I Stand Corrected: How Teaching Western Manners in China Became Its Own Unforgettable Lesson
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“What do you mean, he’s asked how much I am?” asked a stunned Eden Collinsworth upon learning that a Chinese businessman had inquired if she were available for purchase. Despite this precarious introduction to China, no country has fascinated Collinsworth more during a career that has moved her around the world. Convinced that—despite the nation’s status as a world leader—the Chinese are still socially uncomfortable with their Western counterparts, she collaborated with a major Chinese publisher to produce a bestselling Western etiquette guide.
Now, in these pages, Collinsworth tells the unforgettable story of the year she spent living among the Chinese while writing a book featuring advice on such topics as the rules of the handshake, making sense of foreigners, and behavior that is considered universally rude. Informative, hilarious, and thought-provoking, I Stand Corrected is at once an entertaining memoir and essential reading for those looking to understand the mores of the rapidly changing—and increasingly important—nation that is China.
be imagined. And since the Chinese people take their cues from their government, a better understanding of China’s government seemed a logical place for me to start. A diagram of China’s governing bodies has the strangely reassuring look of a corporate management chart. The almost three-thousand-member National People’s Congress elects the Central Committee of some three hundred. The Central Committee selects an elite council of twenty-five, the Politburo. The Politburo nominates the Standing
party at our New York apartment to celebrate the impending birth of our son. The conversation was a case study in disaster. “If you described parenthood as a job, no one would take it,” was how it began. The statement was especially unexpected, coming as it did from a mother of two charming children. Of those gathered at the table, her husband was the most taken aback. “What a discouraging thing to tell someone who’s just announced she’s expecting!” he said. Choosing to ignore him, his wife
developers. Unable to retrain the men who once worked his land, and intent on finding a way to ensure the continuation of government subsidies for his company—subsidies that would aid in the production of luxury goods for China’s upper-middle class—Mr. Han added a room to his vast office compound where the older men spent their workdays smoking, playing cards, chatting with each other, and watching a large flat-screen TV. More amazing than the jerry-rigged government subsidies for Mr. Han’s
false documents had been validated the moment the ink dried, and like much of contemporary China, Mr. Han’s company had been successfully transformed from its novelization to nonfiction. The convivial Mr. Han invited us to dinner our first night in Nanjing. Gilliam—who would be staying with friends—dropped me off at a hotel I booked online, selected for its Western bathrooms. The hotel’s website had made it look modern. It was anything but. No matter, I thought. It would do for my two-night
could relax toward evening, just as thousands of Parisians do at their favorite cafes.” The number of Chinese people who live outside mainland China surpasses the number of French people living in France. Still, it was difficult for me to imagine a Frenchman relaxing at a café conversing with someone other than another Frenchman or God, so when the editor asked for an additional lesson on business politesse outside of China, I did not place it in France. Instead, I followed China’s money to the