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10 Culture Shocks in China

Food in China

Maybe you’ve learned that China has a lot of delicious food and can’t wait to taste. But I’d like to remind you that because of the huge difference in food culture between China and the West, you may be surprised or confused with many dishes in China. For example, generally speaking, western food is not subjected to a complicated cooking process and usually preserves the ingredients in their original flavour or state. But in China, every dish, whether it is stir-fried, pan-fried, deep-fried, or boiled, requires at least two steps to prepare, and some complex dishes even require more than five steps to cook.

On top of that, there are dishes in China that you may not understand. For example, mushrooms (called Jun zi in the local dialect) are especially popular in Yunnan. But as a wild food, not everyone is used to the flavor. Also, Chinese food is usually cooked with a lot of oil compared to some Western meals, and many of the dishes can be quite spicy, so it can be extremely not accustomed to some Westerners with a lighter taste.

Staring and Pointing

In almost places, foreign tourists to China attract a lot of attention in public, especially those who are blond or fair-skinned. People will frequently point their fingers in your general direction to identify you to friends and relatives while giving you an open, expressionless stare. Pointing is often accompanied with the word “laowai”. You will hear the term often, but don’t be offended; people are generally just out of curiosity but not unfriendly. You don’t need to be afraid to make friends with Chinese people.

Personal Space

If someone approaches you a bit too closely when speaking to you or if passengers calmly cram up against you on crowded public transportation, don’t take it offensive. Chinese people do not have the same understanding of personal buffer space as Westerners have because of the vast population.


Language would definitely be included in these 10 culture shocks. In terms of language systems, Western languages (like English) and Chinese are two completely different language families. Chinese is a Sino-Tibetan language family and English belongs to Indo-European language family. There may be more language barriers than you believe, because language is more than just the surface, as we said learning a language is actually learning the culture of that country.

If you study abroad in China. Chinese language always comes first as you know about Chinese culture. Therefore, learning Chinese in China in an immersive language environment with immersion mandarin course is the perfect choice for you, and Keats School, with a history of nearly 20 years, will be the perfect choice for you to indulge in Chinese culture.

Umbrella in Sunshine

You may notice people with umbrellas on a sunny day, and you may feel confused. It has something to do with the Chinese standard of beauty where having whiter skins is desired instead of the western idea of tan is generally accepted. So girls will go out of their way to ensure that they avoid the sun with umbrellas.

Don’t be surprised if you see people with umbrellas on sunny days on the street, and it’s as common as many westerners enjoy sunbathing and just out of an aesthetic difference. There are also people who use umbrellas to prevent sunburn and heatstroke, since the sun in summer is really scorching in most parts of China.

Strong Family Connections

Chinese natives have very strong family bonds. There is such a big connection that you will see grandparents taking care of their grandchildren. Grandparents in China love to enjoy their lives by helping raise and teach the next generation of children about the history of their family roots and culture. In Western countries, you will see this, however, you will see more grandparents retired taking care of their pets, or having their hobbies. It is a very loving and family-oriented environment in China.

Mobile Phone Usage

It is not uncommon to see people gathered together around a table simply on their mobile phones. Phones will almost always be on the table next to the owner and constantly checked. Social media in China is various too, and many will be on their phones addicted to the latest apps. Many foreigners who have just arrived in China may find it strange why there are so many people looking at their cell phones on the subway or in the streets. Some foreigners also want to learn the common apps for living in China.

Escalators in China

A foreign friend of mine told me that when he takes the escalator in a shopping mall or subway station in China, he will find a phenomenon that he think really inconvenient. Chinese people don’t seem to mind where they stand on the escalator, and will often stand side by side if they have friends with them. But in many Western countries, people usually stand on the right side of the escalator, leaving the left side free for people in a hurry to get through quickly. I have to admit it’s a good habit to get into, especially if you’re running late for work, and the people in front of the escalator can be annoying. But it doesn’t mean that Chinese people are rude and ill-mannered. If you’re in a hurry, you can just say to the person in front of you: “借过”, and people will make way for you immediately.

Hot Water

For Chinese people, hot water (re shui) solves all problems. This doesn’t stop at period pain, either. Ladies would avoid drink cold water during their period. And if you get cold, you may hear some people say: drink more hot water, and that will help you get better. Also, if you want a hot drink (even a simple glass of water) in a Chinese restaurant or drink store, most restaurants can provide it. But in western countries, if you ask for a cup of hot water in a restaurant, people will think it’s so weird.

Public Transportation

In contrast to American cities, public transportation in China is incredibly convenient. While some foreigners may find it difficult to live without their own cars, but you can easily get around China by using public transportation. There are many different types of public transportation in China, including buses, metros, and shared bikes and e-bikes. Sometimes using a personal vehicle won’t be faster than using public transit because of the traffic jam. If you’re intending to travel to multiple locations in China this time, you can consider taking the high-speed train rather than an airplane. You’ll be astounded by the train’s speed.

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