Teaching Manners Abroad: Protocols & Beyond

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This story in the Financial Times is a familiar one. An adventurous entrepreneur sees potential abroad, packs her bags and heads off in search of fame and fortune. What makes this story a bit more out of the ordinary is that the adventurous entrepreneur in question happens to be a 60 year old American woman well-accomplished in the world of publishing. Not exactly the background one might expect for the “Mandarin Martha Stewart,” a nickname used in the FT article.

Nevertheless, one day some two years ago, Eden Collinsworth was struck with the idea that what China really needs is a primer on being, what we might call here, globally “ready”. She intends to open a Western style “finishing school in China, bringing deportment, etiquette and the essentials of civilized behavior to the new generation of young thrusters.” Evidently, she was not alone in that thought, as her forthcoming book, The Tao of Increasing Your Likability, is set to be released by one of China’s largest and most powerful publishers.

In much the same way that Dr. Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof sought to unify Europe around the common language and philosophy of Esperanto, Collinsworth feels that the world – and especially China – will benefit from a unifying protocol to guide interactions with people around the world. To Collinsworth’s credit, her book is not based on any sense of Western cultural superiority, but the fundamental reality that modern, global business is often driven by the West and a uniform set of decorum and deportment standards will help all parties involved. Watch the brief BBC interview with Collinsworth below.

What say you, global maven? While this may be a way to capitalize on the Chinese’ desire to be perceived as more international, I’m curious to know how Collinsworth’s approach will address the fundamentally different, and often diametrically opposed, cultural values that inform our tendencies and overall behavior.

I, for one, will miss slurping my soup China.


RW3 CultureWizard is a leading provider of cross cultural training and information, primarily through the CultureWizard and CulturalTraining.com intercultural learning platforms.

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