Compliments and Praise 中美文化差异之五
There are some differences in replying to compliments between Chinese and American: Americans tend to accept the compliment while Chinese generally murmur some reply about
not being worthy of the praise. Here a few more words might be said about this difference. Consider the following examples:
A young Chinese woman in the U.S. was complimented for the lovely dress that she was wearing. "It's exquisite. The colors are so beautiful!" She was pleased but somewhat embarrassed. In typical Chinese fashion, she replied, "Oh, it’s just an ordinary dress that I bought in China."
At a reception in an American college, a newly arrived Chinese scholar was chatting with the hostess, who was an old friend. As an acquaintance of hers came up she said, "Ron, let me introduce Mr. Chen, an outstanding physicist and one of the nicest people I know." Mr. Chen offered his hand to the newcomer but looked at his hostess and said with a smile, "Should I blush, or should I tell him you don' t really mean it?"
In both cases, the words of the Chinese conveyed a message quite different from what was intended. In the case of the Chinese woman, the reply could have meant that the one paying the compliment did not know what a really good dress is; otherwise, how could she get so excited about an ordinary dress? The implication was that the American woman’s taste in clothing was questionable. In the second case, if Chen had not been smiling, his words could have been interpreted as meaning "You’re just saying that to be polite; you don’t really mean that." So in one case, the person had poor judgment. In the other, the latter case, the hostess was not sincere. Quite a gap between intention and message!