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When you are doing business with Chinese people, it is highly recommended to learn about the cultural differences in order to be successful and prevent mistakes and problems with Chinese suppliers. Sometimes Chinese words and expressions are a good guide towards some of these cultural differences. In particular, when a word or phrase is complex to translate, it often means there is a cultural difference involved.


A good example of these words is the expression Chà bu duō  (差不多) which can be translated as almost, nearly or quite. A direct translation would be `not much off`, but it can also mean `close enough`. For most Chinese, it simply means `good enough`. And in China, you hear this expression a lot.


For example, if you are buying a new shirt and it is a little too big you might say, `cha bu duo,` and buy it anyway. Also, it can be used to describe sloppy work. A carpenter that installs a door that scrapes on the floor when opening and closing or a tailor whose buttons fall off of a new shirt can be said to have done cha bu duo work. When signing a document in China, it is okay if the person in question is not present. Someone else can do the signature for him. If you need to press your company’s white logo onto a brown background, for chabuduo it will be pressed on a black background (because the manufacturer didn’t have the brown colour) And they see no problem with it. This chabuduo philosophy between Chinese people is one of the factors why China is lacking the same quality standards as the Western countries have.


Even though this kind of quickness and problem solving is sometimes admirable among the Chinese, there is still danger lurking in their way of thinking. This means that even a problem in a product or a service has been identified, no attempt will be made to improve the situation or fix the problem.

  This mindset can be seen during a production process as:  
  • –  Frequent last minute schedule changes
  • –  Failing to notify the buyer when changes are made to the production process
  • –  Taking excessively long to repair something
  • –  Failure to detect a mistake in the product that an inspector can detect

Thus, one of the main reasons of inspecting your goods is that inspection companies such as SBE are aware of the Chinese ways of thinking. Inspectors are able to see when good enough is actually not good enough.


Still, keep this in mind: When a Chinese person tells you `Chabuduo`, make sure you know how `good enough` it is since his/her view and yours may be worlds apart. Remember not to change your requirements. Never ever accept `chabuduo` as good enough!

  What do you think, how can we transform the Chinese attitude into a “Not Chabuduo”  philosophy?   Sources: Will-Excel TESOL Institute, Beijing Expat Guide See More at: SBE Inspection