Guest Blogger: Gordon Gray

26 Jul 2006|Cynthia Chan

A phrase as commonly heard as “hello everyone” may have greater meanings than what it is trying to convey in different contexts or in different cultures. Our friend Gordon Gray, from Beijing China Liaison, has an interesting perspective with a similar phrase he heard over and over again in China.

Here’s the blog from Gordon:

The ‘Big Family’

Watch any variety show on Chinese television and you may hear the common Mandarin greeting ‘Da Jia Hao’, meaning ‘hello everyone’, or literally translated as ‘Big Family Good’. This phrase conveys a great deal of meaning about how the Chinese view themselves and their world, closely identifying the individual as a member of the larger social family in the ‘Big Family’. This is deeply rooted in the Chinese way of thinking and organizing that has developed over thousands of years of history and is incorporated into basic everyday language.

For the individual, this social model as a member of a larger family starts with the circle of family and friends, the ‘pengyou’ (friend) network, extending to business associates and beyond. The concept of the ‘Big Family’ organized as ever wider circles within circles is perfectly expressed in the structure of Beijing’s modern city freeway system, setup as logical interconnected concentric circles of increasingly larger Ring Roads, starting at the center of the city at Tiananmen.

This perception of society as a ‘Big Family’ is one that defines Chinese cultural identity, and translates into the passion behind the idea of a unified China. The Chinese relate to their larger society as if they are all somehow very distant relatives from far-flung branches of the same larger family tree, which may, in-fact, be the case. They are true cultural and national patriots, and the Chinese see their return to greatness on the world stage as a return to who they really are, restoring them to their natural state of being.

Entering the Big Family

For western companies seeking to successfully promote ideas and products into China, this concept of the ‘Big Family’ is fundamental to making a meaningful cultural connection with the Chinese. Although they are not a single ethnic people, or a single market, the key to all Chinese is to endear yourself or your product to them, by showing that it is about improving their lives. As members of the even ‘Bigger Family’, foreign companies must care about providing real value, and show that it’s not all just about making money, but is also about making a contribution to the further development and reconstruction of the ‘Big Family’.

Exceedingly fortunate for western companies, the Chinese have a natural cultural preference to adopt influences from the ‘larger family’, and since the earliest days of trading along the silk road and from the time of Marco Polo, this has expressed as a bias for foreign products, brands and images. This is an incredible natural competitive advantage for foreign companies, but they first must understand what motivates the Chinese, and how to provide value, as a respectful contributing member of the larger ‘Big Family’.

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