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10 Cultural Shocks in China

In the Middle Kingdom, you will encounter a lot of different things that you may not be familiar with. Whether you are aware of Chinese culture or not, there are several culture shocks that are humorous and only characteristics to be seen in China. Today, we are going to take a look at 10 cultural shocks in China that you may have heard of or will see if you are on your way to visit.

1. Squat toilets

If you haven’t heard about it, one of the first things that foreigners notices as they come to China are the toilets, where you squat instead of sitting on the seat. It is a strange concept for most westerners to see a hole in the floor and do their business squatting since western toilets have seats. It is an adjustment for people visiting since they are not use to squatting but is quick to become use to given the amount of practice you will have while visiting China.

2. Personal space and privacy

Personal space and privacy seem to not exist in China due the large population within the country. So when you are traveling to popular places, you will encounter crowd sizes that you would never expect. You will encounter moments where your personal space doesn’t exist because space is a luxury. You may find yourself standing on the subway right up and personal with person next to you.

3. Umbrella in Sunshine

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You may notice people with umbrellas on a beautiful sunny day, and you may ask why. In order to answer your question, we need to understand Chinese standard of beauty where having whiter skins is desired instead of the western idea of tan is generally accepted. So girls will go out of their way to ensure that they avoid the sun with umbrellas.

4. Lining up in a circle

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If you have encountered lines in China in certain locations, there may not be as orderly as you thought it should be. You will notice people crowding at the service window at the bus station or a line with people cutting in line. Chinese people have a mentality that they need to be first in line to get what they need due to past experiences. It isn’t true in all places in China, but you may be surprise with this occasion while traveling around China.

5. Restaurant norms

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Restaurant norms in China are much different from American and European cultures. Typically, you would expect to eat with a plate with fork and knife in a western restaurant, however in a Chinese restaurant, you will have to chopsticks and spoon instead. If you inexperience with Chinese or most Asian cultures, you will notice that everyone will eat their meals with chopsticks and spoon. It might be hard to get use to, but give it your best effort. Also in most restaurants in the west, the environment is more or less quiet; however China can be noisy and busy where people are drinking and order food when they feel like it. It may feel rude to a foreigner, however it is part of the hustle and bustle of the lifestyle.

6. Babies in split pants

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When you arrive in China, you may find the babies really adorable but you will be notice a small difference where the infants will wear pants with split pants. Basically a hole in their pants and it is open for the public their cute bottoms. You may not know, but diapers are rather expensive in China and so Chinese natives will dress their children in these pants in order allow them to use the restroom when they need to. In some places, you may even witness children with a shirt but no bottoms because it may be easier to clean up after their kids do their business.

7. Relationships and Connections

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In western culture, you may notice that relationships and connections are simple and small. In Chinese culture, you may hear the word guān xi关系 a lot because in China relationships are complex and interconnected. It is the way you gain friendships, family and business opportunities. It doesn’t matter if you are a related by family or friends, relationships can develop into great friendships and or partnership. Relationships will help you learn Chinese culture but can potentially help you with business opportunities.

8. Time management

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In the west, we are used to being on time and calculating the amount of time we have in order to optimize efficiency. In China, sometimes time isn’t the focus. It is quiet common to have a meeting or outing that may last about one to two hours longer than needed. It is common because Chinese natives are more relaxed and like to enjoy time with people whether they are a familiar face or a new relationship.

9. Partying with numbers

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In the western parties, people tend to stick to their groups of two to five people, where the Chinese make it a big huge party. Chinese natives have a collective mindset to have a great time with all the people they know. Foreigners are used to having their individual desires and priorities but Chinese think about what is important for the group of people they are with. Whether it is KTV, clubbing or a dinner, Chinese natives love to party in large numbers. Foreigners may encounter this when visiting and living with Chinese friends.

10. Strong Family Connections

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If it isn’t already known, Chinese natives have very strong family bonds. There is such a big connection that you will see grandparents taking care of their grandchildren. Grandparents in China love to enjoy their lives by helping raise and teach the next generation of children about the history of their family roots and culture. In western countries, you will see this, however you will see more grandparents retired taking care of their pets or having their hobbies. It is a very loving and family oriented environment in China.

Looking over these 10 cultural shocks that foreigners will encounter, you can see how we can have an eye opening experience coming to China. These cultural shocks do not necessarily reflect China as a whole, however it will give you insight into the culture. We hope you learned something new and entertaining. Make the trip to Middle Kingdom and see it for yourself. Until then, keep learning and see you next time.

Quy Dai Lam-Quach

He is 郭大贵 who grew up in Seattle and graduated from Seattle University with a Bachelors of Art in Business, majoring in Marketing and Finance. He currently is in Shantou, Guangdong teaching Oral English. 大贵 is a Chinese American who is able to speak Teo Chew dialect. He has been studying Chinese Mandarin for the past year. He personally enjoys being out traveling to new places and experiencing new cultural activities.

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