Humans are complicated and cultures vary widely worldwide. I have been blessed to travel and teach in more than 150 cities and 40 countries in the world, and it is always amazing to see what we can learn from diverse cultures. It’s sort of like the pleasant surprise when we find out there are more than 1,000 species of lobsters, or crabs, or mangoes! Humans are even more interestingly different!
The value placed on “time” is highly variable in some places, where the operative word could be “mañana” (pronounced ‘man-yana’), which basically means “tomorrow”; pregnant with implications. Basically, “why hurry?” “everything takes time,” “just relax,” “it will happen,” “no problem,” “why are you so uptight?” Working in mañana cultures strains the patience of the average westerner, because there’s no specific answer when one asks for something specific. But in due time, it does seem to work, somehow, as long as one is patient about everything. After a while in the culture, it will even seem strange why westerners are so impatient. It will happen, just take it easy.
在某些地方，衡量“时间”价值的方式，是非常不同的。而理解时间的关键词是mañana”（这是一个西班牙词语，发音为’man-yana’），这个词的基本意思是“明天”；但是它的含义很深刻。 可以理解成，“干嘛这么着急？”“每件事都需要时间”，“放松一下嘛”，“迟早总会发生的”，“没啥问题”，“你为什么如此紧张呢？”对一般西方人而言，在这种文化中工作是相当考验人耐心的一件事，因为当你提出一个具体的问题时，常常没人给你一个有针对性的答案。 但是当到了适当的时候，在你对所有的事情都耐心地等待后，似乎问题的确有效地解决了。当你在这样的文化中生活了一段时间后，再次面对西方人的不耐烦，你反而会觉得很奇怪。事情总会发生的，不用紧张。
I learned mañana especially in rural China. People really did not like the western approach of “1, 2, 3, 4.” Westerners tended to come in with a set of black and white proposals, and maybe even expecting some kind of sign off on documents and agreements, with a lawyer present. What the locals really preferred was friendship. Often we might have many dinners, before the local host decided to even work with us. It helped tremendously if I went ahead of the team, and “drank tea” with the officials on an informal basis, and often for many times, before the main team even appeared.
In fact, I discovered that even for the mayor of a small town, it was not a good idea to make an official appointment. If I made an appointment and showed up, the usual responses were: “Oh, the mayor had a call, and he’s gone. We don’t know when he’ll be back.” So I learned to not make any appointments, and just showed up unannounced in the mayor’s office. It made my visit “informal” and “friendly!” At which point a staff person would rush into the mayor’s office and quickly ask for instructions. In short order, he would telephone the relevant people to come to the meeting quickly. Occasionally, he would even shout from the top floor of the building, if he spotted one of the people hanging out on the streets below him.
事实上，我发现即使对一个小型市镇的市长来说，安排一个正式的会见也常常并不是一个好主意。如果我和市长提前预约，然后准时到达，得到的回答通常是：“哦，市长接到了一个电话，临时有事离开了。我们不知道他什么时候才会回来。“因此，我学会了不提前预约就出现在市长办公室里。 这使我的访问显得“非正式”和“友好！”这时，工作人员常常会迅速到市长办公室，去寻求指示。 在短时间内，他会打电话给有关人员，迅速安排他们出席会议。 偶尔，如果他发现其中一个相关人员恰好在下面的街道上的话，甚至会从楼上高声呼叫让他赶快上来参加会议。
When we finally sat down to talk, the agenda before us was usually a loose one, and the main thing was to “drink tea”, and just chat. The chatting often went all the way from family, to local gossip, to world news. The actual discussion on the main topic often only took a few moments, embedded in the overall chatting. I had to learn quickly to be a good Mandarin speaking (sort of) conversationalist. Since the topic kept on changing, in short bursts of time, I had to be on my toes. I think this was a way in which the local host was trying to size up the foreigner, trying to figure if he was trustworthy or not.
当我们最终坐下来谈话时，摆在我们面前的议程通常是很松散的，我们主要是“喝茶”，然后闲聊。 内容经常从家庭生活到当地八卦，再到世界新闻。 关于主要议题的实际讨论往往只花了很少的时间，而且是贯穿在整个聊天的过程中。在这种形势下，尽管我的普通话水平一般，但我要很快地让自己学会如何与对方有效地对话和交流。 由于谈话的内容在不断地变化，每个话题上花的时间都不会太长，我必须注意力很集中。我相信这也是当地东道主考察来访者一个渠道，以试图判断他是否值得信赖。
Sometimes of course the locals tried to loosen up the visitor with alcohol. I learned the best response was a simple polite “I don’t really drink”, which turned out to be very helpful in the long run. Otherwise, I would be offered drink after drink every time, once they thought that I liked it. In Islamic areas, I even defaulted to the Islamic prohibition on drinking as an excuse, even though the one offering the drink was usually Hui, and thus technically Islamic himself, (sort of). Actually, the Huis are “Islamic by birth”, but have assimilated into Chinese culture, so that drinking alcohol has become normative for officials, even though technically “forbidden.”
当然，有些东道主也会试图用喝酒来帮助来访者放松。 我的经验告诉我，对此最好的回应是一个简单而礼貌的“我真的不会喝酒”，从长远来看，这个做法是非常有益的。 否则，一旦他们认为我喜欢饮酒，我就会在每次宴会上被人不停地劝酒。 在伊斯兰教盛行的地区，我甚至以伊斯兰教的禁酒令为借口，尽管提供酒精饮料的人常常自己就是回族人，因此他们本身（从某种程度上说）就是伊斯兰教徒。实际上，回族人生下来就被认为是“伊斯兰教徒”， 但他们的信仰中已经融入了很多中国文化的元素，因此，即使在教义上饮酒是被“禁止”的，但对于当地的政府官员而言，饮酒已经成为一种习惯，很常见。
In western culture, this chatting with people on all kinds of unrelated topics for no apparent specific goal in mind, is often called, somewhat negatively, “schmoozing”. It seems to the average westerner that it is just wasting time, and not getting to the point. This is contrary to our goal-driven culture. After all, there’s even a book called “Purpose Driven Life”, so why should we be schmoozing with no clear purpose. Aha, I think that the secret of eastern “schmoozing” is that it is “purpose driven,” but a different way of getting to the purpose. As mentioned, one purpose is often to size you up, and see if you are trustworthy, since in former days there were no lawyers, no contracts, and no way of enforcing any agreements, so trust was (and is) an extremely important part of the culture. And so while the mañana culture in theory perplexes the average westerner, and may make some apoplectic, it is really quite purposeful. In the chatter, in the apparently rambling discussions on all kinds of topics, one emerges with a much clearer idea of who the participants are. We get to find out what kind of idiosyncrasy, reasoning, and temperament others have, all basic ingredients of human relationships.
在西方文化中，这种与人们在各种与主题无关的话题上漫无目的地聊天，通常被称作“闲聊(schmoozing) ”，带有一点负面的意思。对于一般西方人来说，闲聊通常被认为是在浪费时间，而没有达到任何目的。这与我们以目标为驱动力的文化背景背道而驰。毕竟，甚至有一本书，书名就叫做“标杆（目标）人生”，所以我们怎么能在没有明确目的的情况下闲聊呢。啊哈，我却认为东方的“闲聊(schmoozing) ”的秘密在于它恰恰是“目标驱动”的，但却是以不同的方式达到那个目标。如前所述，其中的一个目标通常就是了解和考察来访者，看看你是否值得信赖，因为在过去的社会中通常没有律师，没有合同，也没有任何有效方式可以强制执行协议，所以信任过去是（而且现在还是）一个非常重要的文化组成部分。因此，虽然“mañana”文化在理论上困扰了一般的西方人，并且可能会让有些人感到愤怒，但它确实是带有目的性的。在对各种主题的漫无目的的讨论中，人们对参与者是个什么样的人能够有更加清楚的了解。我们可以发现他们具有的特质，思维方式，个人性情，以及人际关系中的一些基本要素。
In western culture, human relationships tend to be downplayed in a professional setting. But in real life, even in different walks of life, to be an effective manager, one needs to really understand the different components of any team that is working together. By understanding, or by “schmoozing” with each of the key team members, one gets to have a much clearer idea of the team.
Back in Cincinnati, I love lunch or coffee schmoozing, which has helped tremendously in team building efforts. The greatest Teacher himself actually was criticized for “eating and drinking” (literally “schmoozing”) with all sorts of people, some of whom seemed to be the dregs of society. And yet, as He moved among the different cultures of the day, He discerned their thoughts and provided real life examples and lessons that captured their attention. For example, in the book of Luke there are 38 mentions of the Teacher eating. Since Luke was a physician, and astutely observant of human nature and culture, I presume he surmised that the Teacher “enjoyed schmoozing”. Shall we schmooze together!?