Resources for Educators who are recruiting and enrolling students from China in the USA.
Published On: Tue, Jul 9th, 2013

Losing Face- Mian Zi 面子

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In China, face is a social norm that brings a layer of complexity to social behaviors and interactions. I can truly write a book about Face but for purposes of education and understanding Chinese student behavior, here is a very simplified version:
FACE or Mian Zi can be defined as or motivate by dignity, reputation and/or ego.
Giving Face or Saving Face is a sign of respect or honor for the other party and for your self.
Losing Face is losing respect or honor and bringing shame.
On either side of the Face Fence, one’s reputation, dignity and ego is on the line.

A past time of proud Chinese parents is to compare their child’s performance at school (from grades to test scores) with their friends or classmates. If there child is studying in US, they will compare where each student got accepted into college with their own (which is why college ranking is huge) and will purposely leave out low ranking schools so that they do not lose face.

Since there is only one child, the pressure on that child to perform well at school is tremendous. All bets are on him or her. That is why if a student is not performing well at school, it brings his family a lot of shame. Which is why students spend hours in and out of class studying and that is all they are expected to do. They do not want to bring shame to their families or fail their teachers (Confucianism is another underlying influence). Face alone is the main driving factor of why students do not want to speak up in class (if they make a mistake, lose face), let people to believe that their English is better than it really is, do not seek counseling or help on campus, and simply wait til it is too late before they can no longer hide their problems or maintain their Face.


Irene Tieh
Cross-Cultural Connector and
Founder of USA College Connection

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