Thinking about face

Thinking about face

I vividly remember the first time I became personally aware of the concept of ‘face’—which
I now know to be linked with ‘shame.’ I was 18, teaching night classes to workers (who were all much older than me) in East Asia. I was watching my students work on an exam I had set them when I realised that one of them was looking at notes under his desk. I pounced, verbally berating him in front of the whole class for cheating. After that incident, he never returned to the classes. I had received no training in cross-cultural interactions and had never heard of ‘honour’ and ‘shame,’ but it dawned on me that my response had caused him to ‘lose face.’

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