Archive for the 'culture' Category


“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?


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.

Fur or No Fur?

It’s long been one of the furriest fashion centers in the world – but not anymore. The West Hollywood City Council is banning the sale of clothing made of animal fur; it’s believed to be the first such ban in the U.S.  CBS Los Angeles reports that the vote on Monday was the final step in prohibiting the sale of clothing made from the skins or pelts of animals with hair, fur, or wool, within city limits.

NBC LA reports the council, in a 3-1 vote, adopted the law that goes into effect in Sept. 2013.

Shannon Keith, animal rights attorney and co-organizer of Fur Free West Hollywood, told a local radio station that it’s the right move.

“Animals suffer immensely for the use of fur,” she said. “Animals are skinned alive, they’re beaten, they’re stomped on, they’re gassed…it’s a horrible thing all in the name of vanity.”

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), praised West Hollywood, calling it “just the latest compassionate action for the city.”

Councilman John D’Amico first introduced the ban in May, and afterwards the Fur Information Council of America released a study showing that out of 209 clothing stores in the city, 91 of them carried clothing or accessories made with animal fur.

The board of the “Avenues: Art, Fashion and Design District” claims the ban will limit the city’s reputation for creative expression in high fashion. The West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce opposed the ban as well.  (CBS Los Angeles)

What do YOU think?


Daniel Pink: Why Bosses Need to Show their Soft Side

Have been wanting to share this “food for thought” with you for some time … try this at home!

From The Telegraph on-line

By Daniel H. Pink (

8:00AM BST 17 Jul 2011

If you ever want to understand your boss, corner him (or her) at the next office party and see if he’ll play a little game. Tell him (or her) you need only 30 seconds. Then ask your boss to extend his (or her) right forefinger.

Give your boss the ‘E’ on the forehead test.

“Go ahead,” you might need to assure him, “this won’t hurt” Then ask him to take that extended finger and draw a capital E on his forehead.

Does he draw the letter so that it faces him – that is, backward to a person looking at him? Or does he draw the letter so that the viewer can read it? Neither way is right or wrong. But the direction of that letter might tell you something about the disposition of that leader.

This seemingly innocent parlour trick is actually a method social scientists have used for more than a decade to measure perspective-taking – the ability to step outside one’s own experience and see the world from someone else’s viewpoint.

People who write the E so that it’s backward to themselves but legible to their partner have taken the other’s perspective. Those who draw the E so that it’s readable to themselves but backward to others haven’t bothered to consider the other person’s point of view.

In an intriguing set of experiments a few years ago, a group of American social scientists led by Adam Galinsky at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management used the E test and some other techniques to investigate the connection between power and empathy. They found that while most people seem naturally inclined to take the other’s perspective, providing people a dose of power correlated with their being less likely to draw the E in the perspective-taking way. In other words, a surplus of power seemed to be connected, and perhaps even led, to a deficit of empathy.

As the researchers wrote: “Across these studies, power was associated with a reduced tendency to comprehend how others see, think, and feel.”

This finding might reveal what’s gone wrong with leadership at every level. On the altar of action orientation and tough-mindedness, we’ve sacrificed the fundamentally human quality of empathy.

To be sure, empathy shouldn’t be the only quality of leaders. If an executive is too worried that a decision might hurt Caroline’s feelings or make Rajiv sad, he’ll never get anything done. Thinking strategically and acting vigorously are essential.

But action orientation without sufficient empathy has at least two flaws. First, people resist going along with proposed actions, which can impede progress. It’s a sturdy principle of organisational life that people quit bosses, not companies. Second, if people do go along, they do so reluctantly, leading to an atmosphere of compliance rather than engagement.

The key is to strike a delicate balance between action-orientation and perspective-taking. It’s not a matter of deciding between hitting your numbers or drawing the E. It’s a matter of hitting your numbers by drawing the E.

What’s more, unlike many technical skills, empathy is extremely difficult to shift to low-cost providers and nearly impossible to reduce to lines of code in a computer program – which makes it a scarce, and therefore more valuable, commodity.

That’s why empathy is racing into many other business functions. For instance, medical schools, especially in the US, are using questionnaires to measure empathy levels of young physicians because scores on this empathy index correlate with patient outcomes in ways that traditional metrics do not.

Designers are donning thick glasses to distort their vision, sticking cotton in their ears to reduce their hearing, and slipping on garden gloves to limit their dexterity – all in an effort to design better products and services for the elderly by empathising with what it’s really like to be old.

And when so many consumer transactions can be executed online, learning how to see the world from the perspective of customers and prospects has become integral to customer service and sales.

Yet somehow in the higher reaches of business, even in our supposedly more enlightened era, empathy, when it’s discussed at all, is often dismissed as frivolous or, worse, “soft.”

A few months ago, I was talking to the dean of an American business school. He told me that when alumni return to campus to guest lecture, the current students invariably ask them a version of this question: As you think back on what you learned in B-school, what do you wish you had paid more attention to or had studied more?

And invariably the answer is the same.

“I’m glad I studied finance and accounting and the quantitative subjects,” the graduates say. “But I wish I had taken all that soft stuff more seriously.”

After they left the orderly farm of a case study for the roaring jungle of a real business, it turned out that what seemed superficially soft – organisational behaviour, psychology, people smarts, communication and, yes, empathy – were crucial. Spreadsheets are easy. Spreadsheets never get bored, call in sick, or lose their motivation.

But influencing people requires more than simply putting the correct number in the proper cell and applying the right formula. And since most corporate managers have reasonably sound technical skills, as well as access to the same information and tools, mastery of these nominally soft aptitudes is creating a fault line that’s separating who moves up and who stays put.

So if you’re a boss, especially a new one, sprinkle a few seasonings on your newly acquired bowl of power. Talk less, listen more. Treat everybody with respect. And if one of your employees asks you to draw a vowel on your forehead, you know what to do.”

!Daniel H Pink writes about the world of work. His most recent book is Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2011


From Forbes: Dear Youth In The Office

10 Iconic Leaders Offer Hard-Knock Lessons 

We’ve been spending quite a bit of time with young people lately as they transition from the world of academics to the world of work and beyond. This seemed like some timely advice to share courtesy of Forbes.

Be True To Your Vision

“Listen to other people whose opinions you respect, but in the end, it has to come from you,” said Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour. “You can’t really worry too much by looking to the left or to the right about what the competition might be doing or what other people in your field might be doing. It has to be a true vision.”

Stay Interested

“Learn who you really are to become a whole person,” said Oscar-winning actress Jane Fonda. “It takes a lot of courage because all of the culture is telling us we’re supposed to be this way or that way. Try to be authentic; try to discover it. And stay interested. That’s much more important than being interesting.”

Get Clarity

“I see every challenge as an opportunity….My experience is a network, yours is whatever is calling you right now,” said media mogul Oprah Winfrey on Facebook, soon after appointing herself CEO of her cable network. “Get clarity. Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed. Don’t be defeated by mistakes. Learn from them. We have a new motto… ‘The next right decision’…What is it?”

Be Bold

“When you’re young, you just don’t know what you don’t know,” said KeyCorp’s Beth Mooney, the first female CEO of top-20 U.S. bank, on demanding her first banker job. “I never thought twice about the fact that if I could get in the door, they would let me in. I’m a person who sees the world in terms of possibilities and opportunities. I dive right in; get it done. Always be part of the solution.”

If New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson could give her younger self advice it would be: “You can take it. You can take on a lot of responsibility. Twenty-five years ago I had two very small children under the age of three, and that seemed overwhelming at times. I didn’t know whether I was up to it. [But] my kids turned out to be the most delightful people [although] I found it daunting.”

Stay Open To Possibilities

“Follow your beliefs. Be open to learn. Never give up,” said Michelle Bachelet, the executive director of UN Women and former president of Chile. “I’ve always been passionate, and I’ve always been involved in all kinds of initiatives. But [as a young girl] I never thought about being a president.”

Keep Believing

“Know this: Everything you dream of, that you care enough to not give up on, the deepest passions in you, the things you really want, will come true,” said Co-Anchor of NBC’s Today Ann Curry. “The things that I once thought were impossible, I now know were probable. In fact, for me, they’ve come true. There are so many things when you’re young, you think, ‘Could this ever happen?’ But if you don’t give up, if you love it enough, and if you work really hard, you will have it. It will happen. I know.”

Harness Your Unique Perspective

Saudi Arabian Princess Ameerah Al-Taweel, the 28-year-old businesswoman, philanthropist and wife of billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud, said on the youth advantage: “The people in a room with me may have more expertise, but nobody knows what I went through more than me. Nobody knows my community, my circle of friends and my generation more than me. Because I’m young and connected, I can connect with younger people and understand.”

Ask Questions, Then Listen

“The smartest thing you can ever do is to constantly ask questions, especially when you’re trying something new,” said Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney/ABC Television group. “Find the people inside your team–who work for you, alongside you, and above you. Ask questions that matter. Listen. And constantly, constantly engage your team in communication. One of the things that I’ve seen kill careers is isolation.”

Overcome Internal Fears

“What is important is to first understand if you are able to overcome your internal limitations, you will be able to conquer any kind of goals you want to,” said Laura Chinchilla, the current and first female President of Costa Rica.


The Measure of A Man by J J Lee

Mr. J.J. Lee is a Vancouver based fashion journalist and media expert on topics sartorial. He can be heard on CBC Radio every Monday afternoon discussing themes as diverse as Play-off Hockey beards, Harris Tweed and Fashion Week. His own tale is interesting and inspirational; I hope to pick up a copy of his newly released memoir/social history of suits called The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit.

Publisher McClelland describes the book this way:

Taking as its starting point a son’s decision to alter his late father’s last remaining suit for himself, this is a deeply moving and brilliantly crafted story of fathers and sons, of fitting in and standing out — and discovering what it means to be your own man.

For years, journalist and amateur tailor JJ Lee tried to ignore the navy suit that hung at the back of his closet — his late father’s last suit. When he decides to finally make the suit his own, little does he know he is about to embark on a journey into his own past.

As JJ moves across the surface of the suit, he reveals the heartbreaking tale of his father, a charismatic but luckless restaurateur whose demons brought tumult upon his family. He also recounts the year he spent as an apprentice tailor at Modernize Tailors, the last of Vancouver’s legendary Chinatown tailors, where he learns invaluable lessons about life from his octogenarian master tailor. Woven throughout these two personal strands are entertaining stories from the social history of the man’s suit, the surprising battleground where the war between generations has long been fought.With wit, bracing honesty, and great narrative verve, JJ takes us from the French Revolution to the Zoot Suit Riots, from the Japanese Salaryman to Mad Men, from Oscar Wilde in short pants to Marlon Brando in a T-shirt, and from the rareified rooms of Savile Row to a rundown shop in Chinatown. A book that will forever change the way you think about the maxim “the clothes make the man,” this is a universal story of love and forgiveness and breaking with the past. 



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