Today’s guest post is from Alex who works for Currency UK – a foreign exchange broker with lots of helpful services for expats.
China is not only a long way from the UK geographically, but culturally too. The differences between the two cultures can come as a shock when you first touch down on Chinese soil. Here are seven of the main culture shocks you may need to adjust to before you settle into your new community:
Food and Eating
One of the biggest culture shocks will be to your palate. China’s cuisine is different from any other in the world – and no it’s not quite like your local Chinese takeaway! And of course, there are chopsticks to get used to.
The main ingredients in Chinese food are rice and wheat; noodles corn and potato are also common. There are also a few surprising things not often seen on a UK menu including seaweed and chicken feet.
Start off gently with simple rice dishes or meals that mostly include familiar ingredients. Bear in mind that playing with your chopsticks or making faces at your food is not good etiquette.
With rough 1.357 billion people in China, accept the fact that there will be crowds in any urban area. Unlike the UK, lines and queuing are not the automatic reaction. In dense towns and cities there will also be lots of traffic and a lot of noise.
Like any populated area, pick pocketing can occur in crowded areas, so mind your valuables. Also bring a book or listen to something on your headphones to help you zone out from the crowds if you’re travelling.
If you are invited to a Chinese person’s house, it is traditional courtesy to bring a gift. Red flowers are popular (not white flowers; they are used at funerals), or a basket of fruit. A pre-made gift of fruit usually costs about 30RMB so you don’t have to break the bank to make new friends.
Despite certain restrictions, smoking is still popular in China. Unlike the UK, smoking is seen as impressive and it’s not generally considered offensive to be smoking in public places.
You can try to avoid places with heavy smoking However, since it often occurs in restaurants and cafes it will also be a matter of choosing a seat furthest from the smoke.
Direct eye contact in China is considered inappropriate, especially when talking to your superiors.
Practice makes perfect with this culture shock. To remember, think of who is traditionally in the ‘superior’ role e.g. teacher and student, the teacher would classically be the superior role.
On the other hand, excessive staring can be considered normal but may leave you feeling like a purple panda.
In Chinese tradition, if a host offers refreshment and the guest declines, the host will ask twice more. This shows concern for the guests’ comfort.
Don’t get impatient if you find yourself declining more noodles three times. Remember, the host is literally the host in China, so if you are having people round, you provide everything for them.
Conversely, it is customary to leave a little bit of leftover food to indicate to your host that you are full.
Due to a strict social etiquette, establishing friendships rather than acquaintances requires certain clues.
Establish a connection by giving a cultural exchange with your friends, such as dinner or a present from your home country. Gifts of thanks work well with the old Chinese aspect of friendship being about repaying favours.
China can seem a strange and confusing country when you first arrive. Keep in mind some useful phrases, and be prepared to make a few blunders along the way! Getting used to any new culture can be difficult, but stick with it, be patient, and the rewards will make it all worth it.
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