Saturday, 14 February 2015

Didn’t We Once Have A Civil Service To Sort This Out?

A British minister was left red-faced after giving the mayor of Taipei the gift of a watch - a taboo act in Chinese culture - only for him to joke he would “sell it to a scrap dealer”.
Giving someone a clock or watch as a present is traditionally taboo in Chinese culture due to the similar pronunciation of “giving a clock” and “attending an old person’s funeral”.
Sir Humphrey would not be amused at such incompetence..!


Mark Wadsworth said...

If the mayor did take offence (and there's no reason to assume he was that bothered), then that's his problem.

Flaxen Saxon said...

I'm sure Sir Humphrey would have had a quiet word to his secretary who would have passed the message on, and so on. Eventually, the Chinese gentleman would suffer a nasty accident involving a sharp wok and thereafter, diplomatic accord would be restored.

Twenty_Rothmans said...

Give him a pair of scissors next time, love.

I disagree with Mark - that lot are known for their superstitions, which should be acknowledged on their turf.

It's just good manners, in the same way that the people who come to these isles from around the world display their good breeding by conforming to our ideas of politesse by not spitting, etc.

Henry Crun said...

Huh! Makes me wonder about the Hong Kong Jockey Club watches my wife's uncle gave is as an engagement gift.

Anonymous said...


I am with Mr Rothmans on this one, if we want to do business with these people we need to know how to treat them. This was amateurish in the extreme,

Had this been a private business heads would role.

JuliaM said...

"...then that's his problem."

Well, normally, yes. But as Twenty_Rothmans points out, if you aim to do business in a culture, it's only polite not to needlessly aggravate them.

"Give him a pair of scissors next time, love."


"This was amateurish in the extreme, "

indeed! At least, back in the day, it would have been an INTENDED insult!