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The chopsticks analogy: “If you don’t coordinate the sticks well, you won’t be able to pick anything up”

14.01.2019Comments are closed.

Asia is the largest continent on Earth, with six main regions: North Asia (Asian Russia or Siberia), East Asia (China, Hong Kong, North Korea), West Asia (Saudi Arabia), Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan), South Asia (Afghanistan, India, Bhutan) and Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Philippines). Today, different things impact business here. Therefore, it is important to consider not only the geographic, demographic, economic, political and legal environment, but also the fact that every part of Asia is different.

Kim-Shyan Fam, a distinguished professor and expert in the field of marketing to Asian consumers, held a lecture on this topic and highlighted that relationships and the trust within them cannot grow overnight. It is necessary to understand local customs, tradition, values and religious beliefs. In conjunction with this, he presented the chopsticks analogy. The lecture was held on Monday, 7 January 2019, at the Faculty of Economics and was organised by the Confucius Institute.

Every part of Asia is special and diverse. For instance, the median age in China in 2017 was estimated at about 37.4, or about 10 years older than in India. Traditionally, in India women and men don’t touch hands when meeting and greeting, because a handshake from a woman signifies a more intimate relationship than one from a man. The differences are also notable in eating habits. While eating, Chinese people always use chopsticks, and eating with hands is viewed as a bad-mannered act. But in other parts of Asia, especially in India and throughout Southeast Asia, people do eat with their hands. Those people mainly use the right hand, because the left hand is regarded as less clean. Furthermore, the Korean education system puts enormous pressure on children. People here also celebrate different festivals, and have a different income, salary, culture and religion.

During the lecture, the professor presented the chopsticks analogy. “A chopstick is essentially a functionless stick. However, when the two sticks are in skillful hands, success is within your grasp. If you don’t coordinate well, you won’t be able to pick anything up, and you lose money.” While talking about the chopsticks analogy, it is important to understand that the point is not about how you pick up the chopsticks, but how you use them. You need to have two sticks. The first stick for successful business in Asia requires business objectives, strategies and positioning, trust, commitment and reciprocity. The other stick presents a deep appreciation of local customs, traditions, religion belief, ethics and etiquette. “If you are skillful enough to combine and coordinate both, you will win.”

Anja Puc, EFnews


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