Thursday, December 16, 2010

day 90_guanxi

This was the second day of special tea time, compliments of another coworker who had done well in the holiday party lucky draw. It sort of feels like my very own "12 Days of Christmas". We were treated to warm, sweet dessert soups - I chose the red bean flavor, but there was also a peanut flavor available. The weather is starting to get chilly here now, and the warm soup was the perfect treat on a cold afternoon, plus a welcome break on a busy work day. I can only speak on my own experiences, but I am overwhelmed by the way that people share here. It doesn't matter if someone ordered spaghetti (difficult to sample) or a single crab cake (small to share), they will undoubtedly offer you a bite - "Would you like to try?" or "Please help yourself." Sharing in Taiwanese culture takes the concept to a new level... and to expand on that a little further...

There are some things that are unique to Chinese/Taiwanese culture - that we have no exact equivalent for in the US - and 'guanxi' is one of those things. Guanxi is a concept which "incorporates relationship, connection, dependency, friendship, and obligation.Guanxi involves an ongoing series of reciprocal exchanges. One helps and gives to another and therefore expects, at some unspecified future date, to receive from that other person." When I read this, the only word that comes to mind is 'karma'. The concept is pretty classic. What goes around comes around. He who gives shall receive. Share the wealth... but what is not classic is a huge society of people who celebrate this as a core value, and live on the good faith that the reciprocal benefit will return to them.

Sharing and giving is absolutely essential to the Taiwanese culture. I can't remember a time when someone didn't pay the cab bill for all 4 people in the car. Frequently when dining, someone picks up the lunch tab and says you can pay next time. It is not just "Susie, share your toy Joie," but instead it is a more integral and constant way of thinking and acting for the greater good - with the faith that you will be blessed by the same generosity in return. More impressive, is that the understanding is so wide spread. In order for this circle to continue spinning, everyone must participate, it cannot be self-sustaining among only the religious, only the elderly, only the wealthy - but as far as I can tell, all participate in the constant cycle of giving and receiving.

As a matter of fact, receiving from people so openly and often, only makes me want to give back more. And for this American girl who has always known sharing is a good thing... I have been working on expanding my own good habits as a new member of such a generous society.


  1. I think that's so fun! And in less than a week you'll be posting messages from Dallas! Maybe we can ambush stu and force some sharing of the pooch!

  2. What an amazing value to see in an entire culture, I bet David is interested in this being fact.

    Interesting too to think about creating, I am working on changing the culture at work also.