Thursday, April 30, 2009

Big to Small

It's generally accepted that a huge difference between Western and Chinese thinking is that in the West, we start with the individual; in Chinese thinking, you start with society in general.

It filters down to seemingly trivial things- like in Chinese, your family name is first, followed by your given name- because the family is more important. Addresses in English go from small to big- your name, your house number, your street, your city, your country. In Chinese, it's the opposite- it starts with Taiwan, then Taichung County, and down to my name.

Or, for example, back home, if I knew a few people named Smith, I'd just call them by their first name, or first say "Mr. Smith, who works for such and such a company." But like in my congregation, about half the people are named Chen and the other half are named Lin. So if I have to explain who I'm talking about, I don't even say "The Brother Chen who lives in Daya", I say, "The Daya brother Chen."

To put it in a Deep Thoughts kind of way- you're not figuring out how the world fits around you; you're figuring out how you fit into the world.

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