Things are Different Abroad about Trust

I hope that this post will not be seen as a rant, but that it may help people to understand the different ways of doing things in the non-Western World, as we have reviewed in several recent posts.

One problem is that  people sometimes have tunnel vision about how things must be and they are not flexible about letting things be a little different from what they are used to.

My favorite example is a story of someone who was seeking a job in China, a country where I have in the past sometimes placed people. He was a well-qualified teacher and already signed a contract when the school asked him to sign another contract – a blank contract.

Now, I don’t encourage people to sign blank contracts or forms, but to get something you want; you should sometimes do what someone else wants. The teacher, with experience in Japan and Korea, never had to do something like this, so he threw a fit and walked away from what was quite possibly a great job.

It is understandable that he was not comfortable with signing a blank contract, but one should know that it is common in many countries.  Not a great or perfect thing, but relatively common.

When I look back through the years abroad and think about all the contracts and forms my wife and I have signed which were either blank or written in a language still unknown to us at the time (or both!), there are too many to count.  How different our experience overseas would have been if we walked away from every one of those opportunities.

Yesterday I had a similar experience at the post office. I went there to pay my annual rental fee for the post office box and the clerk handed me a blank form, in the local language, to sign.

I could have made a scene right there, demanded a translator and refused to sign it, but I didn’t. It seemed like a regular form they used all the time. I couldn’t fill in the blanks, so she did it later. I signed and found a lovely surprise…I got a nice refund on the security deposit for the PO Box. Now, that’s great!

All I’m trying to say is that one should be a little bit flexible. There is usually no reason to freak out. Try to sum up the situation and read the person. Obviously it wouldn’t be the smartest thing to sign a blank form from a stranger in a dark alley, but if it is a human resources clerk at your school, for example, approaching you with an immigration form, it might okay to sign those blank forms.

You’ll find that the non-Western world relies on and operates with trust much more than the Western world. As Westerners we put trust in contracts, but the rest of the world knows how easily they can be broken.

If you are looking for scams, you’ll find them. They are everywhere. Yet, in my 20 years abroad I’ve not yet signed away my life, future paychecks or a confession to something I haven’t done.

I haven’t been looking for those scams. I haven’t been attracting them into my life. What you resist persists is a common adage these days and . . . I think I agree.

Ted’s Tips™ #1: Gear yourself with trust in the real world, it will only help.  I’m not suggesting you be an idiot, but try to at least start with an assumption of trust.  Use a little judgment instead of knee-jerk reactions.

Ted’s Tips™ #2: Open your mind to more than just the Yes/No rules in life.  Learn to get a bit flexible in how you deal with things.  You’ll find life rolls along a little easier if you do.

Teaching Internships in China