Sensitivity Training: Money (1)

That was a lovely party, wasn't it?

Yes, it was. The food was pretty good, too.

I was a little puzzled about something, though.

What was that?

At one point in our conversation, Mr. Jones gave me a really funny look...

It was almost like I'd broken some sort of a rule.

Oh, yes... Well, you did ask him how much he paid for his apartment.

And? What's wrong with asking someone how much they paid for a piece of property?

Back in China everybody talks about buying and selling apartments.

Yeah, I know. But in many Western societies, talking about money in public is a faux pas.

What's a faux pas?

It's a French term that means a social blunder.

Questions like that are considered a little bit impolite.

Really? I had no idea. Back in China, it's not generally a problem to ask about how much something costs.

I know you meant no offense.

When I was assigned to Guangzhou for six months, people frequently asked me how much my monthly salary was.

That's funny, because Western society seems so open.

People talk about all kinds of private things that we wouldn't bring up in China.

But money is a no-no, huh?

If your Western friend buys something for a really good price, he or she might mention it to you by saying something like, "Take a look at this camera that I got on sale for only ninety-nine dollars."

But unless the person is a close friend, we almost never ask how much something costs.

So, do you avoid talking about money so that people with less money don't feel bad?