China Customs – Passing The Stranger on The Street
There is so much to learn about Chinese culture that I feel I’ll be writing about it a lot. It varies so much from ours that it’s very interesting to learn about and try to understand. Having lived in China for over 7 years, and having had the opportunity to visit many more, I have noticed the cultural variations; every country has its own flavor.
China customs, unlike any other country, also has its own set of norms, language, cultures and traditions. What is considered impolite or rude by you might not be viewed the same by a Chinese. This is because it is an entirely different country and has its separate culture. If you are planning to visit the country, it is imperative for you to have some basic understanding of its culture and behavioral patterns, so you don’t feel strange on encountering the Chinese people.
I have found many people comment that the Chinese are impolite, but in my opinion this is not entirely true as their values and beliefs are different from yours.
The behavior of the Chinese people is quite dissimilar to what is practiced in the West. For instance, in the West, we often greet a passerby on the street and return a smile to them if offered one by a stranger.
However, you won’t experience the same behavior when you are in China. One of the most surprising things that I noticed about Chinese customs was that they seldom greet or smile on seeing strangers.
The reason behind this behavior is how the Chinese view the world.
The Chinese people live by a theory known as the ‘In’ and ‘Out’ theory, in which the close friends and family are the part of the ‘In’ group, whereas the remainder of the world is included in the ‘Out’ group.
This is why they do not adopt what we consider a polite behavior on encountering anyone from that world. They don’t feel obliged to host a welcoming behavior towards the foreigners visiting their country. So, while you are visiting and learning about China customs, you won’t experience many courteous smiles from bus drivers, taxi drivers, salespersons or passersby on their road. At first I found this very rude but I slowly understood that this is how they live.
The Chinese have a very strong bond with their family and treat them with a lot of love and care, and are of the opinion that strangers should not be treated like family, which is why they don’t bother being courteous to the strangers.
The Chinese also view people traveling by themselves with pity and curiosity and may ignore them completely. I initially found this different. In the West, if we ever saw a stranger passing strange looks at us we may feel insulted. However it makes sense when you understand the reason for their behavior.
I learned that Chinese people find it quite unsettling to travel alone, which is why they would behave differently with solo travelers. They always need their close people aka their support group with them while traveling outside their native home homes. Chinese people are very tied to their home towns as it represents the base of there culture, history, language, foods, and communal bonding.
However, China customs are changing in different parts of the mainland. I have noticed this change over the last few years. If you are ever planning a trip to China, I suggest you try passing smiles to the people you meet on the street, in the markets, hotels and elsewhere as this will, and who knows you might get a lovely smile in return.
Oh, and after living in China for so long, I really needed to learn the language. While it helped tremendously being there, my wife being Chinese, I started my adventure of learning the language with this software. It was a big problem for me then not knowing it, and if you’d like to learn too, I’d check it out for sure. Having even the most basic understanding of the language gives great insight into China customs.