Sunday, December 2, 2012

Touching in China

The couple

Couple hold hands. We see this in France and other countries as well.
However couple can also hold each other back. And here as you can see the girl is holding the man!

In France we can never imagine a girl holding her boyfriend like this. It would show that the girl "controls" the man. 
In France "madcho?" tradition, the man has to keep control at least for the outside appearance.
The girl also minds her image and wouldn't like to do this. It would mean that she acts like a man and has little education.

Ok I need to tell you this is a Hunan girl. Hunan girls are supposed to be "spicy" like the food, or strong tempered, dominant.. Maybe it is different elsewhere in China?

Note: holding hands VS holding someone else back
When you hold someone else back, in all culture this has a strong psychological impact. It is a sign of protection, taking care of someone else, controling.
It is not the same meaning as holding hands. While holding hands, you stand at the same level!

The friends

A group of friends:

It is rare to see a group of friends and more common among young people.

Men will not hold each other hands! They hold each other back.

In France we would not act like this. 
For most people, only homosexual hold each other (or maybe I am oldfashion?).

Men: two good friends

You can often see this after a good meal, a few beer or bai-jiu (Chinese rice alcoohol).

Women: two good friends

Women will hold each other hand or hold each other arm.

Strangely you can see this between younger women, between a younger and an older woman but not between two older women!

For men it is different, no matter the age, two good men friends will hold each other.
Women will hold each other at anytime. Not only after a good meal and a few drinks.

Parent and child

It is more common between a mother and her child but you can also see a father holding his child.

This we can also see in France and in most countries.

Chinese are prude?

We often say that asian people are prude.
They don’t kiss, they prefer to simply wave hand to a firm handshake to greet each other.

In fact this is another western cliché and a Chinese contradiction:

  • In some aspects, Chinese are very prude. For instance, younger girls will often blush if you shake their hand to great! 
  • However you might see Chinese friends hold each other in the street!

A Chinese paradox : 
Chinese people don’t bear kiss and don’t like handshake. 
However, they don’t hesitate to touch your shoulder in order to attract your attention.
This in France would be seen as a "violation of your physical space". Chinese people on the contrary even they don’t know you at all will try to express some friendship touching you: pating your shoulder...

Touching is a weapon that you should be master 

Touching exists in China. It is a very meaningfull, powerful communication tool:

  1. To express feelings
  2. To express hierarchie and parternalism : boss/ employee, between official... 
  3. When spirits warm up, Chinese people push each other. It is a way to intimidate. But most of the time there is no real fight 

For example:

  • You will embrace a friend to show him that you are here for him
  • Taping on the shoulder of an employee to congratulate him for his work. 
Once my Chinese boss who is a woman, tried to hold my should. I was very surprised and annoyed as I see this as a way to take control over me. She wanted to ask me for a favour, to come and work the next day. 
I told her not to touch me as I dislike when people touch me in order to "gain some control". 
I am not sure how you should react in this kind of situation? And why did she try to hold my shoulder? Was she trying to use her feminity? Or is it a Chinese way to manage employees and let them feel well?

Beware touching is a powerful tool but you should use it wisely.

  • For instance, you can not hold the shoulder of your boss as you are below him. Only he can do this
  • If you come too close to someone, too quickly he or she might resent it!

Still as a foreigner, Chinese people will forgive you more easily your mistake so this is a strong too for a foreigner.

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