I have written before about how important it is to consider other people's cultural views while traveling or working. These little actions you do are truly critical when creating a relationship with someone else who comes from a different culture than you. It also allows you the opportunity to "save face", or in other words maintain a good self-image while in the presence of others.
I recently read an article by Andrew Jacobs that talked about the popularity of smoking amongst the Chinese people. In fact, Mr. Jacobs, sites that on average "One in four Chinese people smoke, doctors light up in hospital hallways and health ministers puff away during meetings."
It was a bit of a culture shock for me considering I was brought up with the thought process that smoking was harmful and can kill you. That kind of reaction is exactly why the Chinese Government is putting a ban on cigarettes in railway stations, and other public places. They are doing this so that all the visitors coming to the country for the upcoming Olympic Games will be able to enjoy the games “smoke free”.
However, because it is so prevalent in the Chinese society the government is having a hard time curbing it's peoples current smoking patterns. Mr. Jacobs sites that a manager of a popular restaurant in Beijing has stated that he won't ask his customers to not smoke because, "My customers would rather starve than not smoke".
So what do you do if you are going to be going to China in a couple of weeks. Do you refuse a cigarette if someone offers you one? Can't, because you would loose face and loose any availability to create a relationship. Do you do something that you may be personally against? Not necessarily, you can always take the cigarette and throw it out later.
It will be a culture shock certainly for foreign travelers who are used to smoke free public places and it will be interesting to see what becomes of it during the Olympics. After all little actions can have a BIG impact when two different cultures come into play.
Related Posts: Culture in the Workplace; Olympics in China - Has anything really changed?; An Olympic Debate; Olympics 2008: Inspiration. No, really. Smoking kills.... Your Wii
Photo courtesy of: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com