10 Cultural Differences Between China and the West
So You did it, you made the decision to move and start a new adventure in China!
Obviously, you will encounter many differences between the Western culture and values when compared to China.
Here is a list of the top 10 cultural differences between the West and China. Keep in mind that these are in no particular order.
- Drinking Hot Water
In China, it is very common for a person to drink hot water. Yes, the Chinese do have a wide variety and teas but they also have an affinity for drinking good ole plain hot water. The Chinese have a belief that hot water can help out with all kinds of ailments and is some kind of super remedy. While I think everyone can agree that drinking more water, in general, is good for you, the Chinese take it a step further and don’t just drink more water but it also has to be hot. To be honest, this could also just be a side effect from the fact that the tap water in China is not safe to drink and its common practice to boil any tap water to make it safe before drinking it.
In Western society, it is much more prized to be an individual than it is in China. In Western culture wearing different clothes, trying something new or standing out are things that many people strive for. In China, it is the exact opposite in many ways. Just walking along the street in almost any city in China you will find that almost everyone is dressed in the same style of clothes, and no one really stands out from the crowd. Clearly there are exceptions to this rule depending on someones social standing but generally, people in China want to be seen as part of a collective than as someone who is different than everyone else. One great example of this is how in every public school in China, everyone has to wear a uniform.
The basic concept of privacy in China versus the west is vastly different. To start basic things like asking a persons age, relationship status, and income are not as taboo in China as they are in the west. Chinese people will not hesitate to ask such things even if it is the first time that they have ever met you. Couple this with the fact that China is a country with some of the most security cameras than any other country in the world and you will start to realize that nothing is really private in China. On the popular messaging app WeChat it is commonly known that the Chinese government monitors almost everything people says and do not be surprised if a message that may be critical of the government doesn’t make it to its intended recipient or you get a knock on your door for saying something criticizing the government.
- Family Values and TiesNow don’t get me wrong, I am positive that the majority of people in the western world do value their family life. However, in China and many other Asian nations, the family is essentially placed above almost anything else. The elders in the family are placed in the most honor and respect and instead of living apart from the family they will most certainly be living with the family. This much unlike in America where you will find old folks homes and the ever popular retirement destination of Florida. Many young adults will continue to live with their parents well into adulthood and won’t even consider moving out of the family household until marriage. These types of family ties also lend themselves to many Chinese not making rather significant life decisions without getting the permission from their parents and grandparents before doing many different things, from what college they attend, what job they take, to who they will marry or even just date.
- A Persons Reputation or Saving Face
In China, people are all about saving face. What this essentially means is that if something will make a person look stupid or if they believe that they will fail at something, they won’t even consider doing it or even trying. If someone is humiliated at work, instead of brushing it off and coming back the next day, they would rather just quit and find a new job then trying to fix anything wrong they might have done. In the West, I would like to think that the majority of people know that if you mess up or someone embarrasses you, it is not always that big of a deal but in China will sacrifice their job, money, and even friendships to avoid looking embarrassed or wrong about something. This is considered saving face and anything that will cause a person to lose face is to be avoided at all cost no matter what.
While in the west we do value education, a more well-rounded form of education tends to be the standard. However, in China, a persons education comes above all else. Often times students will not have any types of extracurricular activities. The style of education is much more textbook based and exams happen far more often. Things like sports, hobbies or other activities are pushed to the side for instead, after-school academies, private tutoring and studying / working on school homework.
- Social Statues
In China, people will strictly hangout and spend time with people they consider to be of the same social status as themselves.
- Conservative ValuesChinese people are actually rather conservative in their values. From dating to premarital sex, their views on these subjects are very different from the west. Chinese women typically dress much more conservatively on a daily basis. While these things are starting to change conservative views and values are still the standard.
- Respect for the DeadIn Chine people have high respect for their dead ancestors. Once a year in China they have a national public holiday that is specifically for visiting their ancestor’s burial sites. Furthermore, it is common in China for people to know their ancestor family line to the great-grandparents level. Sure in the west we do definitely have respect for the dead but when it comes to learning more about our ancestors and various things about our family lines, not as many people keep up with these things as they do in China.
- More Pragmatic Friendships
Friendships in China are based on more pragmatic reasons than in the west. The majority of Chinese people are not going to go out and make friends with people they meet on the street or at a coffee shop. Sharing common experiences such as the same class in school, or the friendships are based on something that benefits each other.
What are the other cultural differences between the west and China? Leave a comment below or Contact US
Don’t Forget to Check out our Job Board for all of our latest job postings!