约翰•史密斯是个北京人? / John Smith is a Beijinger

约翰•史密斯是个北京人?

改革开放时代初期激动人心,而在此之前,中方代表在参加商务会见和谈判时是不出示名片的。我们这些来访的西方人,只被告知坐在谈判桌另一侧的一、两位高级人物的姓,以及中方单位的名称,而其他人的姓名则无从知晓。对于另一边其他貌似书记员、观察员的人到底姓甚名谁,通常不得而知。

当年的这种习惯,并非由于缺少打印名片的纸张或是故意不礼貌,而是由于当时的主流意识形态仍把做生意尤其是对外贸易视为一种免不了的邪恶,而不是一种受到热烈欢迎的活动。

获得参加广交会的邀请函——这差不多是外国企业可以每年两次进入中国的唯一渠道——然后再凭邀请函申请签证、出席广交会、争取参加想要参加的会议,是一个复杂而又模糊的过程。当时的中国对外贸易通常给人这样的感觉:“别给我们打电话,我们会打电话找你”。

1979年以后,所有这一切都发生了戏剧性和快速的变化,变化的程度和速度是今日中国青年难以想象的。

从好的方面来看,早先年代的优点就是简约。外国来华商人只需记住中方人员的中文姓氏,比如黄、张、李、宋等,前面通常再加上那个时代简单的通称——“同志”。

后来,随着名片在中国流行,外国人不得不学习解读拉丁化中文的标准系统:汉语拼音。在这套系统中,“q”、“x”和“z”都在意想不到的位置上出现,字母组织令人感到陌生,且难以发音。对没有正经学习过的人来说,汉语拼音看上去就像颠倒错乱的字母排列。

现在看来,那个早期时代似乎已是很久很久以前的事了。近三十多年来,姓名及恰当的称谓一直处在不断的变化当中。

John Smith is a Beijinger

Prior to the early stirrings of the pre-Open Door era, name cards were not presented by the Chinese side in business meetings and negotiations. We western visitors would be told the surname and organization name only, of the senior one or two people on the Chinese side of the table, and usually not the names of the other people on their side, who seemed to be primarily there as note-takers and observers.

The custom of the day was not due to a lack of paper for printing name cards, or any intended discourtesy, but because the prevailing ideology at the time saw doing business, and especially foreign trade business, as a necessary evil rather than an activity to be enthusiastically embraced.

The process of obtaining an invitation to visit the Canton Trade Fair – virtually the only access point in China twice each year for foreign business – and then using that invitation to obtain a visa, visit the Fair and try to obtain desired meetings, was complex and opaque. There was a sense of “Don’t call us ; we’ll call you.” pervading China’s foreign trade at the time.

This all changed dramatically and rapidly after 1979. and reflects a degree and speed of change which younger Chinese people today find hard to imagine.

Looking on the bright side, there was a virtue of simplicity in those early days. Foreign business visitors would only have to remember their counterpart’s Chinese surname: Huang, Li, Zhang, Song etc., generally preceded by the simple and universal form. of address at the time: “Comrade”.

Later, as name cards became popular in China, foreigners had to learn to decipher the standard system of romanizing Chinese words, hanyu pinyin. This seemed to have the letters “q”, “x” and “z” in unexpected places and unfamiliar, hard-to-pronounce combinations. To those without the benefit of formal study of it, hanyu pinyin seemed like an alphabetic train wreck.

That earlier era seems like a long, long time ago now, and in the intervening 30-plus years the matter of names and appropriate terms of address just seems to keep on changing.

 

约翰•史密斯的名片 / John Smith’s name card

从开放之初名片成为公认商业礼仪的一部分开始,外国人和中国人都在努力为对方提供方便。

外国人取了中文名字,印在名片背后。渐渐地,中国人也有选择地接受了洋名(如威廉、玛丽等),有时候还会加在中文姓氏的前头,印在名片的背面。

除了个人姓名以外,用中文、英文及其他语种为公司和品牌起名成了一项大买卖。考虑到名称的重要性,这也合理。

几年前,在北京,我遇到了一位很有创业精神的出租车司机,他把名字的西方化提升到了一个新的层次。

我们在路上遇到堵车,他是个非常健谈的人。

对话按着老套子展开,我们用的都是中文:

“您的中国话真好。”

“谢谢。”

“您在中国呆了多长时间了?”

“三十多年。”

“喔,一直在北京?”

“不是,在香港,但经常来北京。”

“那您要是去长城或是郊区,你可以随时打电话找我。”

“谢谢。”

“给您一张我的名片。”

他的名片采用厚重的贴膜纸板制作,彩色印刷十分精美,英文一面印着姓名:约翰•史密斯,背面是他的中文真名。

我问:一个北京出租车司机怎么会有“约翰•史密斯”这样的名字?

他说,他想取个容易让外国客人记住的名字,就请当英语老师的兄弟提建议,结果兄弟推荐了“约翰•史密斯”。

到达目的地后,我对他说:“谢谢你,约翰。”然后就继续赶路了。

From the onset of name cards becoming an accepted part of business etiquette early in the Open Door era, both foreigners and Chinese tried to be helpful to each other.

Foreigners acquired Chinese names which were printed on the reverse of their name cards. And gradually, some Chinese began selectively adopting Western given names (e.g. William, Mary, ) which were sometimes printed on the reverse of their cards in front of their Chinese surname.

Apart from individual names, the business of corporate naming and branding in Chinese, English and other languages became a big business, and rightfully so, given its importance.

A few years ago in Beijing I met an enterprising taxi driver who had taken the Westernization of his name to a new level.

We were stuck in traffic, and he was a very talkative fellow.

The conversation followed a well-worn path, in Chinese:

“Your Chinese is very good.”

Thank you.

“How long have you lived in China?”

Thirty-some years.

“Wow. Always in Beijing?”

No, Hong Kong, but I visit Beijing very frequently.

“If you need a car for trips to the Great Wall or the countryside, you can always call me.”

Thank you.

“Here is my card.”

His card, very nicely printed in color on thick laminated paper stock, identified him as “ John Smith” on the English side, with his real Chinese name on the reverse.

I asked him how a Chinese taxi driver in Beijing got a name like John Smith.

He said he wanted a name which was easy for foreign customers to remember, so he asked his brother, an English teacher, for a suggestion. His brother recommended “John Smith.”

I said “Thank you, John” when we reached my destination, and went on my way.


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