What did he say?

We have a foreign friend who does business in China who we met in class last term. He often has meetings with Chinese contacts over dinner, a very traditional way of doing business here. The fact that for personal reasons he doesn’t drink alcohol or eat pork sometimes makes for interesting cross-cultural interactions.

A few days ago, he met with about five clients at a restaurant, but allowed his interpreter to do all of the food ordering. Having said very little up to this point, he appeared to the clients to be unable to speak Chinese. When his food preferences became obvious, the clients started talking among themselves:

“This guy doesn’t eat any pork?”
“No, and he doesn’t drink alcohol either.”
“Really? Wow- his life really isn’t very interesting!”

Our good-natured friend decided to pipe up at this point in his defense: “Because I don’t eat pork or drink, you think my life doesn’t have any interest?”

Jaws dropped, followed by swift apologies and assurances that that wasn’t what was meant. He took the comment in stride, but from that moment the negotiations went a lot more smoothly for him!


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November 2008
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