Chinese & Western cultural differences

Chinese & Western cultural differences

Beliefs, customs, values, behaviors, institutions and communication patterns, all these things together make up a culture. It directly affects foreign student’s psychological adaptation. There are thousands of examples of these cross-culture misunderstandings which leads to psychological pressure.

In some parts of China, people view the consumption of dog meat to be a part of their traditional cuisine while a lot of foreign students consider it inappropriate and offensive on both social and religious grounds. A Chinese girl may hold a western girls hand while they are walking because in China it’s a natural way of showing friendship, but a girl from the west might misunderstand it. In the United States and Western Europe eye contact is interpreted as conveying interest and honesty. Those who avoid eye contact are viewed in a negative light, withholding information and lacking self-confidence. However, in Africa, Middle East and especially Asia eye contact is seen as disrespectful and even challenging of one’s authority. Those who make eye contact, but only briefly, are seen as respectful and courteous.

The way of communication.

There are two ways to how individuals use context in communication. One is low-context and the other is high-context. High-context culture is a culture in which the individual has internalized meaning and information, so that little is explicitly stated in written or spoken messages. A low context culture is one in which information and meanings are explicitly stated in the  message or communication. For example, low-context cultures assume that the individuals know very little about what they are being told, and therefore must be given a lot of background information. High-context cultures assume the individual is knowledgeable about the subject and has to be given very little background information. All of East Asia including China is very high-context. Chinese people never tend to show others their ambition but behave modesty and seldom act seemingly arrogant, which is Chinese people’s traditional psychological way of answering questions. So many students from west that belong to low-context culture have a problem to understand what Chinese people really want to express.

We usually find 2 types of foreign students around us. One type that seem to enjoy their life in China. They have many Chinese friends. They join a lot of activities at school with local students. They try to communicate in Chinese, talk and act like local people. The other type are usually prefer to socialize with other foreign students or prefer to move alone. Although they are in China, they have their own group and keep their original life style and keep a distance from Chinese life.

In China foreigners will face a new urban phenomenon called little emperor syndrome. China’s economic growth has tremendously elevated the annual per capita income of urban areas as women have become increasingly represented in the work force, resulting in families with two sources of income. This greatly improved purchasing power coupled with excessive pampering of only children results in increased spending on children. From toys to clothes, parents shower their child in material goods and give in to every demand; it is common for children to be the “best-dressed” members of their families. Conversely many young Chinese feel heavily burdened and a huge sense of responsibility toward their parents, knowing that their level of success can have crucial consequences for their family. Depending on specific family conditions and a child’s outlook, this burden can lead to a diligent lifestyle by youngsters or to a more rebellious attitude to traditional codes or to not being able to cope with such pressure nor to develop self-discipline. A survey published in 2013 on 431 Beijing adults finds that those who had grown up after the introduction of the one-child policy were lacking in entrepreneurial drive and the willingness to take risks because of this even had a significant impact on career choices. People from Europe might be shocked by some examples of how these little emperor behaves. Also for some it might be shocking to see students driving super cars and acting like a millionaires.

Relationships in China

Most young adults seem to have boyfriends and girlfriends at an early age – often as early as their teens. Unlike their western counterparts, however, they seem to date the same person for much longer periods – often years at a time, and dating seems most often to culminate in marriage. While many American students have children of their own, it is highly improbable to see a student on a Chinese campus with a child. In fact, until recently, Chinese university students were not permitted to marry or have children while in school. Chinese students do exhibit public displays of affection when ‘in love’, but not nearly so often, nor so explicitly, as do Western students. Overall, Chinese society is far more reserved then Western society when it comes to displaying ‘love’ – that is, kissing and hugging – in public. Love in China, it seems, is about balancing personal feelings with public and family expectations. In the west, however, the ideal sought after is a love that can shut all others out while flying in the face of familial and social expectations.

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