Being “Country” in China

Monday, July 4, 2011 11:35
Posted in category The Big Picture
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As someone who grew up in the midwest of the United States, I know that when someone is being called “country” it isn’t a good thing… and in China, it isn’t either.  In fact, it is an insult to be called country (TU in Chinese) just like it is in the United States, but it isn’t an insult that you would necessarily use among friends.

It is one of those insults that immediately separates you from “them”, and what I have found interesting over the years is how widely it is used… and how it is used.  At the surface level, being called TU is a casual term that can have a few soft definitions….  someone from the countryside new to the city.. which could also be true in the US…

More often though, it is someone who is an uncultured snot who likes to show off their wealth, depth of sophistication, etc but is clearly so new to the game that their expressions are misplaced, misguided, or just downright laughable… they think they are a player because they have bought the car and own the house, but they are really not players… if you know what I mean. They speak loudly in their iPhone 4 so that everyone can see it, they berate service staff because they can, they complain about the taste of food (as if they are Anthony Bordain on a drug binge, they tote a 3000 USD handbag to match their white socks, and generally do anything else to call attention to the fact that their family has “made it”.

An example of this would be the woman this afternoon in my usually quiet Costa Coffee dressed to the nines in a part of town where migrants outnumber the middle class 10-to-1, screaming into her pink bunny ear iPhone, negotiating with a furniture dealer over 300 kuai (because she does SOOO much business with them), and talking about her general intelligence to her companion (a woman who was still trying to figure out if this is what she signed up for as a new member to the “club”).. and oh yeah… her latte was “watered down”

The second, and usage more appropriate for a blog about “doing business in China”, gets a bit deeper into the psyche of how decisions are made.. and being called TU is essentially a way of saying that the person is ignert (ignorant in a Southern drawl) and greedy. That, instead of making a decision with a long term, win-win, idea in mind.. they will make the worst decision right away thinking that they are winning… when in fact, because they are country, they are actually losing.

They are bad deal makers who will, over time change their deals to fit their need.. regardless of the specs you have provided, regardless of how much you are paying them to represent your company, and completely beside the fact that you want to over time bring more orders to them.

They simply do not value what you value….. which is what makes them “country”.

Now, under no circumstances would I suggest you tell a supplier to stop being TU.. would probably be as effective as calling your warden obtuse.. but I think that it is worth understanding that while some people use names to describe the actions of others as a RESPONSE to an action, others are better off taking the time to understand the background of those they are doing business with and then understand how their backgrounds are going to lead them to act in certain ways.

.. which in the case of the coffee barrister at the Costa Coffee was to (as she has probably done 100 times before) was to ask the lady with the pink iPhone and over sized Versache glasses if she had ever actually had a latte before (answer was no) and then suggest that she should probably order a cappuccino next time for that robust coffee flavor she was looking for…

which was the most customer friendly face saving way of educating someone who was clearly acting “country”

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