6 Things Foreigners Often Get Wrong about Chinese People

6 Things Foreigners Often Get Wrong about Chinese People
Jun 28, 2011 By Jessica Larson-Wang , eChinacities.com

While foreigners are often a misunderstood bunch in China, we’re not immune to making assumptions and having prejudices of our own. Many foreigners harbour a lot of misconceptions about China and its people, from their lifestyle, to their culture, to their motivations for wanting to get to know you. Here we take a look at some of the ways that Chinese people are misunderstood by the foreigners who live here.

1) Chinese People Will Jump at the Chance to Live Abroad

Most of us have been warned about dating Chinese people who are just out for a green card, but the truth is that while some, perhaps even many Chinese people would love to go abroad, just as many are happy to stay in China. In fact, some men and women who date Chinese people may find, to their surprise, that their partner has no interest in living abroad and instead would rather have their foreign boyfriend or girlfriend to settle down in China! Many Chinese people are very comfortable here in their home country, and while they might enjoy visiting a foreign country, have no desire to emigrate.

2) Chinese Women Only Want Your Money

While more than one foreign man has been burned by a Chinese gold-digger, the truth is that many Chinese women look for the same qualities in a partner that foreign women do. While they may value a partner who is established and provide for a family, they are not gold diggers in the traditional sense. Chinese culture places a high value on a man’s ability to be the breadwinner, and so Chinese women tend to be attracted to men who have good jobs with decent salaries, but this is not due to greed. Most Chinese women also value personality traits such as kindness or a good sense of humour as highly as they value what’s in your pocketbook.

3) Chinese People Have Low Salaries

While it is true that in most of the 2nd and 3rd tier cities the salaries for the average Chinese office worker remain fairly low, the salaries for experienced professionals, especially in the big cities, can rival anything an English teacher can pull in. At a local Chinese private high school in Beijing, senior Chinese physics and chemistry teachers make 8000 RMB a month and senior engineers at some companies make upwards of 20,000 RMB a month. It can be dangerous to assume that every Chinese person you speak to will be in awe of your big foreign salary. China is growing and Chinese professionals with the right experience and sought after skills are making lots of money.

4) Chinese People Are Sheep

Anyone who has taught at a Chinese university and graded a stack of essays has probably felt a bit dismayed by what seems to be a lack of original thought and critical thinking skills among the population. But the truth is, China is full of creative thinkers, from writers to musicians to armchair philosophers who will tell you their view on life, the universe and everything else if you give them a chance. Beware of forming opinions on Chinese people as a whole based on group of students who are, after all, not quite fully formed yet as individuals and who are, furthermore, still in the public education system which does not place a high value on creativity or individuality. Just because the education system doesn’t value these things, however, doesn’t mean that they don’t exist in the society. China is full of interesting people with a lot to say.

5) Chinese People Are Rude

Most foreigners have complained about Chinese people’s inability to queue, spitting on the sidewalk, or small children taking a leak in the middle of the supermarket. In fact, if you polled the average Chinese person, they’re not fans of these things either. Most Chinese people would rather there be orderly lines, but unless everyone lines up, the people who do stand nicely in their place and wait for others will never make it to the front. And who enjoys walking down the sidewalk and stepping in a pile of human poo, or dodging loogies flying at your feet? Most educated people would not allow their children to use public areas as toilets, but they don’t feel it is their job to stop others either. Most Chinese people and foreigners feel the same way about the “lack of manners” you can sometimes see on display in China. The main difference is that most Chinese people are accustomed to it and don’t usually voice their displeasure as vocally as foreigners do.

6) Chinese People Just Want To Use You For English Practice

While it is true that in China you will run into “language leeches,” people who are only interested in practicing English with a foreign speaker, if you make the effort and learn some Chinese you’ll find that most people are just as happy to speak with you in Chinese as in English and that most people actually find it a relief not to have to recall their gao kao level English skills that they haven’t put to use for the past 10 years. And while some friends might start out simply wanting a foreign friend for language purposes, the people who are only interested in you for your English will quickly lose interest and the people who want to be your friend will stick with you regardless of what language you’re using to communicate.

Related links
8 Common Misconceptions About China Debunked
Six Probing Questions Chinese Ask Foreigners
The Inscrutable Chinese? Challenges to Understanding China

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Keywords: Things foreigners get wrong about China misunderstood Chinese people China misunderstood by foreigners


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Hi, I was told that Chinese people make fun and talk behind backs of foreigners, is it mostly true?
Every Chinese student that were in many of my classes were always A plus students ,very smart.
What do most Chinese people like aout other peoples cultures? ie:
If they live amongst other races of people, do they like it if strangers say hi, or would they rather be ignored? Are they suspicious of other people?
Do Chinese people make fun of obese or mentally challenged people?
What is the best thing I could do or say....to gain the trust and respect of a Chinese stranger?
thanks, I have more questions but i wil post another time.
I love the Chinese Decor and Culture. Oh and the Men are so goodlooking.lol

Aug 26, 2012 08:41 Report Abuse

Matthew Pidoux

I am a young western grad who has been in Shanghai for 8 months and the place is really on the up and has many western influences. The problem here in China is the Chinese people cannot keep up with western influences and that is why there are so many clashes. The older generation have no idea how to handle the western influence that is now in China and this is reflected when you walk down a street in Shanghai and you say hello to an old lady and she will freak out completely. That's my viewpoint.

Dec 15, 2011 09:11 Report Abuse


Hi I wanted to know if you ever found out what the old lady was yelling?

Aug 26, 2012 08:50 Report Abuse


Hi, you are right, and it is not fair, we need to be taught about the truth.
This is a problem with many cultures, ignorance makes people stereotype others in a bad way.
All people should shed the light on their cultures and even help other peoples cultures by standing up for them.
I see it happenig all the time in my town and I set the story straight to help and prevent others from making wrong assumptions about cultures that are not my own.

Aug 26, 2012 08:57 Report Abuse


i hate spitting! , so disgusting, but not only chinese do so, I've seen that koreans are even worse, i don't know about japanese

Jul 07, 2011 19:01 Report Abuse


chinese foreigners , no matter who . they are all people. some are good. some are not. but in the nature people are the same. just the environment changed us.

Jul 01, 2011 01:24 Report Abuse


China is great land and has alot of good people. Of course there are bad people . Darkness , its real isnt it. ? I recall a council meeting in the western part of the world . I stood up and said "Is this not black and white" referring to a local problem. back when common sense was gasping for oxygen but has since died .. The Reeve of the meeting replied " we do not work in black in white here only gray .
China knows the colors well ( keep it simple )

Jun 29, 2011 07:12 Report Abuse


I think "usman" is arabic name?

Jun 29, 2011 20:39 Report Abuse


I do agree with u, Alex. it's reaaaallyy BOOrrriinnggg..... that i always sleepy after read this kinda article.... is there any interesting article beside chinese and white westerners culture comparation?
please hire somebody else . LOL.

Jun 29, 2011 01:44 Report Abuse


Western culture has destroyed native culture....poor choice of words, as far as i know its the people of said native countries that decide to accept anything of western values and culture nothing is forced upon anyone...and vice versa.

Jun 28, 2011 21:59 Report Abuse


Where's the money, Sarto?

Jun 08, 2015 19:43 Report Abuse


I never socialise with westerners. I am i n China and met 3 times westerners on the street trying to have a chat and begining with the complains.. so i avoid them totally. what do these people stil stay here? because if i was not happy here, i would left long ago

Jun 28, 2011 15:32 Report Abuse


While I can acknowledge how you've developed that mindset, that is extremely ignorant, rude, incompetent, and uncivilized for a foreigner to say. How do expect them to act in a country with a billion people? competition is tough, and sometimes you have to be a little rude to get through the day and scrape some money up. Please take into account that Chinese people had much different values 5000 years ago, and if they were to keep those values, they'd be trampled over and taken advantage by foreigners such as yourself. Go look up the Opium War and imperialism in China, foreigners took those values away from China by forcing China to fight back. In fact, the only reason they are rude and uncivilized compared to countries such as Japan and Korea and even Hong Kong and Taiwan is because they haven't been fully occupied by a foreign country and taught western values. example: Americans in Japan after World War 2, Korean War, British in Hong Kong. The Cultural Revolution made China isolated and it has only begun to globalize. This means that this period of transition will have problems.
China is just starting to open up to the world and develop values. They are just adapting to city living, money, and western values; so give them a break.
None of them think they are so "cultured". In fact, many of them admit to their uncouth ways and are ashamed of these habits. Most Chinese people living in the cities feel the same way you do. The people who you see being rude and uncultured don't know any better since most of them have grown up on farms all their lives.The migrant workers of the city don't know any better, and they just want to make a living in the city.They have to work hard to make 10 kuai an hour, while foreigners come in and make 20 times that amount by teaching a little english. Don't act like you're so high and mighty. Foreigners are always coming for the job opportunities and money and complaining while they do it. Don't like it here? Go back! you don't have to make money here if you don't like the people and country providing you with that opportunity.
Besides, have you ever even made an effort to talk to the Chinese you see be so rude? You probably judge them and walk away feeling so superior of your Western courtesies. Nor will you probably ever talk to regular Chinese people since most foreigners come in and group in their little cliques at expat locations, living perfectly how they would have in their own countries. what's the point in coming to China then? You come in and don't even try to experience the culture. Many foreigners come in and try the food, complain that its too greasy and don't know what its made of. You go to Chinese places and don't like it either, but whats the point in living abroad if you don't try to understand the differences and experience new thing? Open your minds a little! If you don't like it, its fine but don't insult it.
I understand that this doesn't apply to every foreigner. But living in Shanghai as a foreigner myself, I've observed these things. Many days, I feel the same way as you, but I try to look at it from the perspective of the Chinese. Don't complain about something you really can't understand unless you study China's current problems and its tumultuous history.

Apr 21, 2012 20:35 Report Abuse


Yeah, and your countries history is so squeaky clean and pure right....its called WAR things that are inhuman do happen, and you bringing up something that happened ages ago is not warranted either, be it western atrocities or Asian...as you singled out Japan in your text. Time to move on.

Jun 28, 2011 16:59 Report Abuse