China and the West have distinct cultures in many ways. Some of these differences are very obvious while some are subtle. You should better understand them before you travel to China otherwise you are going to be annoyed and confused when encountering an “unbelievable” situation. Here I am going to discuss three cultural differences which would easily make a Western traveller go crazy.
Queuing – The Ordered Chaos
Queuing with pushing and shoving is normal in China. Actually you are not going to see any queues in banks, shops, stations, etc. Instead of queuing one-by-one in the western way, Chinese people like to make a crowd and “fight” for it. It sounds terrible, and it is really terrible when you are in those situations. Although the Chinese government is promoting a better culture and people are improving, you still see people who are not queuing properly in some places. If you are waitng for a service or waiting to get on train or bus, you’d better bump into to the crowd and fight for it.
Direct Answers – Getting Blood from a Rock
In Western countries, when you are asking for an opinion for your work, people are likely to tell you how good or horrible it is. It’s not the case in China. When you ask a Chinese person to give you his opinion on your work or proposal, he will just give you indirect answer. They will beat around the bush without ever quite answering your question in a way a politician would be proud. Chinese people do that just because they do not want to cause conflict. They tend to avoid arguing with others by not giving their direct and personal opinion to others. That’s why you may feel frustrated when asking a Chinese for an opinion.
Restaurants – The Noisiest Place
Would you prefer a noisy place or a quiet place when dining? I would prefer both, depending on whom I am dining with. Most Western people are used to eating in a quiet environment. However, when you are travelling in China, you can hardly find a good place with a low noise level. In the point of view of Chinese people, the noisier, the better. People like to talk in a loud voice and they tend to talk non-stop when they are having their meals. Actually, you can easily find your ear booming not only for dinner, but also during lunch and breakfast. It is part of Chinese culture, but if you want to avoid this, you can try room service. However, you’ll miss one of the best parts about Chinese culture.
There are many things to learn about Chinese culture and many of them are really interesting. However, I’d like to leave it to you. Discovering a new culture itself is already an interesting and fun activity. You’d experience more if you are discovering the culture differences for yourself. Learning basic Chinese is also recommended before you go to China because most Chinese are not familiar with English. What do you think about the cultural differences?