I was travelling in Asia few years for work and I was sometimes acting like a white ignorant. I have done mistakes that cost me money and business. If you travel to Asia be different than I was, be very open minded as we see same thing with opposite backgrounds of education culture religion and traditions. Be very understanding, be humble, quit prejudges.
I have discovered some things that were very very offensive for them and some for me:
- in China don’t you ever make them “lose face” in business or other situation involving hierarchy either in family or institutions. Be polite even if they have done a mistake, not superior or judgmental, not even condescending. It is of the highest importance in any kind of relation to maintain their reputation.
- But there is also a thing that makes business hard, they can’t say NO, so you can’t be sure if they understand or not. It happened to me in China and in India.
- in Thailand it is offensive to mock on their smiling attitude when confronting with them. I was explained by one of our Thai employees that they are taught to smile especially in this situation to lower the tension and find an agreement within harmony. Personally I like it a lot, but first I was an ignorant.
- for me was very offensive the Indian cast system, that I was still observing when auditing factories. Nothing to make remarks about but still disturbing.
- also in China I found very disturbing the fact that they spit and they burp. I know it is a state policy to learn them not to.
- i was also instructed that in Buddhist countries not to touch the head as it is the most spiritual part of the body. Well I wasn’t in any situation of this kind.
But the most bizarre was that chewing gum is illegal in Singapore. Anyway just be respectful, polite and if you have a doubt simply ask. They are pleased to see you care.