In this video, we will talk about the 6 biggest cultural differences between China and the west. We hope this Chinese lesson can help you get to better understand a bit about the differences in Chinese culture. Have you noticed anything else about cultural differences between the east and the west? Feel free to tell us.
When it comes to skin tones, Chinese people are very different from westerners. We think lighter/pale skin looks good. However, most westerners like to get a tan. There is a saying in China that goes “一白遮三丑(1 Paleness covers 3 unattractiveness)”, which means once you have a lighter skin tone, people would think you look more attractive.
Chinese people like not only pale skin, but also slimmer body shapes. Whether men or women, many of us like being slimmer. And Chinese people tend to talk about body shapes quite often when they meet, like “你瘦了! (You lost weight!)” or “你是不是胖了? (Did you gain weight?)”.
We don’t think it’s impolite to talk about body shapes, because if they say “You lost weight”, it implies you are in better shape; if they say “You gained weight”, it implies you have been eating very good food. Anyway, we won’t think they are rude.
2. 热水 vs 冰水
A lot of westerners like to drink cold water, even in the winter. However, Chinese people drink hot water in all seasons. If it gets too hot in the summer, we might drink lukewarm water. As we are so used to drinking hot water now and if we drink ice water all of a sudden, our stomach might not take it well.
3. 无现金社会 vs 现金社会
Another major difference between China and the west is how we pay. Most western countries use credit cards or cash, but in China, even in small towns, you can use WeChat or Alipay. People don’t even carry a wallet with them anymore, and a cell phone will take care of everything.
We can do so many things with our cell phones, such as shopping, taking the subway, renting a bike, getting a cab, and buying plane or train tickets. We can even pay rent and utilities on our phones. It is very convenient.
4. 坐月子 vs 不坐月子
Do you know what “Sitting the month” is? It refers to after childbirth, the mother will just stay in for a month, cannot be exposed in wind, cannot watch TV or play with her cell phone for long or even wash their hair or take a shower. Chinese people used to think this has a lot of health benefits for the mother. But people tend to think differently now. Now after child delivery, moms can wash her hair or take a shower. They will also open the window. However, as per the tradition, they will still rest at home for a month.
5. (食物)分享 vs 独食
China and the west also have different eating habits. Chinese people are used to sharing all dishes. But in the west, everyone just eats from their own plate. In addition, Chinese people eat with chopsticks, and westerners use knives and forks.
And there are a lot of chopsticks etiquettes, such as, avoid pointing your chopsticks at someone because it would be impolite; do not leave your chopsticks stuck vertically in your food because it’s considered unlucky (associated with death).
6. 回家打开礼物 vs 当面拆开礼物
When Chinese people receive gifts, we usually won’t open the gifts right in front of the people who gave us the gifts. We think it is impolite to do that. But in the west, if you don’t open your gifts right away, people might think you don’t like their gifts. In the west, opening gifts right in front of the people who gave them to you is considered polite.
Chinese people tend not to express our feelings very directly. And because of this, we don’t usually say “I love you” to our parents or our kids. We don’t hug our family much either.