With China entry the WTO and will hold the Olympic Games in 2008, the relationship between China and Western in politics, economy, culture will become more and more close. It is undoubtedly that the etiquette will play an important role in this process. To the definition of etiquette, China and Western have a different understanding. As Chinese thinks that the etiquette is the common behavior standards that all the members must obey, and its purpose is to keep the normal living order of the society. In ancient China, a famous philosopher thinks that etiquette is a principal to deal with the relationship between man and supernatural beings, man and ghosts, man and men. There are also many words about etiquette
in English. For example, courtesy which means courteous behavior, good manners;
protocol which means system of rules governing formal occasion, e .g, meetings,
between governments, diplomats, etc. And these words are all from the same French word etiquette. Of course, more spread and more profound cultural comment of
the western etiquette is from the Classical Period, i.e., old Athens and Roma culture. Today, etiquette become the reflection and manifestation of one country’
s politics, economy, culture in people’s social contact. And it include the principal and moral that people should obey in daily life. Etiquette formed in the
process of the deposition of culture and social contact. So every nation have their own etiquette standard which created with the spirit of this their nation. Because of this formed the cultural difference between different nations. As languages is the carrier of the human culture. This difference must reflect in the language of different nations. So in the following, we will take china, British and America as the representation of Western, to look at some cultural difference
in etiquette, and then analyze the reasons. Furthermore, we will discuss how to
learn western culture.
Cultural differences on politeness between western and Chinese can be found in
many aspects of daily communication, including addressing, greeting and parting,
compliments, apologies, thanks, etc. In the following, we will look at some cultural different between China and western.
1.Greeting and Parting
When people meet acquaintances or friends, people usually greet each other
. The purpose of greeting is to establish or maintain social contact. So formulaic expressions are often used, but such formulaic expressions often causes conflict because of the great cultural differences between Chinese and native English
speakers. In English, people often employ the following expressions to greet each other “Good morning/evening/afternoon. “Fine day, isn’t it? ”How is everything going?” Have you eaten yet?” What are you going to do?” Where have you
been?”etc. Westerners treat them as real question. While in Chinese, we always
say “你吃了吗？”“你上哪里去？”“你干什么去？”to show our consideration. Parting may be divided into two steps. Before the final prating, there is usual a
leave-taking. Western and Chinese cultures have diverse ways to deal with leave-
takings. Firstly, in English society, during the closing phase of an encounter,
from ”I” perspective, reasons for terminating the encounter are presented in mitigatory comments. Typical comments are associated with expressions of apology,
such as “I” am afraid I must be off, I have to relieve the baby-sitter” etc.
Western people believe that to be willing to visit and converse with someone is
to have respect for him.; to terminate the visiting is not of one’s own free will, but because of some other arrangements, therefore they always try to make their leaving sound reluctant by finding some reasons and apologize for it to make the leaving acceptable for both parties. English speakers often signal several
times before leaving. “Well, it’s been nice to see you again. I do enjoy our
talk and the lovely dinner, but I must be going soon”. Thank you very much for
asking me over. I hope we’ll be able to get together again before long…” Consolidation in a wider range of common acquaintances also occurs, in expressions such as “Say hello to Jack for me” or “Remember me to John”. In Chinese society, during the closing phase of and encounter, usually, from a “you ”perspective, reasons for ending the encounter are set forth in mitigatory expressions. Such expressions include“你挺忙的，我就不多打扰了。”“你一定累了，早点休息吧，我
要告辞了。”, etc. With these words, they may stand up from their seats. Chinese
leave-taking is very short and quick. Western people think it so abrupt that they have not prepare for it. While moving to the door, Chinese employ expressions
of apology like“对不起没，打扰了。”“对不起，占用你不少时间。”It should be noted that these expressions employed by Chinese guests to show concern for their
hosts can only be appropriate for business visits in the English environment2..AddressingBoth western and Chinese people have two kinds of personal names---a surname and
a given name. But the order and the use of these names in the two languages are
somewhat different. In Chinese, the surname comes first and then the given name
. And people like add“小”before their family name. Such as“小王”、“小郑”、
“小李”、“小徐”and so on.. While westerners names are written and spoken with
the given name first and the family name last. So John Smith's family name is Smith, not John. In a formal setting, address men as "Mister" (abbreviated as "Mr
."), married women as "Misses" (abbreviated as "Mrs."), and unmarried women as "
Miss" (abbreviated as "Ms."). These days many women prefer to be addressed using
the abbreviations "Ms." or "M.", pronounced "miz". If the person has an M.D. or
Ph.D., they will often be addressed as "Doctor" (abbreviated as "Dr."). Faculty
are addressed as "Professor" (abbreviated as "Prof.").In an informal situation,
westerners will introduce each other by first name, without titles, and occasionally by just the last name. If you are introduced to somebody by first name, you can address him or her by first name the next time you meet. The only exception would be for someone who holds an important position, such as the university president or provost. Unless they tell you otherwise, faculty should be addressed
using their title and last name (e.g., "Professor Smith"). When in doubt, use the formal manner of address, since it is better to err on the side of formality.
It is also appropriate to ask how they prefer to be addressed. Children should
always address adults in the formal fashion, using their title and last name.
Another difference is about the form of addressing. From the viewpoint of sociolinguistics, forms of addressing can serve as an indication of the relationship of power and solidarity in the society. In calling their superiors or elders, the
Chinese are accustomed to the nonreciprocal or asymmetrical addressing, in other words. They use “title +surname” to address their superior or elders rather
than call them surnames, while the superior or elders call the addressers their
names. The Chinese tend to abide by the polite principle of depreciating oneself
and respecting others to show appropriate respects towards the persons being addressed, otherwise, the addresser may be considered as ill mannered, ill educated or rude. But in English speaking countries, people have a tendency to follow the reciprocal or symmetrical addressing. Although they are different in age and
status, they can call the other directly, namely, their names, even first names
except when they call the doctors, not arousing offence between them, but demonstrating the sense of intimacy and the conception of” Everyone is created equal”
. Chinese people feel unnatural addressing a westerner by his given name, feeling that it indicates too close a relationship, and westerners, on the other hand,
may feel that if a Chinese insists on using his surname, it indicates an unwillingness to be friendly and maintains a gap between them. So the use of forms like” Miss Mary” or “Mr. Smith ” may be a Chinese forms of compromise. With Miss Mary, the use of the given name indicates friendliness, but the addition of the title indicates the respect they feel they ought to show. And with Smith, the
lack of a title indicates friendliness, but the use of the surname prevents if sounding too intimate. However, both addressing used by the Chinese sound very strange and uncomfortable to the westerner.
3.Compliments and ResponseTo compliment is to praise the addressee’s virtues, ability, behavior, appearance, clothing, personality and belongs. Appropriate compliments can serve as effective supplementary means in inter-personal communication. Western and Chinese culture are at polar opposites about compliment. An western hostess, if she is complimented for her cooking skill, is likely to say,” Oh, I am so glad that you
liked it. I cook it especially for you.” Not so is a Chinese hostess, who will
instead apologize for giving you “Nothing”. They will say“随便作几个菜，不好吃
。”If translate this into English“I just made some dishes casually and they are not very tasty. Perhaps the foreigner will think why you invite me to you family and have the untasty food. You aren't respect me. The English-speaking people
are more active to praise others and to be praise than Chinese people. For example, the Americans are “straight forwardness”, the Chinese take pride in “modesty”. That modesty has left many a Chinese hungry at an Americans table, for Chinese politeness calls for three refusals before one accepts an offer and the Americans hosts take ”no ” to mean “no ”, whether it is the first, second or
third time. Still bigger differences exist in people’s attitude towards compliments, i.e., in the response to compliments. Chinese are tend to efface themselves in words or refuse it, although they do feel comfortable about the compliments
. So many westerners simply feel puzzled or even upset when their Chinese friends refused their compliments. The Chinese people are not intending to be modest with the sacrifice of friendship in so doing, but it is rather
due to the traditional Chinese philosophy, that of modesty. The Chinese people
regard modesty as a most valuable virtue, so they seldom agree to the compliment
on their own.
4.Apologies and ResponsesIf wrong things are done, there must be apologies .As to how to offer apologies,
both western and Chinese people may “I am sorry….”,”I apologize for…”. Etc. But Chinese would like to apologize for the crowded state of their dwellings
and for small numbers of dishes, although the room is big enough and there are many dishes. Chinese stay these to express self-depreciation only out of courtesy
, not having other implication. But the westerners would wonder, since the room
is so large and there are so many dishes, why do they say so. May be they do not
welcome our visit, they don’t like us to eat more. When Chinese contact with westerners, if they do not know these differences, if will lead to misunderstanding. The ways to respond to apologies are different, too.
A: Oh, I’m sorry. I forget it.
B1: It doesn’t matter.
B2: That’s all right.
B2 is westerners. B1 is a Chinese person. “It doesn’t matter” is a translation of “没关系”from Chinese, which is a common pattern in Chinese to respond to
apologies. If a Chinese uses this to respond to apologies, westerners will think
that he is a sharp person, who simply cannot forgive a very little wrong thing.