Thursday, 21 March 2013

Chinese Dating and Getting By In China Through Guanxi

In any culture, having good connections is always advantageous.  While in most other cultures, a person's actual achievements, skills, and experiences make a huge difference in helping him/her with his/her goals and ambitions, in China, being well-connected often has more weight.  If your plans of marrying a Chinese lady include working and living in the Middle Kingdom, you should understand the concept of Guanxi to help you get by and, perhaps, even flourish in this foreign environment.

Whereas, in your country, you may take advantage of your connections to get a good recommendation from an old and a well-respected professor or a former boss to help you get accepted in graduate school or land a job, in the People's Republic, having guanxi (or a network of good connections, big or small) is a big part of everyday life.  The concept of guanxi permeates all aspects of Chinese life.  It can help a person get train tickets when they are difficult to obtain because it's peak season; it can prove very useful when one needs to make a reservation at a popular restaurant or just to get nice tables; of course, it would also be very valuable when one needs to close a deal or bag a promotion.  For a foreign man, having guanxi can go a long way toward obtaining permits and a visa, getting a good deal on your long-term accommodations, and finding a decent job. 

From a foreigner's perspective, which would be influenced greatly by his own culture and partly by his personal belief system, using the system of guanxi to get by and/or get ahead may seem unethical and unfair to others who do not have the same connections.  When in China, however, the concept of guanxi is not so black and white; there are numerous factors that you must consider if you even want to try and understand the intricate underpinnings and greater implications of such a system.  If you will be working and living in China, you will have to be ready to accept and even adopt some of the society's deeply-ingrained practices, even if you can't understand them and even if you don't necessarily agree with them.  If you will be in China for a significant period of time, living among its people, and maybe even marrying a wonderful Chinese lady in the near future, this means you will need to accept the realities in your new environment.  As they say, if you can't beat them, join them. 

One of the ways to cultivate your own guanxi is to learn the delicate art of gift giving, particularly when it comes to business or job opportunities.  Gift giving in this sense is considered a delicate art because you will be walking the fine line between advantageous goodwill and respectfulness and plain and simple bribery.  The general rule of thumb when giving a gift is to give something valuable enough for the person of status to appreciate, but not so over-the-top as to make him feel like you're showing him up.  When giving gifts to more than one person, the value of each gift should more or less be appropriate to each person's status; that is to say, the higher the status of the person, the more valuable his gift should be compared to the others. 

You must also remember that cultivating guanxi always works both ways.  Maybe that well-respected businessman whom you have been helping with his English lessons for free can help you close that business deal.  Perhaps a lady friend of yours who helped you find better accommodations with better amenities might ask you to write a letter of recommendation to help her get into a college abroad.  In any case, developing your own guanxi is essential to how "easy" life in China will be for you. 

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