Volume 38, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0155-0640
  • E-ISSN: 1833-7139


There is growing evidence that social interactions at work with local colleagues present a real challenge for Chinese immigrants to Australia (e.g. Tomazin, 2009; Zhou, Windsor, Coyer, & Theobald, 2010), often leaving them feeling defeated and despairing, and the Australians puzzled or affronted. Seeking to understand the nature, origin, and dynamics of the problem at its sociocultural depth, a study was undertaken to examine the problematic social experience as reported by a group of Chinese immigrant professionals, from both their own and their Australian counterparts’ perspectives. The findings suggest small talk presents professionally qualified Chinese with an acute problem, and this is because the nature and dynamics of small talk are new in their social experience. Taking a sociolinguistic perspective to analyse data comprising Chinese accounts and discussions of problematic incidents and Australian commentary on these, the root of the difficulty has been revealed to lie in mismatches in the deeply held beliefs and values of Chinese and Australians about the nature of personal identity and interpersonal relationships, most pertinently, differences in their belief about how relationships beyond the intimate circle should be best managed. The article will present the findings of the study and the implications they suggest.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Chinese communication; intercultural communication; small talk
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