Visiting China for the 1st time?


Here are 4 remarkable cultural differences westerners should know about.

Sometimes there are things that feel so normal and self-evident, but when you go somewhere new, all these beliefs are immediately challenged and leave you wondering what is going on. There are huge cultural differences between countries, especially if they are on different continents. In this article, you will read about 4 surprising cultural differences between China and the West.

Cashless Society

In the west, we are used to paying in cash or via credit card, in China however that is a thing of the past. In 2011 the Chinese company Alipay designed a new payment method, which became so popular that by 2018 it accounted for 83% of all payments. The new payment method allows people to pay just by scanning a QR code, which is extremely fast and easy. You do not have to worry about forgetting your wallet anyone, your only concern is if your phone is out of power or not. It is so popular now that it is even used by beggars on the streets.

Eating habits

The first thing you will notice when you go to a restaurant and ask for water is that if you do not specify, you will get warm water. For us in the west cold water is normal, in China however everyone drinks warm water as it is considered to be good for the health.
Another difference when it comes to eating is that in the west everybody has their individual dish, in China however everyone is sharing the dishes on the table. So, do not freak out if you are eating with friends and they suddenly take your fries.
Chopsticks taboos: there are 2 things you should not do: 1 do not point your chopsticks at a person, it is impolite; 2 never leave your chopsticks stuck on the food vertically, as it is associated with incense sticks used in funerals, it is considered to be bad luck.

Social norms and Business formalities

In China, one’s reputation is extremely important. There is a concept called maintaining face, which is about treating everyone as if they are the same rank and not diminishing, publicly criticizing, or directly rejecting anyone. Having said that, being humble is also an important part of maintaining face. In the west we just say, “thank you” when someone gives us compliments, in China, however, people have to be humble and deflect the compliment by saying “Nálǐ nálǐ”.When it comes down to business relationships the two cultures have one thing in common, it is not about what you know, but who you know. The difference is however that the relationship-building process in China takes years. It is not enough just to know a bit about the prospect partner, one must understand their relationships with different parties and their background.

Social Media

Since we live in a digital era this difference can be a tough one for most people. Most western social media platforms and websites are blocked in China and replaced with their Chinese counterparts. Some examples are Google, which is replaced by Baidu. YouTube’s Chinese counterpart is Youku, and Weibo is Twitter’s substitute. Conclusion
When visiting a foreign country, a culture shock is inevitable, however knowing a little something about the culture can soften the blow. This article sheds a light on 4 major differences between Chinese and Western culture. The 4 differences described here are: China being a Cashless Society, their eating habits, social norms & business formalities, and finally social media. Learning about these differences might make your first visit to China a lot less stressful.

Find more out more about the author Edis and get in contact with him here.

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