Monday, October 22, 2012

Namibia: Chinese Culture of Gratitude

A CULTURE of gratitude is regarded as an encouraging factor to increase productivity, to strengthen unity and promote harmony in the workplace nowadays.

Deeply rooted in Chinese culture, a culture of gratitude or appreciation plays a pivotal role in interpersonal relationships.

Chinese culture fosters a strong sense of gratitude and indebtedness as we can see from the following Chinese expressions 'gan en dai de' (bearing a debt of gratitude for one's kindness), 'gan en tu bao' (feeling grateful for a kind act and planning to repay it) and 'ni jing wo yi chi, wo jing ni yi zhang' (you honour me a foot, and I will in return honour you ten feet).

There is another Chinese expression indicating that Chinese, more than any other cultures, do value grateful attitudes in their communication and relationships no matter where they are, abroad or home. This expression is 'di shui zhi en dang yong quan xiang bao' meaning 'to repay a spring of gratitude for a drop (little) of favour'. It is not hard to visualize how many drops of water a spring contains. Such a contrast therefore demonstrates how grateful Chinese feel for a kind act, be it material or emotional or spiritual or even just a warming attitude.

This culture furthermore establishes the Chinese way of interpersonal rule: mutuality and reciprocity that require mutual benefits and reciprocity to the people who offer a kind act.

Chinese clearly understand that no matter what assistance or support or favour they receive and that whether or not such assistance or support or favour will meet their satisfaction or needs or 'taste', they are definitely indebted to the favour-senders for their kindness.

Belonging to High Context Culture, Chinese seek to maintain the social relationships of long term.
They need to have the assurance that a foundation is laid for enriching and deepening such relationships, and mutual benefits have been reaped and that both sides are satisfied with the deal.

As the results of collectivist cultures, Chinese in their business activities value mutual face concerns, seek a win-win business strategy and show gratitude to business partners from whom they receive a kind act, such as a piece of good advice, a loan offer, timely help, a preferential policy, assistance to solve a problem, a warm reception, generous attitude or a favour in any other form. Such values are ingrained in the minds of Chinese.

In China, the expression of gratitude and appreciation to a teacher, a guardian, parents, kin, schools (universities), village community (home town) and motherland are always highlighted, praised and valued whereas a person of ingratitude is spurned and condemned by the public.

The Chinese community in Namibia has also demonstrated this virtue of culture by showing their appreciation of and gratitude to the kind acts of support and assistance from Namibian individuals and the government, authorities and institutions at large.

A great number of Chinese individuals or companies have actively participated in charity programmes or volunteered to offer what they can to help those needy Namibians or orphans or school kids including those in SOS and kindergartens.

Some companies donate winter clothes and bedding; some provide food to those marginalised groups. Some companies or individuals simply provide cash to those needy people.

Education is a key player in a nation's social and economic development. Today's school attendants are the future builders of their nation.

Regarding educational investment, which is the most potential one as they do in China, the Chinese community makes it a priority to offer helping hands to Namibian school learners.

Given the financial constraints many Namibian parents are facing, the Chinese community in Namibia has long been managing to help quite a number of school learners with school fees by digging into their own pockets because China and Africa enjoy the same cultures of sharing, caring and universal brotherhood and because Chinese are aware that it is Namibians who host them by providing all necessary assistance to the Chinese community.

Some companies have set up assistance mechanisms of long term and pledge to support school students. An example of this is the six-years scholarship programme of NA Construction cc and Bright Future Import and Export cc for the school learners in Omuthiya starting from 2007.

What is even more worth highlighting here is the grateful attitude and generous acts from the Chinese Loving Heart Organization, a non-profit organization. This organization is the most outstanding Chinese institution providing scholarships for Namibian students to do medical studies at Nantong University, Jiangsu China. To repay the Namibians' kindness and support for the Chinese community is the core operational value of this organization.

The organization has done this work for two years running and 2012 is the third year this organization has offered full scholarship covering tuition fees, accommodation, meals (equal to N$1 600 per month), airfares (every two years) and medical insurance in China.

The whole medical course costs the sponsor N$400 000 per student, which is very rare in scholarship offer history in Namibia and elsewhere. (Up to now, this organization has sponsored 20 Namibians, which means N$8 million will have been offered at the end of their medical courses.)

Three months of intensive selection work impressed the writer that many young Namibian learners cherish a dream of going to China for medical studies. (In fact there are many Namibians studying medicine at several Chinese medical universities already, like Dalian Medical University and Ningbo Medical University).

Another impression the scholarship applicants left me is that those whom I interviewed all pledged to return to Namibia to serve the health section to repay their motherland. Repaying one's motherland is the most important gratitude, especially in Chinese culture because it is the motherland that brings you up like a mother rears her child.

This also explains why Chinese, including those overseas Chinese are always grateful to their motherland of China and that also explains why all Chinese united themselves as one whenever China has suffered natural disaster or foreign invasions.

A culture devoid of gratitude is a lost culture with no bright prospects. A person devoid of gratitude is hopeless and can not be expected to serve his/her community or motherland.

Enjoying the same culture of gratitude as Chinese, Namibians also demonstrate their appreciation to the favour senders. Those who were selected and offered the scholarships this year instantly expressed their thankfulness to me and to the organization as well by emails, texts or calls once I informed them of their being admitted by the university.

Helena Abed, a 19-year-old girl, said: 'You won't know how important this is to me, to my family and to my country where a doctor is badly needed. I will live up to your expectations. But no words can describe my gratitude to you.'

Some parents also joined their kids in sharing their happiness while expressing their heartfelt appreciation to the great noble deeds this organization has been doing in Namibia.

However, those who were not selected still feel indebted to this organization. One of the applicants said in her email, '...But I am still very happy because your organization has made such a great contribution to Namibian learners by providing them with such huge amounts of scholarships.'

Such a 'gratitude attitude' is a great value worth preserving, promoting and advocating.

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