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Through the Bamboo Ceiling

Client: Where to for your next appointment?


Me: I’m going to see my Chinese language coach.

Client: Why? Your Chinese is already proficient! Isn’t that a waste of your money?

Me: I’m studying advanced Business Chinese because I’ve started to give workshops in Chinese and I want to improve my vocabulary.

Client: Is that necessary? Isn’t using English enough?

Me: Well yes most of the participants usually speak good English, however, it’s a personal goal to be able to communicate in their language when I’m in their country.

My Client: Amazing! (a combination of confused and impressed).


I’ve been having various versions of this conversation in Taipei for a decade and a half. As a native English speaker, my ‘cultural currency’ is such that I could get by fine both professionally and personally never learning Chinese.

Or so it seems. In fact, if you look more closely, staying in your English-speaking world keeps you in the realm of forever a ‘waiguoren’ (foreigner) and substantially limits your career opportunities.



The bamboo ceiling


Chinese isn’t just a language, it’s a key to a whole new world. It’s 6,000 years of culture and unspoken ways of communicating that are almost impossible to access in English.

If you stay in the ‘outgroup’, you’ll most always be treated with respect and courtesy, but the ‘bamboo ceiling’ will be there.


Breaking through


Learning Chinese has allowed me to develop relationships, explore my inner world from whole new angles and launch a business that I would have never been able to otherwise.


Through the cultural intelligence that I've developed as a result, opportunities have emerged to work with clients and organizations throughout the Chinese-speaking world (from Flushing, NYC to Singapore to Shandong, Northern China).


Your Bamboo Ceiling


The journey through your ceiling will be unique to you and your goals. Whatever shape it takes, it is likely going to be challenging as well as fascinating and will have you often out of your comfort zone. Here are a few practical tips that may help you on your way:


1. Language: check out Chinese On Your Terms by Francis Kremer which focuses on Mastering the Art of Chinese through Coaching. If you're looking for a private tutor, send me a dm and I'll put you in touch with mine.


2. Traditional Culture: read the Four Books and the Four Great Classical Novels . My favorite from the former is Mencius and from the latter, Dream of the Red Chamber.


3. Working with or in Greater China: Check out the China Flexpat Podcast and the book Culture Hacks.


4. In Taiwan: Connect with the Facebook group 'Taiwan Impact Entrepreneurs' for great networking opportunities as well as shared advice and knowledge.


5. Mindset: Be Flexible, Curious and Humble


For more a more personalized roadmap for your journey, schedule a Discovery Call with me for a deeper look.






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