Interesting article on culture clash for the Beijing Olympics. In the Chinese society, smiles often are treated with suspicion.
Some local university students, who will form the backbone of the volunteers in 2008, have actually been organized to take training in flashing a smile to visitors, such as learning to “smile three metres away.” But the students said that it needed a lot of practice to be able to smile three metres away with ease and calm, according to local media reports.
During a recent international softball game, student volunteers found their university had set up a special room for them to discuss their experiences after work, so they would be less stressed out and could smile from their hearts.
So why does the city need to make such an effort to get people to smile ?
Unlike in the West, where a person wearing a smile would be most likely regarded as someone who is friendly, kind and can be trusted, people in China are traditionaly encouraged to be serious looking than to show a big smile to strangers. In popular literature, people who always wear a smile or smile “without a reason” may be depicted as being silly or even harbouring an ulterior motive.
This can create problems when serious-looking Chinese persons meet more friendly foreign visitors.
A young US student in Beijing recalled that once during her first month in the city she bought some chestnuts at a campus grocery store. She thanked the seller with a smile because she had tasted one and she liked it very much. The man said something long in Chinese, without any facial expression. The young woman thought he was being angry, until somebody told her that the man was actually asking her to buy more if she liked it.
And because people didn’t smile back, she soon smiled only to those Chinese who looked friendly, she told local news media.
Wow! What a fascinating problem China faces to integrate their culture and accept the rest of the world for their 2008 summer Olympics hosting duties.
How well do you show sincerity when you sell?
In our society people are pretty adept at realizing whether someone means what they “show.”
For example, you sit down at a restaurant and a waitress says, “Hi, how are you today?”
The difference is dramatic between a person who really means it, really wants to know – as opposed to someone who says it because it’s their standard opening line.
In the same vein, salespeople should be cautious about opening conversations with language that is frivolous. A genuine smile can take you a mile down the road toward a close, as opposed to a silly comment like “how are you today?”
Smile from your heart and you’ll touch the heart of that hard working buyer who’s got to buy from someone. Why not you?