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Chinese And American Cultural Differences

Chinese And American Cultural Differences


Chinese And American Cultural Differences

Having lived in Hong Kong for over 7 years, one of the first questions I found people asking me was “What’s some Chinese and American Cultural Differences?” Every time I came home I’d be asked this question and very often when meeting new ex-pats first arriving in Hong Kong. I hope this list can offer some (basic) insight into our differences and I’ll be writing plenty more on the topic.

As an American, you have probably familiarized yourself with some of the customs, etiquettes and other different aspects pertaining to the country. However, you may still be quite unaware of Chinese and American cultural differences. Culture defines a community’s or society’s style of living that means that the term culture actually encompasses many things that do not come under any specific definition.

This is one of the reasons why culture is a very broad area that cannot be summarized in even 2000 words. Plus, China is over 100,000 sq. miles larger than the US, with as many varying cultures and 56 ethnic groups as well.  However, there are some basic pointers that will help you gain an idea regarding what is so different about the Chinese culture and how much it deviates from the typical American culture.

  • Independence Vs. Codependence

One of the primary Chinese and American cultural differences is that the Chinese culture, much like the broader Asian culture, depends on coexistence and concepts of codependence. This means that people in China rely on others and have a very close knit social circle (the term is called “Guangxi” or connection. I’ll be writing lots about this concept). This is one of the reasons why the people there do not believe in the concept of speaking their mind and doing whatever they just feel like doing. Chinese reflect upon how their actions can affect and shape there families and society.

We, Americans, on the other hand, prefer being self-sufficient and independent. Our ideas of freedom and self-expression differ vastly in nature to the ideas held dear by the Chinese. If we have something on our mind, we will say it in a polite yet blunt manner. The Chinese will not do that because they want to avoid any sort of embarrassing situations. To cite an example, if a party speaks up in disagreement of another party in China, then both parties will find it embarrassing and will end up losing some degrees of respect; this means that both parties will end up losing face.

  • Lifestyle

During my stay in China, I noticed that many elements of the Chinese lifestyle are not common in the Western way of life. One example is what people do in their old age. In Western countries, people who have reached a certain age often go to retirement homes or adopt pets or engage themselves in some activities.

In China, however, senior citizens stay and live with their family members who take care of them in their old age, all the while living in the same house. This practice is an important part of Asian family customs and traditions.

  • Punctuality

In Western countries punctuality means that you have to be at a place right on time. However, in China and some other Asian countries, punctuality is not something that is taken very seriously and if a person is 10 to 15 minutes late, he is considered to be on time.

  • System of Living

There are many aspects of Chinese culture that the Western culture does not have. Chinese people do not believe in lining up in strict queues as Western people do. Instead they try to find a way to get things done in a less disciplined way.

There is also the fact that most Chinese people like to get involved in each other’s affairs whereas Western people are generally more detached and usually mind their own business. Another point of difference comes with regard to the level of respect accorded to superiors In China, people believe the boss/ruler to be above everyone else but in the West, the boss/ruler is considered a man of the people and one who is easily approachable.

These are just a few points of interest of Chinese and American cultural differences.

What always fascinated me was to see the lifestyle in “action” so to speak. Sitting in a factory and seeing the comings and goings of the facility all while having conversation over amazingly great tasting teas. And Chinese people in general take a great interest in our ways of life and culture. You’ll experience the culture in its writing, words, and history. Don’t be afraid to share your own experiences and stories too!



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