posters. Then she got help from a journalist who continued searching 
and contacted her later, to tell her he though he'd found them. DNA 
tests have proven he was right.

Later when Eline's adoptive mother Wilma talked to Jocelyn, she was 
amazed to hear that Jocelyn said that Remi had *asked* her to help find 
the girl's parents, while Remi had always said that Jocelyn had 
spontaneously *offered* her help.

So Wilma inquired further. In fact, both told the same story: Remi had 
told about Eline and Jocelyn had said she'd help find her Chinese parents.

The only difference was in the interpretation: When Remi told about 
Eline's wish to see her biological parents, Jocelyn interpreted that as 
a request to go look for them, while for Remi it was just something he 
told because of the coincidence that she came from the same region, 
without expecting her to do anything.

Wilma told us that in China it is normal to ask for things in an 
indirect way. It is also what I read here:
"When Chinese intend to ask a favor.........the most discrete, indirect 
approach is used."

For Eline the misunderstanding between Remi and Jocelyn turned out 
really well, though. She is thriving a lot better since she met her 
biological parents and stays in touch with them. :-D

Oh, by the way: Jocelyn had studied in England, she knew the Western 

I don't know how long it would take me to learn to recognise indirect 
requests or to ask for a favour in an indirect way, if I moved to China 

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