I Stand Corrected: How Teaching Western Manners in China Became Its Own Unforgettable Lesson
The academic attempt to understand foreign cultures is a worthy endeavor. But, as it is often said, to really understand another culture, you must immerse yourself in it.
Eden Collinsworth found herself living in China working on a guide to etiquette for Chinese business people dealing with westerners. Her immersion in Chinese culture led to many fascinating insights about China, American society and social norms in general. Inspired by what she learned, she has written I STAND CORRECTED: How Teaching Western Manners in China Became Its Own Unforgettable Lesson. She draws not just from her time in China, but also from her travels to various parts of the globe, to examine manners, customs and expectations --- and how they can benefit (or wreck) public relationships and interactions.
"This is more than a cozy book about manners. There is much to learn about contemporary China here, and even more to learn about American perceptions of China and, indeed, the larger world."
Collinsworth had previously visited China, but the stay I STAND CORRECTED centers on was a prolonged one in order to write the book, with the help of her son, who was a college student there. The book, which explained that such taken-for-granted items as spitting may be unintentionally rude but is rude nonetheless, was meant to ease awkward or even offensive behavior between Chinese and western business associates. From appropriate business wear to plating a western-style meal, Collinsworth's attention to detail points toward larger issues of cultural communication and the underlying values of Chinese civilization.
Not a formal examination by any means, I STAND CORRECTED is full of personal observation and insights based on experience. And because of the personal nature of the book, Collinsworth is free to jump around a bit from topic to topic, place to place, usually able to bring the ideas together cohesively. Discussion of religion, language, economics, gender issues, education, cuisine and more are found between these covers.
This is more than a cozy book about manners. There is much to learn about contemporary China here, and even more to learn about American perceptions of China and, indeed, the larger world. Perhaps most important is Collinsworth's willingness to step out into the world --- to travel to new places, try new foods, attempt at least a few words in the language --- all the while opening her mind and heart to the people and customs by which she finds herself surrounded. She writes, “More times than is probably sensible, I have been lured away from where I was by the unexplored of somewhere else. During the time I was writing my book in China, I discovered that China, the most paradoxical of nations, is not an easy place.” Yet it is from this sense of unease that interesting and compelling stories, as well as a deeper appreciation and perception, arise.
Collinsworth is an able escort through the ideas and manners that divide China from the west, and to those ideas and manners that bridge the two cultures.
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on October 10, 2014