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(How To) Be A Good Foreigner In China

Popularity 7Viewed 8439 times 2019-7-19 02:19 |Personal category:Education|System category:Life

1. Obey the law and obey the authorities.

You know that drugs aren't permitted in most societies. Certainly not China. Children do not grow up in China with the burden of temptation for drugs no matter how hard or seemingly harmless they may be. This is a positive thing no matter how you look at it.

Recently, there were several foreigners who were involved either through recreational use or trafficking drugs in Xuzhou. It is strange to me that other foreigners are discussing 'will they be treated fairly?' This is not an intelligent question. These things are against the law. This is China. They are going to be dealt with in the same way that Chinese are dealt with however harsh that might seem to you. You don't decide that. China decides that. The simple fact is, 'don't do things that are against the law' and you have nothing to worry about. If you want to do those things then, weigh the consequences or go somewhere that believes those things are lawful and o.k. to do. China is not one of those places.

Obey the law and you're more likely to stay out of trouble. Can you be accused of something that you didn't do? Of course you can. In China, America or wherever. It happens all of the time. But, the chances are very slim that you're going to be accused of something that you're innocent of. It can happen, but, it isn't common.

2. When someone wrongs you, let it go.

Chinese people do this every day. In fact, I've always said that, 'Chinese are experts at 'letting it go.' If they get cut off in traffic by someone who is too aggressive in driving, they let it go. They don't get out and fight. They 'let it go.' You need to do the same. It is even more important for you as a foreigner because foreigners are not common in most Chinese cities. They are a target. There will be enough troubles finding you. You don't need to make it worse. Swallow your ego. Swallow your pride and 'let it go.'

3. Don't expect life to be what you're used to.

Chinese do things differently than Westerners. You may not like how they do things, but, to them, it is likely quite normal. YOU are the one who must adjust. This isn't your country or culture. So, the burden is on you to adjust. Chinese don't think like you do. But, again, it's their country and not yours.

4. Realize that you're not going to change things.

I guess I could really say here, 'Fully acknowledge the fact that you aren't going to change China or Chinese people.' You may very well know an obvious (to you at least) way of doing something better than what you see them doing. You can make a suggestion but no one is obligated to listen to your suggestion much less act on it. Don't be surprised if they don't because, my experience is, they likely won't. 

I've made suggestions that were acted upon two years later in the schools that I've been involved with. When they do act on them, it is the nature of Chinese people that they will often take credit for the idea even though you gave them the same idea long before. Just act surprised and tell them how great is. It doesn't matter to you who gets credit even though it is a big 'face' thing with them. 

Be wise enough and humble enough to let them take the credit. It's not a big deal. Just be thankful and happy that someone finally did act on it. You need to be more mature and realize that they finally did take your advice. Most foreigners don't have the patience or maturity to do this. You need to decide that you are and that you can.

5. Swallow your pride and control your ego.

This suggestion is simply 'growing up.' The world doesn't revolve around you. You might think that your ideas and knowledge are far superior to those around you. And, it might be. But, you won't likely win any converts to your genius in China. 'Face' is a huge thing with Chinese. You have to do like Chinese people and 'give face' as much as you can. Even if it seems superficial to you. It is the culture here. You have to learn to do it or you won't get along too well.

Many Chinese people aren't great at admitting that they are wrong. However, they will allow you to correct them when they perform wrongly like when they speak English wrong. They will also be grateful to you for correcting them. They'll love you for helping them. But, don't allow them to lose face over personal attributes. They won't take it well. Correct them in private as much as possible. It is safe and will let them know that you care about them and not just looking good yourself.

6. Go with the flow and be flexible

You can't be rigid in China. You can maintain your own personal discipline, but, you're going to have to learn to be flexible. Things change fast in China. Your work schedule can change without any prior notice. I know that if you're a Westerner, you aren't used to this. However, it is a reality in China. Planning and scheduling will always be tentative. Certainly not like you're used to. However, you MUST learn to be flexible and go with the flow if you're going to survive and get along in Chinese culture.

7. Don't be easily offended

There are two circumstances that come to mind when a foreigner might get offended in China.

The first is, when the police stop you and ask you for your passport. Obey them and comply with their request with a humble and positive attitude. They have every right to ask you for such. It doesn't matter whether you are used to it or not. It doesn't matter if you agree with it or not. Just do it. They are doing a job they were told to do. If you'll comply with them with a positive and humble attitude, things will go much better for you. It has happened to me. It is unnerving at times, but, it's their country. Do what they say. They are the police. I've never had a bad experience with this even though it is a bit uncomfortable. If you are an American, imagine what immigrants are going through right now in America. They are scared half to death. Nonetheless, here in China, the better your attitude; the better things will go for you.

The second is, don't get offended with Chinese who ask you very personal questions like your salary, your age, if you are divorced or married, etc. They ask things that are taboo for Westerners. It is common for them. If you don't want answer, then, don't. The police won't likely ask you such questions even though no question is off-limits with them. They represent the law in China. If they ask you something, answer and answer honestly. If others ask you questions that you feel are too personal and you don't want to answer, don't make a big deal out of it. Just don't answer. It isn't that hard to do. I asked a street vendor last night how many customers he serves every day. He didn't answer me. I guess he thought it wasn't any of my business. No big deal. I hope he does well in his business because his food is great and I hope he's making a lot of money. But, if he doesn't want to answer me, then, that's his perogative.

Follow these 7 suggestions and you'll have a better life in China as a foreigner.

Bonus: Here's an 8th suggestion. 

Do your job and do it well. Work hard. Especially if you're a teacher. Most Chinese students are great. They love learning and are smart. I love teaching kids in China. I've worked hard and have helped kids get top scores on the SAT and TOEFL in America. I've helped kids get into top 120 schools in America, Canada, the U.K. and Australia. My average student scores 1530 on the SAT and 112 on TOEFL. That'll get them into any college in the world. I think I'm a pretty good teacher, however, I know that I have GREAT students. I love teaching Chinese students and watching them achieve their dreams. Do your job sincerely and work hard to help others. The rewards of seeing their successes are just amazing. 

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




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Comment Comment (4 comments)

Reply Report Chengking 2019-7-22 16:56
Great suggestions. Very insightful.
Reply Report Andymlp 2019-8-1 23:13
Great suggestions!!!
Reply Report BlondeAmber 2019-8-3 00:29
What you have described is how ANYONE should behave.
such behaviours should be the prerogative of anyone.
Reply Report YowieChen 2020-3-15 15:48
Good advice to implement , no matter what foreign land you set foot on...

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Michael is the author of the transformational book, Powerful Attitudes. He is a professional educator, an educational consultant, an author. He lives in Zhengzhou, Henan Province. He enjoys playing guitar and writing poetry. He loves China.


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