Family Matters
CHINA TIP 8 (week 27, 2008)

Every year in December the government announces the dates of national holidays, which vary each year. This year, the festivities in honour of the Dragon Boat Festival were an official day off in China.

During these national holidays, the Chinese people tend to join for a family gathering. In this case, ‘the family’ refers to the parents from father’s side, sons & their wives, unmarried daughters and the grand children. During these gatherings food and banquet-like meals are savoured, people go out to parks or enjoy themselves watching television. Because most families live in different cities, gatherings last usually several days under one roof; quite exhausting in European eyes.

In China as well as the West old traditions are being modernised. However the traditional family value goes strong as ever. This shows not only during the festivities but in day to day life as well. The family values are paramount.

This emphasis on strong family ties finds its origin in the Chinese philosophical tradition and family values were even embedded in law during the imperial times. If one family member offended the law, the whole family was held responsible (and liable to punishment).

The modern times made family relations not less important. It is one of few places in china one can relieve ones feelings without fear being prosecuted. Therefore the importance of family values and good family relations cannot be underestimated.

The family is also a total natural subject of conversation in China; Like we would talk about the weather.

A business conversation is often opened by asking after or telling about the family.
Many Western businesspeople feel uncomfortable with these personal family questions. When talking about family show respect by listening carefully and asking appropriate questions.

Your interest in your partners or colleagues family situation will be appreciated and will lead to better understanding, smoother contact and trust.