Editor’s note: This translated article explores differences in socially acceptable behavior between Chinese people and foreigners. While the article adheres to the idea that all foreigners are the same and fails to differentiate between the broad spectrum of different cultures that fall under the ‘foreign label’, the article offers some interesting, if bizarre explanations for foreigners’ behavior from a Chinese perspective.
The lives of Chinese and the lives of foreigners are often marked by large differences. These contrasts between the two, exist because of differences in culture. Eastern and Western culture have very distinct and different characteristics. The two cultures often overlap, and when this happens it can be really great. Our world is now so small, cultural exchange is more important and prevalent than ever before. Here are some of the most visible differences between Chinese and foreigners
When Baozi Meets McDonalds: East and West Come Together
Netease recently reported that Chinese and foreigners have significant differences when it comes to numerous things including food and clothing preferences. Chinese and foreigners also have distinct differences in their behavior. When Chinese people and foreign people live and work together, these differences easily come out. But of course, differences are an important part of learning from each other and cultural exchange.
1) Eating Food
When Chinese people eat with foreigners they musn’t modestly decline food. Most foreigners will take things at face value. When they ask you not to eat something, if you refuse, they will respect your decision and won’t give you anything to eat.
In short, foreigners are more direct in the way that they express and conduct themselves in society, whereas Chinese people are more subtle.
2) Behavior as a Guest
When Chinese people go to someone's home they often like to look around, like they are shopping. How do foreigners feel about this behavior? Although it is important for foreigners to make guests feel at home it is still taboo for guests to snoop around the host's possessions and walk around the house freely. It is also not polite to ask foreigners questions about salary, age and other personal issues.
3) Giving Gifts
Chinese people love to give gifts in pairs. One reason for this is to show that they are not stingy. The second reason is that it is luckier to bring two presents. When Chinese people go to a friend's or relative's house they usually bring some fruit as a gift.
However, in the West it is common to bring wine as a gift and guests usually bring only one bottle. If a guest brings two bottles, it indicates that the guest is an alcoholic and that one bottle of wine is not enough for them. Foreigners also generally do not bring fruit when they visit their friends. Fruit is used as a gift when visiting parents rather than friends.
4) Eye Contact
When Chinese people give a speech in public they generally do not make eye contact with the audience. It may seem like they are ashamed, but it actually not polite to make eye contact with the audience in China when giving a speech. When foreigners give a speech in public, they always make eye contact with the audience. They do not look at a script or notes when they speak.
When giving a speech in public, if the audience begins to applaud, a Chinese speaker will usually pause and begin to clap along with the audience. Foreigners on the other hand, do not understand why the speaker would applaud themselves. Foreigners think that it is immodest to clap for themselves. Therefore, foreigners will often bow or wave when the audience applauds instead of clapping along with them. Other foreigners will just stand and smile in order to acknowledge the audience's applause.
6) Calling Names
When foreigners hear Chinese people call them “laowai,” they often not happy about it. They do not feel that they are “lao,” or “old,” but young and healthy!
When Chinese people go out or travel in a group, if one person buys something they will buy one for everyone else in the group, even if the others say they do not want it. However, when foreigners travel together, if someone offers to buy someone else something, they can politely turn them down if they do not want it. Foreigners try to respect each others’ wishes in this aspect.
8) Politeness and Gratitude
Chinese people believe that when family or friends help each other out they do not have to say thank you because they already have a close relationship. When a foreigner asks a family member or friend to help them out, they usually say thank you to them. They expect others to use polite language like “thank you,” and “please.” When you are out with foreigners, if you do not use “thank you,” foreigners may feel like you are not being polite.
Westerners are willing to praise others and are also willing to accept peoples' praise. In order to show humility, Chinese people often “reject” the praise of others. When Chinese “deny” praise, it makes foreigners inexplicably feel like they did not appreciate their praise. In short, foreigners are more direct and straightforward and Chinese people are more discreet.
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Keywords: Cultural differences in China Cultural differences in China Differences between Chinese and Foreigners
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As an American, I cannot speak for Chinese. Here are some of my observations that I can add to the list. 10. Standing in line Foreigners consider pushing to be an act of aggression. However, Chinese people are likely to be pushy in crowds. Chinese people may break in line if there is enough space between people. This could be due to the perception of personal space that is different among different cultures. 11. Food Chinese often expect everyone to have the same tastes in food. It is not unusual to find food saturated with dangerous chemicals such as MSG in China. The trend for foreigners in Western countries is to avoid dangerous chemicals and fast food. There is little or no organic food found in China and vitamins shops are as rare as salad bars. China today is much like the 1970s in USA, where many Americans ate processed and junk food. China is beginning to change though as real coffee and fruit juice is slowly replacing the flavored chemical powder which is little more than Chinese koolaid. 12. Copying Plagiarism, a form of academic dishonesty in Western countries, is an academic skill in China. Just as ancient Chinese proverbs can be recited to summarize complex concepts, many Chinese see no need to be original by "reinventing the wheel". If a brand name can be easily copied then it certainly does not deserve to be protected in the free market. 13, Rules Chinese understand that rules are made for people and not people made for rules. Rules are flexible in China and often depend on circumstances. Western countries often enforce rules as if the rules were written by gods and must be applied to every circumstance. Codes of conduct, moral behavior, and conformity with social conventions is often a substitute for legal regulation in China. With the US having the most prisoners in the world and nearly half of the world's lawyers, there may be some merit to the "Chinese way".
Mar 08, 2015 16:24 Report Abuse
lol not 9 but 100 differences at least.. what about the screaming in public places chinese people do all the time? walking backwards on the streets? Spiting everywhere with that awful sound ehh.. Walkin in sleeping clothes and etc. Sorry to tell you that Chinese fellas but most of you dont even know the meaning of Manners.
Mar 01, 2015 22:40 Report Abuse
Here is my list of Chinese neglect when it comes to manners... keeping the bright car lights on even though it is in people's face... hitting people with umbrellas when getting on a bus... loud talking on cell phones when in crowded places... excessive littering... no soap in public restrooms... acceptance of unsanitary eating environments... shutting down the city at 9pm when the party is just getting started...
Mar 08, 2015 16:36 Report Abuse
I would like to politely argue with that last one. I've run into a number of Chinese who will praise themselves. Sometimes I have given a compliment and the recipient has heartily agreed with me. As for my friends from America, they are more likely to deny the compliment or to graciously accept it.
Feb 26, 2015 22:14 Report Abuse
In my opinion, being foreigner in China definitely is different level of experience than being foreigner in all of the European countries and the rest of the World. We may argue about people's habits and way of living here comparing with another countries and systems, but most of the foreigners are not aware enough of the fact that Chinese people used to live like this for so long. These differences are resul of civilizational clash for what no every person is ready to handle. However, I do believe that countries and people should charish and keep their cultural values, and that's the best way for the World to remain beautiful. We are not meant to be same, and we shouldn't be. All we need is more respect and understanding for who we are and what we do.
Feb 25, 2015 17:06 Report Abuse
Well at least in case of Europe your comparison is at best not fitting. You may know that one of the essential bases of current European culture was ancient Greece and Rome. You may also know that in ancient Greece all foreigners (and that includes even Greek speaking) were considered as barbarians and in ancient Rome all non citizens (it means non Romans - with exception of 'deserved' or 'donated' citizenship) were considered as inferior. You may also know that during the Christian times in Europe all members of other religions were burned alive (or otherwise killed) as heretics while in the same time in Muslim countries they did not have troubles (for instance the exodus of Jews from Spain to Muslim countries in 15th century). I hope you are not referring to this ethics ... Intentionally I am not commenting on the second part of your nonsense 'scream'.
Feb 28, 2015 12:37 Report Abuse
You forgot to mention historically christians themselves were persecuted and burnt alive. So called 'religious' wars wedged by fanatics occured throughout the history of mankind. Actually one happened not so long ago. The 911 attacks were considered to be a religious war by some. Wedging religious wars however wasn't a dominant tenet of all major religions. As for the second part what you call 'nonsense scream' is evidenced by numerous facts. As an adult you have to be blind and deaf, or retarded to not know about them especially if you live in china. Do you think manufacturers of gutter oil, poisonous milk, fake medicine consume their own products? I don't. In fact, I know many food manufacturers from canned food to fresh produce who don't. When they saw me buying biscuits from supermarkets they immediately stopped me, saying "You eat that? We don't. We know what they are up to". Do you know farmers in china grow food like vegetables for their own consumption in a separate plot of land? You don't have to be an Einstein to guess why. You think those who told their kids to pee and shit underneath tables inside restaurants, or shit on streets themselves under broad daylight, litter everywhere they went did the same inside their own home? If these aren't 'Do unto others as you wouldn't do unto yourselves' what are?
Mar 01, 2015 08:12 Report Abuse
Yes, for sure - Christian were persecuted by Jews and later on by Romans. Both these civilizations are then also contributing to that 'judeo-christian ethics' you mentioned. My aim was not to blame Christians. I just wanted to point out that this 'judeo-christian ethics' in your comment is more the stereotype of some Westerners rather than supported by historic facts. For China then it was one of the first countries which allowed 'common folk' to succeed via setting up examination system. Even today I find Chinese system as quite motivating and as a consequence majority of people are studying and working hard in order to achieve success (what is unfortunately not that common case anymore in many EU countries). It does not mean the country does not have its own problems. They for sure have plenty. But that was not the part I was commenting in your statement (as you also did not mention this) - you mentioned 'Western countries with judeo-christian ethics ---- Do unto others as you would do unto yourselves vs CCP's mainland china ---- Do unto others as you wouldn't do unto yourselves'. Second part than clearly accusing China from vicious intentions towards each other as well as towards outside world. Sorry but that's absolute nonsense. Chinese are the same people as Westerners - we all want to live happy lives. Just 'happy life' for each person may mean something else ... It must be quite challenging to live in the environment which you apparently really hate ...
Mar 02, 2015 15:12 Report Abuse
I have already given ample evidences in my previous comment. Apparently you either have some kind of reading problem or on purpose distorting my words. So here is a video for you to watch, among many others which I can bring up. Do you think the guy would do this in his own living room? Watch this video first before answering the question. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8Xs2c_TEbIg
Mar 08, 2015 13:11 Report Abuse
When chinese say "laowai" it is because they are talking shit and harassing someone they don't know...End story...It provides a little ego boost for a petty mind...Ask any sociologist or psychologist who isn't Chinese...maybe even some who are...When they get to know you, sometimes that kind of shit talk goes away..sometimes it don't.
Feb 22, 2015 18:27 Report Abuse
I've seen this article before I think. Last year to be more specific. The graphic was also there. How is this a 2015 article? I remember one funny comment: The guy in the back is clearly a representative of the most useless individual you'd ever run into. What exactly is he contributing?
Feb 22, 2015 03:01 Report Abuse
i'm guessing foreigners in this article refers to anglo-saxon cultures, since English countries are the only ones besides Japan that chinese even know about. i love how they describe chinese as "subtle" and "discreet", then in point 2) Chinese will look through the personal belongings in your house as if it were a shop. here's a point 10) for you: Chinese will believe anything and won't scrutinize stories for accuracy, logic or consistency.
Feb 18, 2015 00:59 Report Abuse
This article is correct in its differences but lacks in explaining the reasoning behind them. Actually, many Chinese can't explain why they do things... they just attribute it to emotion or social norms. A Chinese person once asked me a question. Why do you write an address from smallest to largest? And I said: "I am not too sure, but if I had to guess... I would say it is possibly because when a mail carrier delivers it, he is searching for the street address which is really the most important part of the address (so it is in the easiest place to spot). He already knows which city, state and country he/she is in... (I hope) and therefore is mainly looking for that particular info which is at the front or top AND possibly the zip code which is usually last. Speeds up the process I guess." I have no clue, but I think you could generally get a piece of mail delivered with JUST the zip code and street address if someone were to try (considering it is most likely domestic mail). But this was just my guess, if you ask MOST Chinese people they don't have a clue and can't explain their own system. This kind of ignorance and inability to explain their actions makes it much harder for the rest of the world to accept. In addition, maybe they DON'T WANT to explain their actions because the reasons behind them are foolish, negative or humiliating... also very possible. Some Chinese can explain things but unfortunately, most of them can't speak English very well or at all. You will have to learn Chinese to understand the reasons behind the actions in more depth.
Feb 17, 2015 15:19 Report Abuse