As you strive to prepare yourself for the cross-cultural experience you will have as you enter China,
the best thing to remember is that
it is impossible to be totally prepared.
In fact, if we could boil all advice down to one simple phrase it would be this:
China is a dynamically changing country.
If you were there
two years ago, you can expect that it is already very different
than you remember it. The culture itself seems to evolve
almost as quickly as the scenery. New buildings appear "over
night" and new attitudes and expectations develop in
short amounts of time.
Don't assume anything.
There are some constants that seem
to remain but it is dangerous to assume anything is truly
a constant. Prepare yourself to forever be a student of the
Chinese culture and be willing to flex with the changes.
This aspect of China can be very unnerving for an American
used to scheduling plans on a calendar but, if you are able
to lay that aside, you may find your life in China to be
a refreshing change of pace from your day to day life in
It is vitally important to get along with the
The fascinating part of China beyond its
history and appearance, is the people. One word has been
used to describe the Chinese people, “inscrutable.” In
the young people, this quality is not as evident. Young people
are very open, direct, and honest. My friends will tell me
what they think.
The Chinese people are very caring.
Although emotional responses are generally outwardly hidden
in public, the Chinese people are very caring. Emotions and feelings are generally
not displayed openly in public, although there are exceptions, especially among
young couples showing affection in public. My friends are always eager to communicate
quickly with me and can be quite outspoken. China is changing very fast.
Speaking frankly can unnerve older, traditional
A westerner must show great patience in conversation
and follow the dialogue with reservation. You may have to
wait for discussion before you receive an answer to your
question or a response to your idea.
Among the young people I have spoken to, they get
to the point almost immediately, are very open, and not like
their elders of years past.
Anger is seen as a weakness.
On occasion, you will notice that relevant facts and information that are obvious to the Chinese person are missing in the conversation. It’s a good idea to check on arrangements very carefully.
You will be stared at from time to time.
Don’t take it personally. It’s simply harmless
curiosity. The westerner is still a new experience in China.
Privacy is an alien notion to the Chinese.
Modesty is in fashion.
Jokes about sexual or political themes are inappropriate
in China. Women are generally well covered and modestly dressed.