Monthly Archives: January 2018

This coming year is the year of the dog. I am scratching my head because a dog’s life isn’t exactly the nicest wish on someone.

I had some help from the internet and indeed there are lots of well wishes.


Photo: I am using the picture of a shisa, a mythical lion-dog from my trip in Naha, Okinawa.

From the bark of a dog that sounds like prosperity.


Gǒu nián wàngwàng wàng
Wish you a prosperous year of the dog

Shí quán shí měi
Wish you perfection and beauty in everything

犬 is another word for dog and sounds like 全 meaning complete.

I am a little late on my Mandarin on Mondays this week. Been hectic.

With the increasing interest in Asia and globalisation of the world economy, cracking the cultural code has become important.

Beyond handing namecards with both hands and bowing, what are some of the differences in East and West. Both Hofstede and Trompenaars are very insightful in outlining some challenges to watch out for.

I came across a very practical book on cracking the cultural code. However it involves observation. India is different from China from South Korea from Indonesia from Malaysia.

Where are some of your challenges?

1. Making small talk with colleagues
2. Asking a favour from a colleague
3. Promoting myself at networking events
4. Receiving compliment from colleagues
5. Telling a joke at lunch
6. Giving feedback to my boss
7. Giving a formal presentation at a meeting
8. Pitching my idea to investors
9. Interviewing for a job

In the section on “You can be a Cultural Detective”, Prof Molinsky suggests to use a series of diagnostic questions, using the 6 dimensions of the cultural code he coined.

1. Brevity and en pointe:
Do people tend to be succinct in what they say and get right to the point – often with as few words as possible?

Or do they use words more general, or ambiguous poetic language, hinting at what they mean without being too direct? Senior Chinese government officials tend to favour reference to Tang poems for instance.

There are regional differences in that regard.

2. Energy
When something positive has happened, do people express emotions openly through facial expressions, body language and tone of voice eg Mediterranean cultures. Or do they tend to hide or suppress the outward expression of positive emotions despite their feelings, example British stiff up lip.

3. Formality
Do people dress conservatively, make official appointments to speak with each other and use titles such as “Doctor” or “CEO” . Or do they dress casually, drop by casually for a chat or first name basis. Do not be deceived by outward appearances though. Sometimes people may want to be addressed by first name but they are very formal.

4. Assertiveness
Do people express views strongly and forcefully. Is conflict encouraged? Do people express different view points in meetings? Or do they express opinions in a cautious manner and public display of conflict or disagreement is frowned?

Here, there is a difference in hierarchy. Those at the top tend to be more forceful.

5. Self promotion
Do people tend to highlight or draw attention to their personal accomplishments or tend to minimise, underplay their achievements?

6. Personal disclosure
Do people keep conversations strictly about business or do they discuss details of their personal lives with colleagues at work? In Asian cultures, people do discuss details of family life.

How much to ask depends on the seniority. Do not be surprised if an older colleague were to ask how much you earn, and your age. Such invasion of privacy may be uncomfortable for an American, who although comfortable with small talk will consider such topics taboo. A German boss on the other extreme will unlikely ask questions about your family as this would be considered too personal.

Global Dexterity , how to adapt your behaviour across cultures without losing yourself in the process” by Andy Molinsky
395.52 MOL (NLB)

SMU Associate Professor Tan Hwee Hoon is investigating on how trust is influenced by culture. In a cross-culture longitudinal study, the research team is examining dimensions of trust depending on 1. Ability 2. Benevolence 3. Integrity.

In American culture, trust is highest when the imdividual is deemed to have high ability. Whereas in Asian culture, benevolence or whether a person has consistently shown that he/she watches your back is more important.

Stay tuned as she prepares to publish her report.

Hilarious look at cultural differences between East and West

Tiānshēng wǒ cái, bì yǒuyòng.


I have chosen a photo taken in Naha, Okinawa of a fruit seller having a conversation with a customer.

If God created me, then there must be some value in me. In other words, surely I am of some use. While I find my destiny, or someone who appreciates my skills, in the meantime, let’s drink and be merry.

The poem is written by famous Tang Poet Li Bo, lamenting that his talent was not appreciated by the Emperor of his day. Yet it is not a pessimistic poem in that he was drowning his sorrow but enjoying the company of life and friends and its pleasure. An upbeat poem on the brevity of life. Li Bo (李白) and Tu Fu (杜甫) are regarded as the two literary “saints” of Chinese poetry.

天生我材必有用, 出自李白的《将进酒》。意思是:每个人的出生都一定有自己的价值和意义。



If you are interested in the rest of the poem:

jī bù kě shī, shí bú zài lái
Opportunity knocks at the door only once.


Taken near Swan Lake road on way to Garang Grill. Facade of building with old doors.

Perhaps it is the rain. I am affected by different emotions. Hope with the new year. New beginnings and new possibilities.

Sadness that yesteryear has passed. My father’s sister has just passed away and he will fly into Bangkok today to attend her wake. This sister was separated from the family for years, trapped in China during the Cultural Revolution and couldn’t return.

One consolation is that he visited her last year. All the family drama no longer important. Or are we still haunted by ghosts of the past.

What does “opportunity knock but once” mean for you?

An investment opportunity.
A career
A promise

The days are long, but the years are short. I read that on Gretchen Rubin’s blog post.

I have stopped making New Year’s Resolution for many years. Eight to be exact. I am beginning to realise that despite not achieving what you set out to do, New Year’s resolutions have merit in goal setting.

What is that one thing you like 2018 to be remembered for?

Just one thing. Himself said that for him it is making the bed every morning. “You should tidy your work table”, he offered. As my New Year’s Resolution.

That should do for now.

5 mins a day

Pick up 2 different skills

2 different something. One year I learned cycling. Posted a blog. Last year I joined Chinese Toastmasters. I want to spend more time with my mom and not mind so much when she talks during service competing with the pastor’s sermon.

What are 2 different experiences/ skills that you will pick up this year?
Photo taken at Hiji Falls, Okinawa, 2017

We wont carry anything with us when we leave this earth but we deposit memories in someone’s life.

No man enters the same river twice. He is not the same man, and it is not the same river. -Heraclitus