Cultural Caveats for Searching

First of all, one needs to get fully immersed in the mindset of a Chinese person, as individuals in China who may get interested in assisting you in the search are typically the most important key to unlocking any information in the search process.

High Context Culture: When “Yes” means “No” (or “Maybe” or “Yes”)
Okay, this is really a fact.  When traveling as a foreigner in China, you likely never were given “no” as an answer.  It would be too impolite to do so.  And, it’ not just because you were spending tourist dollars. Even if you asked the impossible, the response might be something like, “Let me check on that.”  Or, “That will require some research.” Keep this in mind, as you undertake a search.
 Understand that “Yes” often means “No”, particularly if you are talking to someone you just recently met, one needs to understand that China is a “high context” culture.   Most often, searches for birth families are successful when a local individual takes an interest in the situation and follows up on leads and searches those out, whether via hospital records, conversations with a foster family or “finder” after a relationship is established, or pursuing whatever path the leads might indicate.  If a foreigner or someone outside of the trusted relationship network asks a question, the answers put forth are likely unreliable.
To simplify, one might think of an equivalent Western mindset example where a “white lie” would normally be considered perfectly normal.  For example, if a wife is trying on a dress during a shopping excursion with her husband and asks the question, “Do I look fat in this outfit?”; no one expects that the husband would answer with a straightforward “yes” to this question.   A similar dynamic is at work if a foreigner visiting China asks a culturally sensitive question or poses inquiries into a socially sensitive topic such as child abandonment.  Don’t expect a candid and straightforward answer – it’s totally unrealistic to expect a local Chinese person with possible knowledge of this sensitive information to divulge information to a stranger outside of their trusted network.   (To gain a full and in-depth perspective on keeping a safe distance from foreigners, read “Wild China: Three Daughters…..”

Individuality vs. Group
Western culture is oriented for people to communicate in a direct and efficient way, with linear associations. The Eastern cultural paradigm views the group and the interrelated relationships as being more important than other factors.  As result, the key, long-term priority is to have positive intact relationships within that group.  This group is often one and the same, which is the avenue for work and career opportunities, so the strength of these relationships is often the key to one’s ability to have a bright future. While “Western Culture” values relationships, in the Eastern culture, relationships are THE most important. Click "face and guanxi" to read more.

Filial Piety
The concept of filial piety is also important to understand the influence of “collectiveness” on cultural norms and expectations of how individuals serve the greater good of the larger society. http://www.tealeafnation.com/2012/06/in-china-search-for-birth-parents-raises-ethical-challenges/  

Keep in mind, you have a paradigm and it’s most helpful to step outside of that before you begin to search.  Otherwise you will likely only succeed in covering up and burying the leads that may exist in any birth family search process.  While we value individuality, just the opposite is true for Asian culture. To focus on the needs of an individual would be considered extremely selfish. Keep this in mind as you discuss or get to know people in the searching process. 
This paradigm of considering the effect upon one’s group is so paramount, that it is hard to fathom for a Western mind.  One small example is that when a Chinese person may learn of another China family having multiple children, (e.g. “over quota”) such action is often deemed as selfish and “unpatriotic” as the emphasis on small families has been promulgated as being for the benefit of society--the “group”.    

Long Range Viewpoint
With this background in mind, one should prepare to take a long-range viewpoint. Realize that it could take years of cultivating relationships prior to doing “the ask” for someone to assist you in a specific way. Interactions in a Western culture are primarily transactional; communication in an Eastern culture, are relational.  So if you are asking a person in China to do a favor for you, make sure it does not compromise their existing relationships, or they may politely decline.

Who is in the room?
If one wants to have a chance at an open conversation with a foster family, it is best to arrange a private meeting with them, outside the earshot and/or knowledge of the orphanage director and staff.   Meetings and interactions between adoptive families and foster families is formally and informally discouraged by the CCWA.   Cultural assumptions also are a hindrance, as most orphanage directors hire foster moms with minimal education, and having an uneducated person to meet with international visitors and be on the formal agenda is countercultural.
This overview just provides a brief summary of considerations to think through as you approach searching.  It is best to continue to read and stay in touch with differences between your culture and the birth family search culture.