When you encountered Mian Zi(面子) during your internship in China……
“Mian Zi” means the recognition from a group of people or from the society in China. It is a kind of Chinese traditional culture. Mian Zi in English is “Face”. Literately, you don’t want to smash in anyone’s face. In this way, “saving face - Mian Zi” means to maintain a high level reputation between a group of people.
From the perspective of Mian Zi, people are more likely to be affected by others; they want to make others like and respect them. Then, why is Mian Zi so popular in China? The history of Chinese culture should explain it. As we all know, the historical political structure in China was an absolute monarchy, which means people’s life depended on their ranking in society. If a person did not have Mian Zi, he/she would not be highly regarded so high in society. In this way, prosperity or wealthy would not come to him/her. Although Chinese dynasties have been gone for about 100 years, Mian Zi still stays strong in modern day China. People use Mian Zi as one of the measurements of success.
Now, what does Mian Zi look like? It is not a thing; it is a behavior. When a person wants to invite you to have a nice dinner, he/she shows “face”; when a person sends expensive presents, he/she shows “face”; when a person is belittled and trying to prove himself/herself, he/she is saving “face”.
When you encounter “face” in China, you need to “give others face”: you should accept others kindly invitations, accept others’ presents, and forgive others’ fault instead of judging them. If you give people “face”, they will feel that you respect him/her and they'll give you “face” when you need it. When you are in China, you will often find out that people like to live in groups. Chinese like to hang out together as often as possible, eat together, drink together, and doing business together, so giving people face just makes things easier and makes everyone happy.