It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten weeks since I landed in China. It feels like only last week that I was waiting in the visa office and packing up my life in America. Over the past two months, I’ve learned a lot about Chinese culture and customs. Here are ten things I’ve learned about China:
1. Eating a meal is a communal event.
If you go out for a group dinner in an American restaurants, each person probably orders their own dish and everyone’s meal comes out at the same time. If you go out to dinner in China, it is not common to order individual meals. But if you decide to order individual meals, your dishes will probably not come out at the same time because dishes are served as they finish cooking. This is because most Chinese people share their dishes with each other.
2. People may be addressed by their job titles.
If I were a teacher in America, I would be addressed as “Ms. Heather”. In China, I’m referred to as “Teacher Heather”. This extends beyond the field of teaching. Lawyers and doctors may be addressed in the same manner. Addressing a person by his or her job title is a way to show respect to that person and a way to emphasize the importance of that person.
3. There are no road rules in China.
I can’t attest to whether or not this is actually true, but I do know that I have never seen a person being pulled over by a police officer or police officer patrolling the streets of China. I’ve also never noticed a speed limit sign or any other road signs. It makes crossing the street in China that much more scary.
4. Boy to boy and girl to girl skin contact is normal in children and teenagers.
If two boys or two girls are close friends, they may call themselves “skin friends”. This means that they will hold hands in class or walk with their arms linked. They may also rest their arms on each other while sitting in class. It is more common to see boys walking with their arms linked; whereas, girls will walk holding hands.
5. Chinese babies wear pants with slits.
Infants wear pants with slits with a diaper underneath, but toddlers wear pants with slits near the crotch with no underwear. This is common practice because toddlers can go to the bathroom more easily by squatting on the street. No, I’m not lying. Chinese children actually go to the bathroom on the sidewalk and in the street.
6. Chinese people drink everything warm.
They drink warm water and warm milk. They drink juice and soda at room temperature. This isn’t just a winter habit either. It happens all year long. For this reason “cold water” was one of the first things I learned how to say in Chinese. The fact that you know how to say “cold water” in Chinese will not stop them for looking at you strangely when you ask for cold water though.
7. Leave your shoes at the door.
It is common to take off your shoes before entering your home. You should also take off your shoes before entering another person’s home. It is a sign of respect. (And I can understand why: the Chinese spit everywhere and the sewage system isn’t up to par with an American sewage system.) It’s also uncommon to have carpet in China, so that makes it even more dirty to walk on non-carpeted floors with those dirty soles. And yes, this is a practice that I observe in my Chinese apartment.
8. Eight is a lucky number.
I don’t know why, but eight is a lucky number in China. When purchasing my Chinese phone, I explained to the Chinese man who helped me purchase the phone that I wouldn’t be in China long enough to have a two year cell phone contract. He said to take a phone number that ended in the number eight because a Chinese person would buy that number from me because it’s good luck.
9. The “Chinese food” Americans eat does not taste anything like authentic Chinese food.
One of my friends from Maryland recently asked if I was enjoying orange chicken and eggs rolls. First, I think egg rolls are something that Americans invented and branded as being “Chinese” because I’ve never encountered an egg roll in China. Second, the chicken in China does not taste like American chicken. They give you pieces of chicken with random parts of the chicken that are not edible. Chinese people also eat chicken feet with the claws as snack. No, I’m not joking.
10. Tipping is not customary (or accepted).
It is inappropriate to tip a waiter, a hair dresser, a tour guide, or any other Chinese person providing you with a service. Not only is it not customary, but it will not be accepted. More than once I’ve had a really nice waiter or waitress and I’ve wanted to tip that person, but I know they would not accept the tip.
What are your thoughts?
What do you think about my list of things I’ve learned about China? If you’ve lived in or visited China, do you agree with my list of things I’ve learned about China?