Archive for the ‘Chinese culture vs. shame’ Category

A generous reader, Michael, (see his comments, using toolbar above) took the time to put forth outlines of Chinese cultural behavior living in the home country, and being transplanted to other countries. The variability of behavior from being in new cultures speaks to wonderful possibilities for our earth, as our populace increasingly moves vast distances to new places. Michael noted that Chinese in their new countries were fairly similar to the “locals”, whether the locale was Australia, America, Vietnam, or Singapore. Perhaps in the evolution of our global village, we can hope to absorb the best of our new cultural surroundings, while also keeping the best from our roots.   


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In a recent LA Times article, John Glionna reported that Chinese women living in rural areas “are taught to refer to male spouses not as husbands but masters. They inhabit a world where the emphasis on bearing sons is so strong (due to needs for male strength in agriculture] that women bear names such as Zhaodi (“looking for a little brother”) and Aidi (“loving a little brother”).” “Three of four Chinese women—more than 450 million—still live in the countryside, where rigid social customs breed loneliness and abuse. Domestic violence rates are high. Each year 150,000 women commit suicide in rural China—the only place on Earth where more women kill themselves than men, according to the World Health Organization.” But change is being spearheaded by one brave and visionary woman, Xie Lihua, whose efforts include a paper run for rural women, a hotline for battered wives and abused female employees, and pressure upon the government to support minimum salary and basic insurance for domestic workers not covered under China’s labor laws. “Her efforts have empowered multitudes” but her “critics say she embarrasses China.” DR. SHARON SAYS: China, embrace your embarrassment. It tells the world that you are aware and that you know things shouldn’t be like they are for women. Once you make the statement of your embarrassment over the situation—not your embarrassment at the disclosure—you will be in an even better position to act on it for the better. Embarrassment is different from shame. Shame indicates that one doesn’t know or understand the rule that is being violated. Readers, here is what I think you can learn from this situation. No matter what embarrasses you, show your embarrassment socially by grinning sheepishly, shoulders shrugging upward as you smile your sheepish smile. Showing your embarrassment in this manner reassures those around you and relieves them of the need to try to control your behavior. It also relieves you of creating unnecessary tension in yourself by trying to hide your embarrassment. If you have shame, hunch your shoulders and cover your face, eyes and mouth open. That very movement will start to teach you the rule that you don’t get. It’s very strange, but true. The best explanation I have for it is that shame is deeply hard-wired into social creatures to do the work of getting us to behave adaptively in groups…which means following rules or norms. Even if you have no earthly idea what the rule is, or even if you really believe that it doesn’t apply to you, or even if it’s truly a bad norm, physically expressing shame guides you and your social group into healthier social behavior. [Special thanks to John Glionna of the Los Angeles Times for his excellent article Wednesday, January 2, 2008

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