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How to Integrate With Chinese Culture

Popularity 7Viewed 3532 times 2016-4-12 17:40 |Personal category:life|System category:Life

As I have heard some foreigners who want to take part in the Chinese activities like tomb sweeping, dancing at squares with dama(in Chinese which means the elderly females ) and have dinner with Chinese people etc. I hope this post could make a help for you.

First, China is a vast country, different place may have different customs. If you go to a place, you'd better check it on the internet or ask some Chinese for reference, in order to conform whether the place fits you or not. 

For example, in Guang dong province, almost everyone speaks Cantonese( which is another kind of spoken Chinese and sounds different from Mandarin that is spoken by most of the people in the north of China), so if you only speak Mandarin it is not fit for you to go there. The place is near the equator so the weather will be very boiling in summer like any other tropics. People there like drinking tea, having a meal after 10 o' clock at night, having some soup for dinner, eating a variety of food etc. 

However,in Hei Longjiang province that lies in the north of China, the temperature can drop to minus 30 degrees centigrade in winter. People, in this province, are taller, stronger and more aggressive based on the weather I think. Therefore, if you want to get along with these people you should be politer than you treat others at the south part of China. They speak Mandarin and most of whom are more straightforward compared to the counterparts in the south of China. They like eating normal food that is neither too spicy nor too sweet, playing mahjong at spare time and drinking wine etc. 

There are also other places I could not mention them all in one blog, you can ask me at any time if you want to know more details about other places of China and I will try my best to tell you under objectivity.

Second, you should know that foreigners form a very small part of Chinese population and many Chinese people may not see one single foreigner in his/her whole real life. If some of them stare at you on roads or in restaurants please don't be mad at them. You to them is like a plane to humans back in the early 20th century. It is of impropriety, but it is inevitable to come across such scenes sooner or later if you want to live in China, and hard to let every Chinese people learn the etiquette of how to behave when facing a laowai( which means foreigner in Chinese). Furthermore, their such actions are not harmful, they are just as curious as a baby seeing a stranger. All of you should get used to it, and with this experience I think next time when you go anywhere in China you won't feel embarrassed by this any more.

Third, don't let language keep you from communicating with Chinese people. I suggest you to learn some Chinese. Only being able to say "nihao" and "zaijian" is not good enough for you to live a long time in China as this is not an English speaking country. Although English is a compulsory course in secondary school and college, not many can speak it well. In everyday life like buying food and shopping etc , you can't count on every seller to understand English. On the other side I think if you immerse into China's society your Chinese won't be bad. 

Forth, try to be a friend of a native speaker in China. Not only will it benefit your Chinese, it is also the way to touch Chinese culture. However, according to different cultures and customs, finding a true friend is not easy. Someone once said "all the Chinese people are politics, they all seemed to be on behalf of their country when they face foreigners." It may be true to some extent, but today's Chinese people are more open than themselves many years ago and they want to be themselves. So it may take you some time, but one day you will have one or two good Chinese friends. But when you think your friend's family and relatives are your friends, you are wrong because they may not know English. To get along with a friend's family is another course for you to learn and perhaps it will take you more time. 

Fifth, China is not a country as it used to be. After reform and opening up for more than 30 years, things have changed a lot. So if you still hold the old perspectives to observe today's China it will be inappropriate and totally wrong. People who were born between 1980 and 1990 and lived under the situation of economic market, are taking the place of the old generation in the society and playing more important roles. Their viewpoints are so broad, free and different that I think China will become more and more prosperous in the future.

Sixth, one more thing you should know is that the general public in China are kind and diligent, like the residents in your country. They are the same people as the neighbours, colleagues, classmates, friends and even strangers that you meet in your native country. I think humanity belongs to all human beings, it is not a patent for a small group of people or for a country. Therefore, how you treat these people in your country, you should take the same way to treat the Chinese people. Chinese people will cry when they are sad, they will laugh when they feel happy, nothing special. 

These are my perspectives on how to integrate with Chinese culture, maybe I can't mention all the matters that could help each of you take good relationship with Chinese people and her culture because I myself also have limited experience. But I believe that all people who come from abroad to live here are and will be welcomed by most of the Chinese people. I also hope each of you has wonderful life in China.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Reply Report voice_cd 2016-4-13 09:34
Thanks for sharing here, we have highlighted your blog.
Reply Report guml 2016-4-13 10:58
Welcome all of you come to china.

I am native Chinese,and I like to make friends who from all over the world.

I am in Xiamen which lies in south of Fujian.
Reply Report Dracarys 2016-4-14 20:43
you really want to ?   then you should learn dialects of every province and every countryside and every city ..
Reply Report BlondeAmber 2016-4-14 22:05
Point 2.
It is that Chinese people think it is ok to touch you that is more disturbing than the staring - which is not good manners in any culture. I just don't want total strangers touching me or telling their children to touch me.
Question - would you stare at a Chinese person as you would a 'laowei' or take pictures without their permission.
What most foreigners find unacceptable is that we receive treatment from Chinese people that they would not accept from other Chinese people - this is bad manners.

Point 4
I don't become friends with a Chinese person just because I want to learn the language. I would become their friend because I like them as a person.

Exactly, how you treat people in your own country, you should treat foreigners the same, not as an exotic animal to stare at and touch like an animal in a zoo.
Reply Report AndrewCraven 2016-4-15 23:25
BlondeAmber: Point 2.
It is that Chinese people think it is ok to touch you that is more disturbing than the staring - which is not good manners in any culture. I  ...
Part 2, Exactly, 100% correct. Both staring at strangers and touching them are rude manners that some of the Chinese don't aware of. Not only to foreigners, if a Chinese dresses a radical type of clothes or hairstyle, those people will stare at them too. My personal experience is that I have been touched by domestic strangers who wanted  to ask me if I wanted to buy the goods in their hands.

One of the main reasons is they didn't take much education that teaches them how to show good manners. Another reason is foreigners in China are rare so that it is hard to keep those low educated people from doing some rude manners to them like staring or touching without permits. It is thought that such conduct is not only happening in China, but also in the rest of the world. Don't you agree that?

part 4, you mistook my point, lady. there are a variety of ways to learn a language including talking with a native speaker.  As a foreigner, becoming a good friend with a native speaker is subject to delivering clear expressions, same kind of viewpoints, being attractive to each other, equality etc. However, a good way to touch Chinese culture is to go through your Chinese friend.  The prerequisite of this way is that you already have a Chinese friend.I didn't mean that you become a friend of Chinese just because you want to learn the language.
Reply Report BlondeAmber 2016-4-16 04:16
AndrewCraven: Part 2, Exactly, 100% correct. Both staring at strangers and touching them are rude manners that some of the Chinese don't aware of. Not only to forei ...
to answer your responses.
No. I have travelled in Europe and North America.
Touching or staring at a stranger is not done or tolerated unless it is a hand-shake.
Touching a stranger, expect by accident, is considered common assault. Accidental touching is usually followed by an apology.

In China, even in Shanghai and Beijing I have had people come up to me an touch me, my hair, my clothes, even tell children to touch me.

Regarding language learning, I am frequently approached by strangers who 'want to be my friend' but within minutes it is clear they just want free language lessons. Friendship develops naturally with no expectations of special favours.
Yes, culture can be explored through friendship, but not as a pre-requisite for becoming friends.
When I have free time and want to relax, many people think I am free to 'be their friend' and give them a lesson. I would have no such expectation of a friend.
Reply Report mbursian 2016-4-16 09:30
Point #2: I understand the curiosity, particularly for those who have never seen a real live laowai in the flesh.  I am somewhat tolerant of being photographed, but I would be far more receptive and willing IF I was asked permission... which in the past 9 years has for the most part, NEVER happened.  I find it irritating when people point, laugh and make comments (assuming you don't understand) and then take your photo or try to do it candidly.  This is very disrespectful for anyone, it doesn't matter that I am a laowai... it doesn't make it right or acceptable.  Over the last 9 years I've been photographed in a variety of scenarios, imaginable and unimaginable... the worst was being followed in to a public toilet and photographed, to me that more than crossed the line of acceptability and decency.  It's only a small handful of people that are completely oblivious to this, regardless of setting or circumstance... but they are the ones that stand out the most... and they are the reason why I'm not particularly fond of visiting public facilities or attractions.  Hey, I'm a nice guy and enjoy meeting and talking with people... treat me as you would want to be treated and we'll get along great... treat me like an exotic circus sideshow freak and I won't pay any respect.

Staring not so much an issue as it was when I first arrived and was completely unaccustomed to it.  In the culture I was raised in, it is considered extremely rude to stare... but I am accustomed to being the assumed subject of stares and glares now... I usually counter with a smile and a nod of the head to acknowledge it... and most people will genuinely smile back and go about their business.

Touching... that's usually been the behavior of small children and not adults.  They like to feel the hair on my arms, which is harmless until they try plucking it.  I'm not particularly fond of being spanked, especially whacked in the groin by small children... laowai or not, that's unacceptable and I make that clear to the child.  Would they do that to their Chinese teacher?  Would their Chinese teacher tolerate that?  I think not.  It's universal that children are children and are a curious lot... bless them all.  Most children are attracted to my gentle, loving and humorous nature, but I'm quick to instill that there are boundaries regardless.

Point #3: It is imperative that foreigners learn the language (Putonghua) even if it's common survival phrases... it's ludicrous not to and a terrible and arrogant assumption that everyone understands or speaks English.  There are a multitude of local dialects, but a foreigner could easily get by with Putonghua.  My 86 year old mother-in-law speaks only Handanhau... we have a few challenges communicating, but we manage.
Reply Report AndrewCraven 2016-4-16 13:08
BlondeAmber: to answer your responses.
No. I have travelled in Europe and North America.
Touching or staring at a stranger is not done or tolerated unless it is a  ...
"I have had people come up to me an touch me, my hair, my clothes, even tell children to touch me."
It is hard to believe you get touched by strangers and their children everyday. Maybe you are too attractive and gorgeous for them to keep their hands from touching you.
If this happened on casual occasions, if is fine to put them off, in other words forgiving their ignorance is best way to get good feelings back for yourself.
I couldn't find another better way to deal with such ignorance, would you fight against them , staring back, or sue them?

Yes, of course you can just be relax when you are free, no one will blame for that. Maybe occasionally helping others will make you feel better rather than doing things for yourself.

At least, they told you the truth of what they want from you, they are not liars. In another point, I think it is the egg and chicken theory- you can't distinguish which comes first , the egg or the chicken.
Sometimes if you don't help someone, it is impossible to reap friendship from him/her.
Reply Report BlondeAmber 2016-4-16 18:55
AndrewCraven: "I have had people come up to me an touch me, my hair, my clothes, even tell children to touch me."
It is hard to believe you get touched by ...
No, I don't get touched by people every day, but that is not the point.
The point is that Chinese people think it is ok to touch a foreigner as if we are an exotic animal.

Question.
How is it ok to touch a total stranger because they are 'too attractive and gorgeous for them'?
This is assault. And making a comment like that to someone you don't know is kind of creepy.
To me this shows total lack of self control and respect - ignorance is no excuse as I don't think it is ok to touch anyone who is a stranger to you (handshakes being an exception). And encouraging children to grab total strangers is not 'cute', all it does is teach children that foreigners are fair game for whatever they like because they are unlikely to react in a negative way. I would be accused (and have been) of being unfriendly by telling them to stop touching me.
And yes, I have people follow me with their phone cameras on and try 'up-skirting' me, despite the fact I dress VERY modestly.

Do Chinese people find it acceptable for other Chinese people to do this to them?
Would you go up to another Chinese person or a Chinese girl and touch her without her permission?
If your answer is 'no', then why is it ok to do this to a foreigner?
Why then do people get angry with us if we refuse to accept this kind of behaviour?
I am not talking about people who may not have seen a foreigner before, but in Beijing, Tianjin, places where I have to go for work.

You talk about integrating into Chinese culture, but could there be a lack of respect in Chinese culture for the personal boundaries that other cultures have?
Reply Report AndrewCraven 2016-4-17 00:59
BlondeAmber: No, I don't get touched by people every day, but that is not the point.
The point is that Chinese people think it is ok to touch a foreigner as if we  ...
"The point is that Chinese people think it is ok to touch a foreigner as if we are an exotic animal."
No, educated Chinese will never do such bad things.
About my comment, so sorry for that, I didn't take a overall thinking about the words I wrote.

Next time when you come up to that situation that someone followed you and photographed you, please call 110 or find a police officer nearby.

I also hate those people who you mentioned, they showed low respect to others and also to themselves. They deserve those criticism.

Cities like Beijing or Tianjin are not filled all by citizens, the fluid population which means migrants from rural areas in those cities is also large, you should know that.

Life is like a mirror, you smile at them, they will smile back at you. Why not give them just a smile ?  They would aware their wrong actions and won't be angry with you.
Reply Report BlondeAmber 2016-4-18 00:55
AndrewCraven: "The point is that Chinese people think it is ok to touch a foreigner as if we are an exotic animal."
No, educated Chinese will never do suc ...
Sadly it is mostly the more supposedly 'educated' men who behave like this, or 'educated' women who push their children at me.

I should not be the one who has to tolerate this kind of treatment with a smile, I and other foreigners should just not be treated like this.
I am just talking about basic good manners, courtesy and respect.

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