#122 How (not) to say sorry in Chinese

This month at an event in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, China, 23 Samsung executives kneeled on stage in front of a room full of Chinese distributors. They had the best intentions of apologizing to their trusted Chinese partners for the recent Galaxy Note 7 disaster. However, immediately after the event the Chinese social media space blew up. It turned out that what was meant as a humble gesture had backfired. Apparently, Korean and Chinese customs are very different when it comes to kneeling. While it is within the limits of normal practice in Korea, kneeling is considered a feudal practice in China and is reserved for very limited occasions. Many people in the room felt embarrassed by the executives’ behavior. They thought that Samsung forced their executives into this apology and were shocked to witness how the company treated their employees. This should not only be a good lesson to Samsung, but also to many people in the West who think that all Asian cultures are alike. While both China and Korea may share a strong feeling of collective responsibility, the way they express it is very different.

 

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