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From the Sydney Morning Herald:


The Death of Manners?

“ – Your Future Starts Here” has gathered some interesting, and fairly recent, U.S. statistics on Etiquette … Beware the Zombies!


“Show me a country’s etiquette, and I will show you its mind”

Here at The Image Builders we feel very strongly that Etiquette is only fully understood if studied in the context of culture. This article from China Daily newspaper supports this belief. Food for thought!

Someone once said, “A man who does not pay attention to business etiquette is a man who has not taken the time to reflect on his mission, other than to make money. A man who thinks only of etiquette is a superficial man.”

Etiquette provides an entree to the science and civilization of a country influenced greatly by its history. It is developed over time from a variety of sources, but they all reflect the culture and traditions of that nation. If you want to do good business you need to understand the context of the people you are doing business with. That must include their culture and traditions. It is part of the key to their thinking, their aims and their ways.

That is why foreigners and Chinese need to understand the etiquette of one another.

In the early days of trade with China from the early 1950s through to the early 1990s, etiquette was a part of the formal way of doing business. China always remained firmly in control of the processes inside China, where most of the business with the country was done.

This changed when businesses moved to each other’s ports into joint ventures inside China for export from China, and then for export and also for sales within China. The basis for the exchange began to alter.

But just as business dealings at one level were becoming more intimate and informal, the formalities in dealings at higher levels were maintained and indeed became more important.

In the old world, foreign trade corporations based in Beijing dealt with foreign companies and those who worked for them, but in this brave new world the reins were taken up by companies and people in the provinces. In the days of the central foreign trade organizations the processes were extremely stiff and formal, reflecting the way State leaders dealt with their foreign counterparts; under the new regime pragmatism became the key to doing business.

What became most important was who was doing business with whom rather than the elaborate processes by which they were doing it.

Nevertheless, at the higher echelons, rules of etiquette and of how things should be done continued to apply. There were the dinners, backroom meetings and letters of intent.

In most countries with developed etiquette it is customary to observe formalities before beginning a meal or a meeting. Is this all some kind of game that discriminates between those who are educated and those who are not? Is it a ridiculous caper that has no significance other than to make people feel uneasy?

Sometimes it has that appearance, that effect. Sometimes it is used that way. Sometimes we all feel uncomfortable as we clearly make a mistake in matters etiquette. But this is not the main point. These are aspects of etiquette, side effects of etiquette. For those who are serious about wanting to get to know the background to other cultures so they can create a more stable basis for their business, etiquette is part of understanding the “other side”.

Some might say that etiquette in some countries is so overdefined that it becomes almost a barrier to doing business. This may be true. In these cases etiquette has been lifted to a higher level where it is difficult to manage. That is so in some countries, and certainly I found this to be the case in China during the “cultural revolution” (1966-76) where, sometimes, everything you did and said was watched and judged.

But really etiquette is a way a country expresses its culture and traditions and needs to be understood as part of developing one’s skills to manage relationships with business partners. It is not a test. If raised to that level it is a deterrent to developing relations, becoming one-sided and onerous.

Accepting your partners’ ways and forms is a reasonable thing to do, but you also need to be able to relax and not feel that you are under pressure. So listen, observe and take advice to try to get the etiquette right. Do not be difficult for the sake of it. But if you do transgress, do not worry too much. Move on.

One rationale for etiquette is that people develop ways of doing things and feel comfortable with those ways. So work with them and let them unfold and try to go along with them. The best thing to keep in mind is “When in Rome do as the Romans do.”

As you learn and observe etiquette you learn about the background of your partners.

The West has misunderstood China for a long, long time. It does not comprehend that China is a very deep and ancient civilization whose ways go back 5,000 years. Sometimes the ways China has developed can hold them back, can appear difficult for foreigners, but mostly we need to learn that China has contributed more to the science and civilization of the world than any other nation. So its etiquette is an aspect of this rich and wonderful history.

As China needs to learn about the outside world, so foreigners need to learn about China. Going through the formalities of etiquette is neither right nor wrong, good nor bad; it is simply learning about China. So if you want to do business in China then you had better learn about the ways of the Chinese.

And this is not a burden or a hard task. It is fascinating and an entry into a treasure trove of history and understandings of a deep civilization. The return of China to being a world-leading nation was what the 48 Group and my company, London Export Corporation, foresaw and promoted. We saw that China had been the largest economy in the world for 18 of the previous 20 centuries. So we have invested our time in understanding China and worked with it for the past 60 years.

The world’s difficulties in understanding China can be attributed to its not understanding China’s history and sense of itself. It is a reality now that China is a part of every country’s life, of most people’s lives and of most companies’ activities in one way or another.

So if you want to do business with China you need to take the time to understand its history, and its sense of itself, and a part of that is its etiquette. It is incumbent on China to do likewise with other histories, civilizations and ways, and other versions of etiquette.

It is a journey that is guaranteed to fascinate and bring pleasure.

(Stephen Perry, China Daily 02/03/2012 page13)

The author is president of the 48 Group Club, an independent business network promoting business relations between China and Britain. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.


Should Magazines And Modelling Be Banned For Kids Under 18?

(From The Huffington Post Canada    First Posted: January 20, 2012 12:10 PM )

Magazine covers seem to be getting sexier. And while the models gracing the pages are seemingly showing more and more skin, they also seem to be getting younger. Kaia Gerber, daughter of supermodel Cindy Crawford and Rande Gerber is the latest baby-face to land a modelling gig, becoming the new face of Young Versace — the Italian brand’s label for kids.

And though Crawford seems nothing but thrilled her little doppelganger is making her modelling debut at the tender age of 10, the whole thing has us wondering whether the modelling world should put an age restriction on how young is too young to model.

We’ve seen Thylane Blondeau pose seductively for French Vogue, Prada uses underage models in a 80-second promotional video and 17-year-old Dakota Fanning grace the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine (looking oddly airbrushed). Though Bonnie Fuller, former editor-in-chief of the girly magazine, is urging prudes to get their  “knickers out of knots” others, are calling on the fashion industry to be cautious about what they expose children to.

Former fashion model Nicole Weider, has started a petition calling for fashion mags, specifically Cosmo, to be packaged in a non-transparent cover and to only be sold to girls over 18. According to The Daily Mail UK, Weider believes, “This magazine has the devil written all over it… and is just a vessel for that.”

Model Coco Rocha, who herself was discovered at age 14, believes young girls aren’t prepared to be treated as adults and are being instructed to act in a way they’re normally not used to.

Whether you think Weider or Rocha’s take is prudish, it’s becoming clear sexualized images and exploitation of young girls is not only having negative consequences on the children who pose for millionaire designers, but also for the children who see the ads.

So what do you think: Should magazines be banned to kids under 18 and should teen girls stop modelling for big-time designers? Or is it all a matter of parents setting firm boundaries on what their children view, buy or read?


Paying it Forward

In a season when excess and materialism can overwhelm the headlines it’s a wonderful moment when we can stop and share an inspiring story – one in which selfless generosity and unconditional gifting features. This story ran in December 17th’s Vancouver Sun. 

We wish you a holiday season filled with utmost delight and kindness. 

Paying it forward 30 years later brings instant joy to local family


SCENE & HEARD: This email arrived out of the blue in late October and the words have not been edited or altered in order to share the full impact of the message:

Dear Mr. Douglas:

When I was a boy, Maclean’s magazine did a story on the challenges of raising a family on welfare. I believe it was called Canada’s Forgotten Poor. This article was about my family. The early 1980s were not kind to most people and our family was no exception.

“The details are a little foggy after 30 years, but as I understand it, you contacted my mother after reading the article and informed her that we were being taken to see the Harlem Globetrotters at the Pacific Coliseum in a limousine! Truly, I couldn’t believe it until it happened.

“It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I rode in another limousine and then remembered what had been done for my family.

“Just last week, at Rogers Arena, I saw a Harlem Globetrotters poster in the elevator and it hit me like a brick. Although our financial situation didn’t change that day 30 years ago, I feel my well-being did.

“At 14 years old, you don’t realize what positive experiences do to help mould a young man’s mind. Later in life it became abundantly clear. Thirty years have come and gone and I feel compelled to return that gift.

“I would like to donate Canucks tickets and limousine service to and from Rogers Arena for a family that needs a positive experience. I want to reach out to a family like mine that would benefit from the experience, as I did. I am grateful to be in the position in my life now that I can do this.”

It was signed: Chad Joe, President, Westcoast Mining Contractors Ltd.

It turns out that Mr. Joe, a longtime Canucks season ticket holder, worked his way through the ranks of the trucking and heavy hauling company that he now owns on the Sunshine Coast.

And because of his generosity, Coquitlam single mom Alison Goulding, widowed in 2006, will be in an Elite Limousine next Friday afternoon with four wide-eyed youngsters heading to the Canucks-Calgary NHL game at Rogers Arena.

“The excitement is definitely building in our house,” Alison says.

“Brandon (7) gives me daily countdowns. He is bringing his best friend and classmate Aiden. My daughter Brooke (14) is bringing Arden, whom she’s known since they were in Hastings Daycare together.

“The hockey game is one thing … the ride in the limousine is quite another.

“The boys are excited about seeing the Canucks and I think the girls are just as thrilled with travelling by limousine. This has made it a wonderful Christmas for all of us.”

Chad Joe passed along a random act of kindness, proving the old adage: What goes around, comes around.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Time For A New Coat?

When was the last time you took a good, long look at your everyday coat? Does it fit you properly? Does it fit over bulky clothing? Does it fit your lifestyle? For many women, the answer is “no.”

What does your coat say about you? That you mean business regardless of the weather? Or that outerwear is an afterthought?  If a new coat is on your wish list this Christmas, think only of three things: purpose, lifestyle, and budget.


What will the coat be used for? Work? Taxiing kids in cold weather? Skiing? If you begin with the purpose in mind, you’ll have a lot better success in finding what you need.

Long wool coats work well over dresses and business attire, for example, but hip-length coats are better if you’re constantly in and out of the car. Ski coats need to be warm and waterproof while dirty work coats need to be easily washed. Think about what you’ll be doing to find the best coat for the job.



How many coats do you need? It depends on your lifestyle. For most people, one dress coat and one casual coat fits most of their needs. But if you live in a climate with four distinct seasons or if you attend a lot of different activities (work, sporting events, and charity balls) your outerwear wardrobe increases.  Also, if you travel a lot, different climates call for different coat weights. Bottom line: build your outerwear wardrobe based on your lifestyle needs and you will always be appropriately dressed.


Coats can be expensive, and you may not be able to afford all the different coats you’d like to have to fill out your outerwear wardrobe. That’s okay. Look at your primary needs first, then set a goal to fill in as your budget allows.  What is the most versatile coat that offers the biggest bang for your money? A classic trench with a zip out liner. It can handle cold, rain, casual, or business with equal finesse, and it folds up nicely for compact storage. But remember! Buy your coat in the best quality you can possibly afford – it will last longer and look better!


An Experiment in Perception


Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

4 minutes:

The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

6 minutes:

A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes:

A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children.. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly..

45 minutes:

The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.

The questions raised:

*In a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

*Do we stop to appreciate it?

*Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made.

How many other things are we missing?

Read the original story on which this summary and commentary are based, Pearls Before Breakfast by Gene Weingarten, Washington Post Staff Writer, Sunday, April 8, 2007. We hope it makes you consider perception and develop an appreciation for what lies beneath the surface.