Analysis: QIU GUANGMIN
COMMUNICATION between people from different countries always causes conflicts not only due to language inefficiency but also cultural differences in most cases.
Culture can simply mean fixed behaviours and ways of thinking in the interactions with an individual, a group, a community, an ethnic minority and even a nation or a region.
Those who want to smoothly cooperate and work well with people of different cultures should be able to understand the cultural difference and adapt to it.
Different nationalities may share different religious beliefs, ethnical traditions, administrative systems, and personal experiences, all of which can create a wide gap between people where negativity and confusions can grow easily, even to an uncontrollable level.
Therefore, each Chinese national in Zambia should pay special attention to the methods of narrowing this cultural gap.
Here are some tips to enhance adaption to the new culture for the Chinese living in Zambia.
Learn one or two local languages. Language is always a key to your identity acceptance in Zambian tribes and society. Start from greetings. For instance, “Mulishani?”(nǐ)(hǎo) (ma). Response “Bwino mulishani” (hěn)(hǎo) (nǐ) (ne) in Bemba, “Mulibwanji” (nǐ) (hǎo) (ma), “Bwino bwanji” (hěn) (hǎo) (nǐ) (ne) in Nyanja, ‘‘Mulibuti’’ (nǐ) (hǎo)(ma). “Kabotu” hěn) (hǎo) in Tonga, even “Mwayoyo” (nǐ) (hǎo) (ma). “Kanaya ngachili mwane” (hěn) (hǎo) (nǐ) (ne) in Luvale. Greet everyone with a warm tone. Always remember that, in Zambia, it is customary to greet all the time. It doesn’t matter whether you know the person better or not. A handshake is a most preferred greeting as well.
However, remember not to eat food without washing hands during your handshake interaction. In some formal occasions, avoid using Chinese. If possible, interpretation is necessary to the Zambian side. Otherwise, it creates misunderstandings. Nevertheless, always expect many communication misunderstandings but be patient and make it right.
Avoid smoking and spitting in public. Some Zambians enjoy smoking but others do not. Spitting in front of people is an insult to them. So be cautious.
Avoid cultural stereotypes, prejudices and misconceptions. Every person is different, so treat people differently depending on the experience with them. If you have a preconceived mind, it will create many misunderstandings.
Zambians naturally respect other races. However, if you are seen not to appreciate but taking advantage of them, you may create confusions as well.
The following are the three racial tones; Firstly, tasting Zambian food in public positively. Secondly, in a meeting room, avoid sitting with only fellow Chinese but mix freely with Zambians. Thirdly, not getting involved in any chores to do with Zambians which may seem inferior could be offensive.
Pay attention to the local administrative systems. Know more and try to accept their differences with the Chinese systems.
Try to understand the following Zambian habits. For instance,
• Handshakes. To get closer with Zambian culture, handshaking is a shortcut. Even half an hour ago you have done the handshaking. Remember to try again.
• Laughter. Zambian people love peace and enjoy life. Laughter shows their enthusiasm to a better life and a creation of warm and friendly atmosphere. Join them. I can assure you an easy life without pressure.
• Not knocking before entering an office. If not, it is a very rude and arrogant behaviour.
• Offering seats to the seniors and guests. It is simply like that in Chinese culture.
• Avoid gossip but ONLY in private. People may suspect that you are discussing them.
• Standing when seniors enter unless they tell you not to. Respect for seniors is cherished in Zambia.
• Not shouting at your subordinates in public even if they are wrong, otherwise you will be resisted. If you have a problem with a subordinate, you can shout at them in private if you must.
Not being obsessed with time management. If you pay much attention to time, you may be frustrated because people see you as acting abnormally.
On a hilarious note, you could also emulate me by adopting a local name. I am Richard Bupe Kapalu, and Luvale is my tribe.
Lastly, always show interest in local people and activities.
My friends, try these tips then you will work successfully, peacefully and joyfully and you will love this amazing country the way I do.
The author is a Chinese language and cultural studies lecturer with Confucious Institute, UNZA.
Analysis: QIU GUANGMIN