tell ya what it means to me

Well, it has been a long time since I have posted…
Today, I want to talk about Face Culture. This is an interesting phenomena that I have only recently started to understand.

Why is this so important?

For those who have always had enough money, this is a very curious thing that makes no sense whatsoever.

Remember the story of the Chinese business man who made toys for a US toy company? He used a cheaper leaded paint instead of the expensive paints the company paid him to use. When the US company discovered this, they were understandably upset. The business took his life because of this incident.


One day, riding my bike in the US, I passed a group of guys working on a car. One person had left the drivers side door wide open. I call back and said he should shut the car door. The young man was mad at me thinking I was somehow insulting him. My intentions were totally to try to help him- not insult him.


I had to ask my students to tell me why Face Culture is so important.

When all you have is the respect of others, then the only thing that makes you valuable to them is respect.

Face Culture is so important because they are looking for respect from a certain group of people. The importance of respect doesn’t mean that they want respect from everyone; just from the right people. People they respect. People they want to be like.

Face Culture is about being able to respect the people you want to respect and receiving respect from those same people.
And this makes a world of sense to me because we all want respect and honor from people. And we don’t always want respect from everyone- just the people we think are worthy of respect.
Are you one of those who wants to be just like Mr. and Mrs. Jones? Do you want to have a car just as nice as they have? What about the biggest big screen tv? See, Face Culture isn’t as different from keeping up with the Joneses…

What I am striving to do (and I hope you will strive for this as well), is to live my life in such a manner that even if someone doesn’t like what I believe in, they can respect the authenticity of my beliefs. They can have respect for why I believe it.


All cultures are more similar than they are different.

All cultures are more similar than they are different.


Well, ok, this is based on very limited experiences- although very diverse experiences. I have spent time in Sweden around Russians, been to Poland and currently live in Asia.

Every place I have been, I see the same things. People want very similar things.

Let’s look at hospitality. In the USA, people ask you what you want to drink. And you respond according to what they have and what you want. It works. Where I live, no one asks you what you want to drink- they just give you something.

In both cases, the host wants the guest to feel comfortable. So, the host does what is culturally appropriate. Here, it is giving the drinks/ food. In the USA, it is asking “what do you want?”

Now, the way in which the cultures operate is quite different. But both cultures have the same goals- the same desired end result. So, if you ever leave the USA, remember, different cultures want the same things: their guests to be happy and comfortable. However, they do different things to achieve this result.

So if you ever have any questions, just ask what is culturally appropriate. I am certain they won’t mind you asking and will provide a juicy bit of conversation for at least a few minutes!

Before you go:

Just to show you the differences, I was eating dinner with my wife and two of her friends (she is native here). I asked them what they want to drink, they said “I’m ok”. So I got up and bought 5 different things to drink and then they each took one. You don’t ask what they want to drink, you just buy them something and they enjoy what you get them.

Also, when it comes to paying for something, you don’t tell them “I will pay”. Instead, you need to fight them. It is common to see people pushing money out of the way to pay for something. It is also funny. With my nephew (my wife is the youngest and we got married later in life than her siblings), he was driving us around and needed gas in the car. So, rather than let him pay, I pushed (yes, I literally pushed him back) and thrust money into the hands of the attendant.

I have, in fact, behaved like this on several occasions (although, that was the only time I have needed to push someone).

In the USA, you would never do that. You offer to pay for something and the other person most often accepts graciously. You would never tell someone that you are not thirsty when you are actually thirsty.