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2nd January, 2021

Why Westerners Misunderstand Traditional Chinese People
By Jonathan Bluestein


Again and again I encounter Western people who have cultural clashes with Chinese professionals. A so-called 'client' comes to see a Chinese traditional doctor or martial arts teacher, and they eventually have a falling out with them over 'misunderstandings'. The Westerner complains that the Chinese man was not forthcoming and catering enough for their needs. They consider this unprofessional, and sometimes even rude.

What such Western person does not understand is, that in a traditional Oriental culture which is Confucian, the students or the person of lesser status in a given relationship, is the one expected to make most of the effort. In that cultural tradition, there is a stronger sense of personal responsibility, especially when it comes to intellectual study and the maintenance of one's health. Confucius taught that a student ought to be given one quarter by the teacher, and ought to be able to research and derive the other three quarters on his own. A medical patient, unless in urgent need for care, is also a student in health of his doctor, if the latter is worthy and willing... which is sadly usually not the case in Western Medicine.

Moreover, this attitude by Western people tends to hide a certain sense of entitlement, and a subconscious desire to be served by others. This is not necessarily racist, just because the example given here was that of Westerners seeking service from Chinese people. It is rooted in several deeply ingrained cultural habits and ideas. One of these being, that the majority of Western people believe a correct way to develop intellectually is to sit in a government-sanctioned prison for 12 years, while other people feed you with information. After a person had undergone such long-standing indoctrination, it is no wonder that he or she feel that they are owed service by professionals.

When I explain such things at length to those who have had cultural clashes with Chinese professionals, they tend to reply with: "Yes... I understand... But I don't want to change. It is their responsibility". This is what happens to people who have not traveled enough and have not read enough books. Without change, how can we grow or heal?

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