Despite China’s growing global dominance, misconceptions about the world’s most populous nation still abound. Many foreigners still believe cold war-era stereotypes that bear little to no resemblance to contemporary China. Like the Berlin Wall, these stereotypes must too fall: from creativity to kung fu, comedy to corruption, 8 common misconceptions foreigners have about China, debunked.
Misconception 1: Chinese People Are Uncreative
It may be a general truth that education in China focuses on memorizing and testing, and westerners are generally taught to be creative, but to say that Chinese people are mostly all uninventive and boring would be a lie; it’s a little ignorant and racist to believe so. Just as there are plenty of mindless boring Americans, there are plenty of creative, artistic and brilliant Chinese. Americans sometimes think that because most of the world’s technology and entertainment comes from the USA, we must have some inborn ability that others don’t. But, (and granted, it’s just my theory) I think the reason that most technological advances have come from America is because we have a developed legal system that protects intellectual property, giving those few who are inventive the incentive to market and develop their ideas. China’s legal system is still developing, and with that development will come more technological advances and entertainment.
Misconception 2: Chinese People Aren’t Funny
They are funny. Just learn the language, and then you’ll get their jokes.
Misconception 3: Chinese Government Officials Are Corrupt
Maybe it’s because the ideological effects of the cold war are still lingering among Americans, but we sometimes think that China, is a country of inescapable, institutionalized corruption. Before I came to China, my bomb-shelter baby boom parents thought I would be kidnapped by either corrupt officials wanting ransom money, or by human traffickers who were protected by the corrupt officials.
This didn’t happen; and although I have read media reports of both happening, I think it is pretty rare. The fact is that government officials here are certainly not perfect. You do hear stories of corruption, and your Chinese friends can tell you more. But as a foreigner you shouldn’t expect to find corruption, unless you go looking for it. In fact, when I have suspected corruption in officials, I always turned out to be wrong, and at the same time offended some very good people.
Misconception 4: China Is Still in the Stone Age
While it is true that life can be boring, slow and poor in the remote countryside, the urban areas are rapidly developing. The streets of any major city are bustling with new cars (1,200 of them per day in Beijing), environmentally friendly e-bikes, and people are constantly using iPhones that have been smuggled in from Hong Kong. There are amusement parks, movie theaters, and bullet trains. Chinese homes have all the little goodies that make life easier: washing machines, microwaves and computers. However, it is true that some of these luxuries are only available to those who can afford them.
Misconception 5: Chinese Women Are Subservient
NO! Not even remotely true. In the past, Chinese women kowtowed to the men with bound, folded feet, but those broken feet have been unbound! Parents still sometimes prefer to give life to a son rather than a daughter in this crowded country, but the girls that are born are tough! They have to be in a country where competition is the only way to success.
This country is full of entrepreneurial, competitive and assertive women. These women are wealthy, powerful, and respected. And no, they are not eager to date the first white guy they come across. (Another misconception! Sorry, dorks.) And as a general rule, always try to make these women your friends, not your enemies. Really, some of them are cut-throat. The ones you really have to watch out for are the old ladies. They’ve been around long enough to know they don’t have to take crap from anyone!
Misconception 6: All Chinese Are Very Smart
Well, who doesn’t like being told their smart? Many Chinese people are creative and smart, but not all of them. Some are dumb. Just because it always seemed like the Asian kids in your grade school always got the best grades doesn’t mean all Chinese are brilliant. However, if you’re a foreigner in a major city, consider this: it probably took a lot more talent for your Chinese co-workers to get where they are than it did for you to get where you are. Although you might have gotten a decent score on your SAT, your Chinese coworker that actually made it into a university probably scored in the highest percentiles of a test administered to millions of students in the most populous country in the world. So, it is very likely that you are meeting very smart people all the time.
Misconception 7: China Is More Different Than It Is Similar
When interviewing people about what misconceptions they had about China, foreigners often said the only misconception they had was that life would be very different in China. And while China does have its differences, those differences are not greater than the similarities. Life in China can be just as comfortable, normal and even boring as your life back home. On your way to work you can go to McDonald’s for breakfast, get stuck in traffic on the way to work, get in an argument with your boss, and get stuck in traffic on your way home. (See, the same boring life.)
Misconception 8: Anything You Experienced via Movies, TV or Your Local Chinese Restaurant Is Really Like China
Before I moved to China, I thought it would be grand. I loved Kung Fu movies and, I loved the egg rolls at my local Chinese restaurant that were made by Mexican cooks. Well, what a surprise it was to discover that very few Chinese actually study Kung Fu, and nobody in China actually eats egg rolls. (And there are very few Mexicans.) The real China is so different than the Americanized, Hollywood version: in real China, nobody karate chops each other, and few people actually like sweet and sour chicken.
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Misconception 1: Chinese People Are Uncreative Yes, I think this is a generalization, but in general they are less creative than western people. Misconception 3: Chinese Government Officials Are Corrupt Well maybe we need to define corrupt, but no one can argue China does not have more than its share of shady officials. Misconception 4: China Is Still in the Stone Age Find me one person that truly thinks this. Everything is made in China, and none of it is made with stone. But I would like to see Sarah Meik go to some parts of western China and take a poo in the hole. Misconception 5: Chinese Women Are Subservient Well maybe not, but compared to the west... Misconception 6: All Chinese Are Very Smart This contradicts your whole creative one. So which is it Sarah? Maybe this should be called 8 things Sarah Meik's Parents told her about China that she does not agree with because she is a hipster.
Jun 19, 2014 15:35 Report Abuse