Why China Feels Like the Twilight Zone

Relationships are profoundly important (and different) in Chinese culture. Relationships impact daily life on a level that people from the West simply don’t understand.

Surviving the Morning Commute in Taiwan

A friend was stopped at a stoplight on his way to work. He noticed a scooter towing a second scooter.  The light split the two scooters. The lead scooter stopped right after the intersection.  The second scooter stopped just before the intersection.  The second rider wisely pulled up until the rope was lying on the road and the cars could drive over it.

Just before the light changed, for whatever reason, the first scooter moved forward a few feet. The rope became taut. As the cars drove off, they hit the rope. The cars then drag both scooters scooters a few feet, knocking both riders onto the pavement.

This is a normal day in Taiwan. You see people doing crazy things on scooters. I once saw a husband riding a scooter with his wife and 4 kids!

Then things got Strange

The rope drops to the ground and everyone drives off. No one stopped to see if the riders were okay. The universal reaction to leave was frightening. What if my friend was lying there hurt? Who would have helped him?

We thought, “Someone should at least stop and see if everyone is okay..even if it wasn’t their fault.” Of course, we were taught to experience events from others’ perspectives. Parents ask their children, “How would it feel if Jenny didn’t invite you to the party?” We taught the quote First They Came. The quote teaches: when you ignore (really) bad things happening to someone else, when it is your turn, no one is left to help you.

While the Chinese take care of their family and friends, they just don’t get involved with strangers. It’s too risky and Chinese people avoid risk. When someone has a problem, you just move on and avoid that person’s problems becoming your own.

Why Relationships Matter in China

If you have no relationship with someone, you are not to be trusted. This is why so much business is done through “relationships.” (or as the Chinese say Guanxi) If I trust Mr. Huang and he introduced you, you are now someone safe to do business with. So live up to whatever Mr. Huang said or he looks bad.