I have been living for 6 years in China now and I am still amazed by some differences there are and that make me smile…
First difference: Chinese love their food and to talk about it.
Chinese just love to talk about food. The first question they ask you is not: How are you doing?, but: have you eaten?
They love to point out the differences in food in different areas in China. Every time I step into a new class I go in with Western expectations. One of my first questions is: What is typical in your hometown? Expecting answers about certain buildings, a famous temple, beautiful natural scenery,… But, no, the only thing they all talk about is the difference in food and what kind of dishes are famous in their area. I once made the mistake of asking about something else that marked their hometown: a famous building, something about the scenery maybe? They were dumbfounded, were silent for a while, the conversation came at a dead-end. And then, I said, ok, lets talk about your food again and the conversation started immediately and they were very enthusiastic again. Really funny that we in the West love to talk about typical buildings or maybe the occasional drink or dish, but not as elaborately as Chinese people.
Second difference: sleep wherever you can.
Something that keeps on amazing me is that Chinese can sleep anywhere, anytime in any position. Throughout the day, you see Chinese sleeping at tables, on the ground, on benches in positions that would feel very uncomfortable to me.
Third difference: Chinese love noise
Chinese supermarkets, shops are very noisy. They have big speakers blaring annoying music all day long. I felt sorry for the employees, but it seems that Chinese love noise. A Chinese friend told me that noise means busy, means that something is interesting enough to go to, otherwise it would feel dead. Westerners like quiet environments, which feel uncomfortable to Chinese.
Fourth difference: you need to be able to drink alcohol in China or you’re not in.
If you want to do business with Chinese, you’d better have a high alcohol tolerance. Chinese like to do business over dinner (where they hardly eat) and with good ricewine (白酒), which you have to drink bottoms up all the time. They toast during the whole dinner and if you don’t drink it bottoms up, you get angry remarks, which can be heated sometimes. The first few dinners I had like that, I was attacking the food, because I wanted to fill my stomach with food before having too many glasses. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work, you get wasted anyway, because, of course everyone want to have a toast with the foreigner and you end up drinking more than everyone else. When you don’t refuse a drink or a toast, you ‘give face’ to your host.
Fifth difference: Chinese don’t require the same amount of privacy as we do
We, in the West, are very private people. We are very sensitive and need our personal space. Chinese have less need of this. Upon meeting you, Chinese will immediately ask you if you are married, have kids, how much you earn each month, your age,… All questions that we avoid, certainly at a first meeting. Chinese can also stand really close to you while they are talking to you and have no problem with it. I always take a step back because I need a lot of personal space around me, but then the Chinese will move closer to me again. Although, in the West we are touchier with friends: we will give them a kiss on the cheek or hug them. With our partner, we will walk hand in hand, or the man will put his arm around the girl. In China, I see less signs of affection. They don’t really touch each other while greeting.
Our culture has a big effect on our lives. Who we are is, for a big part, determined by our culture. Please share your ideas with me about this.
If you want to talk about this, you can book a free skype-session with me on: https://www.sohelpful.me/kathydeleye