Buying from China — What You Need to Know about Mr and Ms. Cha Bu Duo

Cha bu duo(差不多), which means nearly, almost the same, is still a philosophy governing many Chinese in their daily routine.

Under the influence of Confucius’ the Doctrine of the Mean, we are educated to be tolerant instead of being too serious with strict standards. The goal of the Mean is to maintain balance and harmony from directing the mind to a state of constant equilibrium. However, it is also the most horrible corner cutting way as it leads to dissmisal of problems.

It’s not rare in China you will easily come across some Mr. And Ms. Chabuduo as well as lots of chabuduo circumstances.

1. Chinglish
People don’t really care whether it is right or not as long as it exists. 米 should be translated into mile but with the help of Google/Baidu translation it turned out to be waiting outside a noodle, which they think chabuduo, close enough even it’s a world apart.

Chinglish translation of miles
Chinglish translation of miles










Unlike cookery books in the west, our old-fashioned recipe in China has a Chabuduo way to record the quantity or weight of some ingredients. For example, 盐少许,白糖适量,一点料酒which means a small amount of salt, an appropriate amount of sugar, a little cooking wine… So how many exactly is a small amount, a little?

3.Getting the right quotation
When it comes to doing business in China especially getting quotation for OEM orders, it is so hard to get a right one rather than one that is cha bu duo. Asking them to repeat your requirements, asking more about the technical aspects of the products..would help to make sure they would not give a veryyy low price to get the orders then find out they can’t do it and have to increase the price.

4.Getting the exact products
If you have very strict requirements on the products better state it clearly before going into the deal, for instance, the color difference, size difference, the deadline of delivery time… Etc. Or else people would think it is acceptable to give you something cha bu duo, and they see no problem with it. When you order cotton tags in beige, they might come up with alternatives of white(because the supplier finds it out later they do not have cotton fabrics in beige). You want to print your logo in the center however it comes out to be a bit to the left. That’s why China lacks quality standard as the west does. Chabuduo is the name of the game but sometimes it can lead to fatal situations in an industrial scale.

Chabuduo is a double-edged sword. For the young, educated Chinese today chabuduo is a totally d ifferent philosophy.
* The principle of chabuduo is applicable to make us more tolerant and kind-hearted, which is also the core value of Confucius’ doctrine.
* The principle of chabuduo is never applicable to anything related to accuracy, profession and honesty.

Don’t assume others think the way you do is always the best way to get exactly what you want.

1 Comment on Buying from China — What You Need to Know about Mr and Ms. Cha Bu Duo

  1. This post may not make sense to people who havent done business in china but it makes perfect sense to me. Im always more at ease when i meet a young educated chinese, i’m most certain i wont get a cha bu duo

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