Does Wellness Translate Across Culture?

The word wellness can be loosely translated into Chinese as 养生 (yǎng shēng), which literally means “nurturing life.” It implies a very gentle, well-rounded approach to a wholesome lifestyle. It calls to mind a sexagenarian doing tai chi at dawn or sipping herbal tea in the afternoon.

“It’s not a perfect translation,” said Cathy Gu, a Gensler design strategist in Shanghai. Because while the pursuit of longevity has a long standing tradition in China, workplace wellness is just starting to gain traction. “This is why we’re doing the research, because there isn’t a perfect translation,” said Keiko Toishi, a practice area leader for health and wellness. The two are part of a design strategy team in Shanghai dedicated to translating the wealth of knowledge in Gensler’s Workplace Performance Index for the Chinese market.

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