This unit helps students learn the differences in roles and relationships
between people that occur within different cultures. The most important
relationships are between parents and children, husband and wife,
and those between friends. What's more, there exists a gender difference
between males and females, not only in cross-cultural but also
in mono-cultural communication.
1. Principles of a Traditional Chinese Family
The most important relationship in the family is that between
parents and son.
- Arranged marriage is therefore a practical consideration.
It is the son’s duty to support his parents.
- Respect and
obedience to parental wishes are expected of the children.
Parents are responsible for their children’s education
- Parents’ spirit must be placed in household
shrines and graves must be tended regularly.
Nevertheless, more and more Chinese families are being
influenced by Western cultures, which has caused great
changes to occur
within those families and the relationships between family
Principles of an American Family
The most important relationship in the family is that between
husband and wife.
- Parents do not arrange marriages for their children, nor
do children usually ask their parents’ permission to get married.
- Parents feel that adult children should make major life
decisions by themselves.
- Societal and familial treatment of the elderly reflects
the values of independence and individualism.
- The elderly’s financial support is often provided by government-sponsored
social security or welfare systems that decrease their dependence
on the family.
- Older people often seek their own friends rather than becoming
too emotionally dependent on their children.
- It's a common practice for families to place their older
relatives in nursing homes because of physical disabilities
or illness, rather
than caring for them in their homes.
- Many older people don't want to have to rely on their grown
children. The same spirit of independence that guides child
rearing and young
adults also affects older people.
3. American Family Relationships
Working Wives and Husbands
A challenge for couples with children is finding day care and
obtaining flexible work schedules so they can coordinate their
home and work. Occasionally, husbands stay home and care for
the children while the wives work.
Changes in the American family structure is evidenced
by high rates
of separation and divorce. It's estimated that almost 50 percent
of all marriages end in divorce. These trends have resulted
in a high number of single-parent families headed mostly
Single mothers (and fathers) often feel “stretched to their limits”
with the unending responsibilities that face them. They carry the
burden of supporting a family and being totally responsible for
their children. They have very few opportunities for rest and relaxation,
unless they have supportive extended family members who will help
4.Child rearing in the West
In the West, especially in the United States, it's common for
parents to put a newborn baby in a separate bedroom when the child
is a few weeks old. Part of the reason is economic; that is, many
houses are large enough to offer each child a separate room.
However, Americans have other reasons for physically separating
their children soon after birth. Parents like to preserve their
privacy. By having their own rooms, the children will also be able
to have privacy when they're older. In addition, the children will
eventually learn to be responsible for their own living space.
This is seen as a first step toward personal independence.
Americans have traditionally held independence, and the closely
related value of individualism, in high esteem. Parents try to
instill these values in their children. American English expresses
these value preferences: at a certain age, children should “cut
the (umbilical) cord” and are encouraged not to be “tied their
mother’s apron strings.” In the process of their socialization,
children learn to “look out for number one” and to “stand on their
own two feet”.
Children are encouraged to make decisions and to be responsible
for their actions.
Children are encouraged, but usually not forced, to “leave the
nest” and begin independent lives.
Adult children make major life decisions by themselves.
Parents do not arrange marriages for their children, nor do children
usually ask their parents’ permission to get married.
5. Friendship in China
In China most people expect their friends to do for them when
they are in need. There is an obligation to a friendship. People
feel obligated and a duty to do for their friends. We have
a lot of Chinese sayings concerning friendship: “为朋友两肋插” (people
take any risks, even risk of their lives, especially among
male friends, to do everything for their friends disregarding
it's right or wrong, ) ; “有难同当， 有福共享” (people can share all
their thoughts with their friends, no matter whether it's about
hardships or happiness ).Other proverbs and sayings such as
“一个篱笆三个桩, 一个好汉三个帮” (as one fence needs three stakes, a good guy
fellows), “ 在家靠父母，出门靠朋友" (it is your parents
that you can rely on at home, but it is your friends that you
can count on when out in the society) shows that friendship
counts or is very important to a person in the society.
Having friends reflects having a good personality. The more friends
you have, the better personality you have and more sociable you
are. Your life will be better if you have more friends, and will
be worse without friends. One needs a friend to help him or her
out when difficulties occur, and one needs a friend to give emotional
support in times of trouble. And what’s more, one needs a friend
to offer financial support when there's a lack of money. So in
other words, one cannot be without friends in his or her life.
Actually, there's a lot to say about Chinese friendships, and
I'm sure you, as a student, have more explanations you can add
to this list because of a better understanding of your own personal
6. Friendship in the American West
In general, Americans have casual, friendly relationships with
many people, but deeper, closer friendships with only a few. True
friendship require time and commitment (The state of being bound
emotionally or intellectually to a course of action or to another
person or persons) which many Americans lack. Therefore they often
find it convenient to have friendly but less committed relationships,
rather than many deep, close friendships. Their shortage of time
and their numerous commitments to family, work, and even volunteer
projects mean Americans have less time to pursue many close friends.
Diversity in personal relationships
In the United States, men and women socialize relatively freely
and develop a variety of relationships. Single and married
people of the opposite sex may be close friends and share personal
without being romantically involved. College students and others
may even live with someone of the opposite sex for practical
reasons only. In many parts of the States (although not all),
there are few restrictions on the types of relationships people
can have. Marriage relationships, of course differ from couple
to couple, but there are some generalities that can be made.
Some married men and women consider themselves to be best friends
as well as spouses. This concept is unusual in some cultures.
Americans are geographically mobile, and many
learn to develop
friendships easily and quickly. Approximately one out of every
five American families moves every year. People relocate because
they change jobs, attend distant colleges, get married, have
children, or simply want a change in their lives. Perhaps as
a consequence, people sometimes form and end friendships quickly.
Relationships based on a common activity may fade or end when
the activity ends. These friendships are not deep but are based
upon shared daily experiences. Many Americans, in general, do have
enduring friendships, but at certain points in their lives can
be satisfied with transient relationships.
Friendliness versus friendship
Many people around the world characterize Americans as friendly.
They tend to smile and talk easily with others even if they
are strangers (in big cities, this is less common). They may even
disclose personal information in encounters with strangers
they will never see again.
One of the most frequent problems in cross-cultural relationships
is that foreigners misinterpret American friendliness as an
offer of friendship. Naturally, a foreigner who thinks that an
is extending friendship will have expectations for the friendship.
When the American is unaware of these expectations, or is unwilling
to be a true friend (because all the American intended was
a friendly but superficial relationship), the foreigner or newcomer
in the States can become disappointed.
Cross-cultural expectations for friendship
Expectations for personal relationships differ greatly across
cultures. It's important to know that while most Americans
value close friendships,
they also value privacy and independence. From an American
perspective, to have privacy or to give someone privacy is
Yet, when the word "privacy“ is translated into
other languages, it has more of a negative meaning (aloneness
the American’s need for privacy is sometimes judged negatively
by those who haven't been reared with the value of individualism.
In addition, an American may feel that a friend needs privacy
to “work out" a problem. Many Americans want time
alone when they have problems, so they want to give you
if you don’t want it!.
In addition to different expectations about the amount of time
spent together, there are also cultural differences in what people
believe they should do for each other.
7. Comparison of British and Chinese Friendship
- British people apologise to their friends over things like
asking for help in some small matter or telephoning late at night.
tend to use polite forms such as ‘could you ‘ and 'would you’
even with their friends. They may sound cold and distant when
- Chinese people tend to make more direct requests to their
friends. They address those they know quite well in a very direct
may sound rude and demanding when they intend to sound friendly.
8. Friendship and Social Class
The higher up the social scale you go, the greater the number
of friends you will see in the course of the week.
People in the middle class will show their true friendliness
and see more friends during the week, because they'll invite
their friends made at work to join them for a dinner or celebration
their home, or attend the theatre.
People in the working class have a smaller circle of friends.
They're not likely to ask the friends they've made at work
or in the pub to join them for a meal in their home.
Words and Expressions
1. Verbal signals or transition markers
The first principle is that …;
The second principle of the ideal Chinese family I wish to touch
upon (talk about shortly)is …;
Support itself, however, was not enough and this brings us
onto the third principle;
Balancing this third was a fourth.
The final principle is that
2. Comparison of English Idioms and Chinese Idioms
"Fair-weather friend" - Someone who is your friend when you
have no problems but who disappears when you need help, similar
to Chinese idiom: 酒肉朋友 -- “Dining friends” someone who always
with you by eating and playing together with you but disappears
when you are in trouble.
"Lady friend" - An adult female friend of a gentleman or another
"Blood brothers" - Extremely good friends; derives from a
children’s ritual whereby good friends sometimes prick their
mix a bit of their blood. Similar to Chinese “结拜兄弟” ( jie bai
"Birds of a feather flock together" - People who are alike
usually form friendships. Similar to Chinese “志同道合的朋友”
"One rotten apple spoils the whole bunch" - One person who
is not nice is a bad influence on the people he or she spends
Similar to Chinese proverb : “ 一粒老鼠药坏了一锅粥”— A tablet of rat
killer spoils a broth of porridge.
"A black sheep" - Someone who has done something bad, esp.
something which brings embarrassment and loss of respect to the
similar to Chinese idiom ---- “害群之马” ( a bad harming horse )
"A friend in need is a friend indeed" - Someone who helps
you when you need it is a true friend. Similar to Chinese proverb:
"Familiarity breeds contempt" - People who spend too much
time together grow to dislike each other. (日久生厌)
3. Common words and phrases
"in quite a different light" - In quite a different way
"confer" - Consult, in a quite different light
"prize" or "prized" - Highly valued
"belabor" or "belabour" - To work on or talk about to silly
lengths, explain something more than necessary
- There is no need to belabor the point – you are angry.
I am late and you do not need to keep reminding me.
"elaborate" - To add more details to, describe in detail
- The minister said he was resigning but he refused to elaborate
(on his reasons for doing so).
- Introduce your main points to begin with and elaborate
on them later in the essay.
"rapport" - In a relationship having close agreement or sympathy
with someone else和睦, 意见一致
- We have developed a close / good rapport. 我们关系和睦一致
"one-up" - Getting an advantage over someone
else, one-upmanship, one-upping
"cementing" - Strengthening
"reinforce" - Strengthen
"hold forth" - Speak at length
- She held forth all afternoon on /about a variety of subjects.