A lot of people struggle when they work in China and come from other countries, because obviously the culture and world views are different.
Very often when Filip Noubel, media expert and linguist, is asked this question about how he works and operates in China, he usually has just a few minutes to answer such a difficult and huge question.
Filip explains the imagery he uses to get his cross-cultural message across in a short amount of time.
Why 'Rock' and 'Water'
''I have been thinking about this for a long time,'' says Filip. ''The image that I use is a rock in the middle of a river.''
''I will use now some stereotypes that I have been hearing from both sides, Westerners who live and work in China and also from Chinese people who have lived abroad or are working with Western partners.''
''Let’s take the rock. The rock stands for Western culture because it is solid and rigid.
''The flowing water stands for Chines mentality and way of doing things.''
The Source of Frustration
''What I hear from a lot of Chinese friends and partners, is that when they work with Western people, they have the feeling that Western people are very entrenched in their positions. It is hard for them to move on, to adapt, to learn new things.''
''Of course that creates a certain level of frustration.''
''Vice versa, when I talk to Western friends, what I hear a lot is that it is difficult to catch Chinese people, to know what they think or what they will do, because they are as quick as running water. They will shift their position. They will shift their attitudes. What they say one day won’t stand another day. And maybe what is written in the contract does not apply anymore.''
''This also creates a lot of frustration on the side of Westerners.''
''Going beyond those stereotypes, I think that what is really interesting is their meeting point, and here comes the word: foam. If you think of running water crashing on a rock, when both come into contact they create foam.''
''I think that in our lives we are never completely a rock or water. This applies to Western and Chinese people. What is really interesting is being aware of the both of potential. We all need that in our lives.''
''When you think about the river flowing, it is good to be able to adapt to new situations, because you can change your plans, you can do things differently. We need both in our dealings.''
''That is why the concept of foam is a creative way to overcome cultural obstacles.''
''When you think of I come from a culture where things do not change, where things are set in stone once and for all.''
In other words, ''What is really the interesting point is when they come into contact and they can create foam instead of frustration.''