Man­ners maketh man, and China’s wealthy

Rich Chi­nese peo­ple are start­ing to see that hav­ing mil­lions in the bank ac­count means noth­ing if one doesn’t know how to be­have like a re­fined gen­tle­man or lady

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By YU RAN in Shang­hai


Hav­ing style and so­phis­ti­ca­tion is the name of the game in China’s wealthy cir­cles these days as a grow­ing num­ber of peo­ple are sign­ing up for eti­quette cour­ses as a means of bridg­ing cul­tural dif­fer­ences and em­brac­ing Western val­ues.

Han Bing, a 35-year-old busi­ness­woman who runs a com­pany pro­mot­ing lux­ury brands, is just one of many who be­lieve that wealthy Chi­nese peo­ple still have much to learn when it comes to ex­ud­ing class and el­e­gance in so­cial set­tings.

“Some Chi­nese peo­ple of­ten leave the im­pres­sion that they are wealthy but not noble… Tak­ing the eti­quette cour­ses helps a lot,” said Han, who has lived in Europe for five years and took cour­ses by Im­age Col­lec­tive Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, a com­pany that works with an English brand to of­fer eti­quette cour­ses in China.

Han has also en­rolled her seven-year-old daugh­ter in eti­quette cour­ses, say­ing that it is im­por­tant the lat­ter grows up know­ing how to be well­man­nered as that would make it eas­ier when it comes to ex­pand­ing her so­cial net­work in the fu­ture.

This trend comes as no sur­prise to Sara Jane Ho, the founder of China’s first eti­quette school In­sti­tute Sarita, who fore­saw it as early as 2012. The 29-year-old Har­vard Busi­ness School grad­u­ate opened the school in Bei­jing af­ter at­tend­ing a two-month in­ten­sive course at In­sti­tut Villa Pier­refeu, the last and most famed of Switzer­land’s tra­di­tional fin­ish­ing school.

“I am a mul­ti­cul­tural per­son with di­verse in­ter­ests, hob­bies and so­cial cir­cles. In­sti­tute Sarita is a plat­form for sim­i­lar­minded women to pur­sue a mean­ing­ful and taste­ful in­ter­na­tional lifestyle,” said Ho of her mo­ti­va­tions be­hind set­ting up the school.

While Ho con­ceded that the pop­u­lar­ity of such schools are on the de­cline in the West, she in­sisted that many wealthy fam­i­lies around the world still ac­knowl­edge the im­por­tance of pos­sess­ing good eti­quette.

“Western par­ents send their chil­dren to Switzer­land or sim­i­lar schools in the UK for the same rea­son that the Chi­nese are now study­ing eti­quette — they un­der­stand that the world we live in is very global,” said Ho, who was born in Hong Kong and grad­u­ated from Phillips Ex­eter Academy, an elite board­ing school in the United States.

Avail­able to women only, Ho’s school of­fers two cour­ses for mar­ried (the host­ess course) and sin­gle in­di­vid­u­als (the debu­tante course) to learn so­cial eti­quette and pro­to­col, in­clud­ing dress sense, ta­ble man­ners and busi­ness eti­quette. Her stu­dents range from wealthy wives and suc­cess­ful busi­ness­women to young peo­ple from the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion of rich fam­i­lies across the coun­try. The cour­ses are con­ducted mainly by Ho and her busi­ness part­ner and each 10-day pro­gram costs 80,000 yuan ($12,587).

“To­day’s mod­ern woman has to take on the roles of wife, mother, daugh­ter and busi­ness­woman. She needs to be pol­ished not only in her dress sense but also in so­cial skills and know how to be­have in var­i­ous set­tings,” said Ho.

Vi­vian Gu, a cus­tomer who runs a lan­guage school in Changzhou, Jiangsu province, said that she has gained much from Ho’s host­ess course.

“It has taught me how to be a more el­e­gant wife who is able to ap­pear in for­mal par­ties with good man­ners. It has also made me a bet­ter mother who is ca­pa­ble of be­ing a role model for my daugh­ter,” said Gu.

Ho’s debu­tante cour­ses are of­ten at­tended by ladies as young as 14, the ma­jor­ity of whom are from wealthy fam­i­lies who see the train­ing as a good way to pre­pare their chil­dren for over­seas ed­u­ca­tion.

“The course helps with the tran­si­tion to life in another coun­try and it helps me ob­tain ba­sic knowl­edge on how to com­mu­ni­cate with oth­ers in for­mal oc­ca­sions,” said Joyce Feng, a 21-year-old univer­sity stu­dent in Canada who took a course in In­sti­tute Sarita two years ago.

The English have through­out time been renowned for their as­so­ci­a­tion with im­pec­ca­ble eti­quette and it’s thus un­sur­pris­ingly that many wealthy peo­ple have opted to learn from the Bri­tish.

The Shang­hai-based Im­age Col­lec­tive Com­mu­ni­ca­tion works with The English Man­ner, a global provider of con­tem­po­rary pro­to­col, eti­quette, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and cross­cul­tural in­te­gra­tion tu­ition, to of­fer reg­u­lar coach­ing cour­ses to China’s high net worth in­di­vid­u­als.

“I’ve no­ticed that the con­sump­tion level of Chi­nese peo­ple is ap­proach­ing the

Diana Mather,

“First, we saw in­creas­ing de­mand from Chi­nese clients in Lon­don. We had re­ceived a lot of in­quiries re­gard­ing our classes and many peo­ple were ask­ing us if we had any­thing based in China. The other fac­tor is that the Bri­tish are well known for their man­ners and a fo­cus on the soft skills, which is very sim­i­lar to China’s her­itage. The two value sys­tems are quite sim­i­lar,” said Mil­ner.

“I have no­ticed the chang­ing at­ti­tudes of Chi­nese peo­ple — they are now more open-minded and will­ing to learn about other cul­tures. We un­der­stand and re­spect each other’s cul­tures,” added Mather.

Mil­ner es­ti­mated that the China of­fice has coached up to 1,000 peo­ple in its first year of op­er­a­tion and was con­fi­dent the num­ber would grow with the in­creas­ingly aware­ness in so­ci­ety to­day.

De­brett’s train­ing ses­sions also see many young adults and chil­dren par­tic­i­pat­ing. Stu­dents from all over the world make up the lion’s share of their cus­tomers while Chi­nese stu­dents form the ma­jor­ity of those who at­tend the com­pany’s sum­mer train­ing pro­gram, ac­cord­ing to Mil­ner.

The an­nual “Young Achiever” sum­mer pro­gram, which is held in Lon­don, costs 75,000 yuan and spans 10 days. While the en­tire pro­gram is con­ducted in English, Man­darin­speak­ing tu­tors are avail­able to help fa­cil­i­tate com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Chi­nese clients.

Chi­nese or­ga­ni­za­tions too have been keen to join this steadily grow­ing niche in­dus­try. Mil­ner views the in­creas­ing com­pe­ti­tion as an im­pli­ca­tion that eti­quette, or specif­i­cally Bri­tish eti­quette, is be­com­ing a val­ued qual­ity here in China.

The China Chil­dren’s Eti­quette Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion is an or­ga­ni­za­tion founded in 2014 that of­fers pro­fes­sional train­ing to tu­tors, and it is plan­ning to in­tro­duce more chil­dren’s eti­quette cour­ses across in China. The or­ga­ni­za­tion has trained over 500 tu­tors who are now qual­i­fied to pro­vide eti­quette cour­ses on tra­di­tional Chi­nese and Western pro­to­cols to chil­dren aged two to eight.

“Chi­nese adults lack eti­quette and man­ners in some ways and this should be im­proved given China’s grow­ing econ­omy. It is bet­ter to start with teach­ing chil­dren eti­quette rules,” said Huang Wanyun, the sec­re­tarygen­eral of the as­so­ci­a­tion. Huang added that pri­mary schools in China have al­ready started adding eti­quette train­ing into their ed­u­ca­tion syl­labus in or­der to en­sure that the chil­dren emerge more con­fi­dent and re­fined.

Ac­cord­ing to Xiong Bingqi, deputy di­rec­tor of the 21st Cen­tury Ed­u­ca­tion Re­search In­sti­tute in Bei­jing, while the trend is a pos­i­tive thing for Chi­nese peo­ple, such ini­tia­tives should not be deemed as manda­tory for ev­ery­one, es­pe­cially chil­dren. Rather, he be­lieves the key fo­cus should be on a holis­tic ed­u­ca­tion.

“It is a good sign that the rich Chi­nese peo­ple ac­knowl­edge they do not have much style and so­phis­ti­ca­tion even af­ter spend­ing for­tunes to buy lux­ury goods,” said Xiong. “But it is im­por­tant to note that the fo­cus should be on achiev­ing di­ver­sity in ed­u­ca­tion.”

The younger peo­ple start, the eas­ier it is to learn. I am very pleased to see that Chi­nese chil­dren are re­ally good at ob­serv­ing ev­ery­thing, much bet­ter than Western chil­dren.”

di­rec­tor of train­ing at The English Man­ner

Xu Jun­qian in Shang­hai con­trib­uted to the story.


Im­age Col­lec­tive Com­mu­ni­ca­tion of­ten in­vites Diana Mather (mid­dle right), the di­rec­tor of train­ing from The English Man­ner, a global provider of con­tem­po­rary pro­to­col, eti­quette, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and cross-cul­tural in­te­gra­tion tu­ition, to coach lo­cal wealthy in­di­vid­u­als.


Shang­hai-based Im­age Col­lec­tive Com­mu­ni­ca­tion of­fers a va­ri­ety of high-end lifestyle cour­ses tar­geted at China's high net worth in­di­vid­u­als, in­clud­ing wine tast­ing, ta­ble man­ners and flower ar­range­ment.

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