China has a rich culture along with many customs which appear very strange to the foreign eye. Living in the country, you have to at least attempt to learn “why” before you dismiss anything… Some you would never accept, others you will embrace but at the end, you will feel more comfortable when you understand better your new home.
1. Pounding intensely on the table with your middle finger while your tiny traditional Chinese teacup is being refilled
This is NOT a sign of being inpatient. It actually expresses gratitude for serving the tea. Instead of constantly saying “thanks”, you just tap the table a few times. That actually makes a lot of sense since the teacup is refilled after 2-3 sips. If you had to say thanks every time, then you would not be able to have a conversation.
2. Spitting, burping, farting in public
Although I would never ever get used to these habits, at least now I know why they do it. Apparently, according to The Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is unhealthy to keep inside anything that feels like it should be out of your body. This is also the reason why when fighting an illness, TCM doctors tell you to always go to the bathroom as soon as you feel that you have to.
3. No sense of privacy
True! It is so BUT it is usually done in an effort to help. For example: I was having a mani-pedi while my phone rang. It was in my purse so I decided that I’d check it later. The girl however, decided to help me. She quickly opened my purse, looked around, shifted some things, found my phone and handed it to me so I could take the call. This may be unthinkable in the western world but considering the good intentions, I smiled and thanked her.
4. Umbrellas all day every day
There may actually be more umbrellas on the streets on a sunny day, than on a rainy day. Chinese people are obsessed with skin care and being as white as possible. That would probably explain why most people seem at least 10 years younger then they actually are.
5. Chinese people are NOT rude!
Just the opposite… they may be loud or the language may sound rough to a foreign ear but they are some of the most polite, considerate and helpful people I have ever met (except when we talk about money… but that makes sense considering the country’s past). For example: If you ask for directions to a place, they won’t just tell you how to get there; they would actually take you there. If they consider that you need help, they would most likely help you even if you don’t ask for it (aka #3 above). I see that all the time and I love it!
6. Gifts with the price labels on and proudly displayed
Showing that you spent good money on a gift for someone actually means that you value them a lot. The higher the price, the greater the honor.
7. Slow is good
Contrary to what we believe in the western world, where unless you do things fast, you are considered a slacker… In China, doing things slow means you truly pay attention and you ensure it is done correctly. So, don’t be annoyed if things don’t go at the paste you are used to.
8. Getting sh**t-face-drunk at a business dinner is a good thing!
Remember that embracing moment when your co-worker got wasted at that business event? Well, in China, it actually means that you have nothing to hide and you truly trust each other to do honest business together.
9. Drinking hot water… even in summer
It is believed that it balances the body temperature, smoothens the body functions and helps digestion. I still, however, don’t understand the warm beer…
10. Veggie dishes are delish… the secret?
The secret is in the magic ingredient… a tiny piece of pork or a pinch of ground meat to give it that unbeatable flavor! Finally a place where I can consider being a vegetarian… 😉
Learn more about China, its culture and customs through real experiences and activities.