Translating Culture is as Important as Translating Language for Newly Arrived Chinese in Australia
Last Updated On: August 18, 2021 by The Migration Translators
Australia has a strict immigration policy that is meant to ensure that any skilled migrants are at least able to communicate easily with Australians once they arrive. But cultural differences can be almost as difficult to adjust to as linguistic ones and these are not part of the criteria for residence.
Chinese immigrants to Australia (just to use one of many possible nationalities) do get a bit of a cultural shock when they go to work in an Australian workplace, whether it is a private business or a government agency. It’s not the language they need translating, It’s the subtle and sometimes not so subtle cultural differences. Here are some examples.
Respect For Superiors
Chinese employees tend to have more respect for their bosses at work than is the case in Australia. That can lead to frustration on both parts. For example, an Australian manager may ask their Chinese employee to complete a task with the employee feeling duty-bound to acquiesce. Their Australian counterpart may be comfortable refusing, giving a perfectly acceptable reason (they are overloaded, for instance, or still have to complete another task. In China, employees may be used to staying at work until their immediate boss finishes work. In Australia, work times are usually more explicitly laid out. Australian workers are used to having their free time off after their workday (although this is something that is changing). Chinese employees can easily become exhausted agreeing to do much more than they can handle in order t please while their Australian supervisor doesn’t understand
Intertwining The Personal and The Professional
Many newly arrived Chinese are used to intertwining their personal life with their professional life, while this tends to be kept separate in Australian workplaces. This means that if there is a disagreement between a Chinese employee and their Australian counterpart, the Chinese employee is most likely to take it personally. In response, the Chinese employee may try and dodge confrontation, but the disagreement can affect their psychological state of mind. The professional and personal tends to be kept more separate in Australian workplace culture meaning that if a professional or work disagreement arises, it may not affect the way the two people relate to each other on a personal basis.
This works both ways, as Chinese employees are much more likely to bring their private lives into work. That can mean using work resources for private purposes. This happens far less in Australian workplaces where there is an expectation that workplaces are for work and private activities are left for life beyond the workplace.