China’s Evolving Cell Phone Culture

This is a great Wall Street Journal article on China’s culture and how it relates to technology — primarily voice mail.

An excerpt:

    Many Chinese who have worked for inefficient, state-owned companies may not comprehend the idea of being obligated to return phone calls or to respond to customers. Plus, Chinese workers are away from their desks most of the day, conducting meetings in the traditional, face-to-face Asian style, Mr. Wang says. They don’t expect anyone to be around to answer their office phone and check messages. That is one reason cellphone-based text messaging, which is cheaper than installing a complex office voice-mail system, is popular.

    Nor do many Chinese expect to leave messages. Duncan Clark, a telecommunications consultant in Beijing, has voice mail in his office but says many people seem mystified when they call and hear his recorded message. Callers often say, “Wei? Wei?” — the traditional Chinese phone greeting roughly meaning, “Hello? Hello?” — over and over, believing they are speaking to a real person. Others consider it a loss of “face,” or dignity, to leave a message with someone of lower corporate rank. “It’s basically a cultural gap,” says Mr. Clark, a Westerner who speaks fluent Mandarin.

Speaking of cell phones, according to News.com there are 3.6 cell phones for every PC in China, compared with a ratio is 0.9 cell phones for every PC in the US.

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Author: John Yunker

John co-founded Byte Level Research in 2000 and is author of The Web Globalization Report Card. He also co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.