What should I not do when I visit China?


回答者Teresa Peng, A BBC linguist and foodie, living and working in China for 7 years

I'm a British-born Chinese and have been living in China for 7 years and I think the answer to this question depends on what you mean by "shouldn't".

Things which may not be culturally acceptable might include:
1. Don't stick your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice (it looks like the incense burnt for the dead).
2. Don't call anyone of an older generation by their name, it's considered disrespectful. Best to call them Aunty or Uncle.
3. Avoid controversial topics: politics, sexuality, human rights, etc.

Things which are not advisable might include:
1. Do not put your bag on the floor, because probably at some point someone has spit, peed, pooped or any combination of the three in the same spot.
2. Depending on how brave you are, don't ask what meat is in a dish if you'd rather not know. There are delicious foods here if you can turn a blind eye to what it once was.

Most importantly, in my time here I've learnt not to be surprised by anything and to keep an open mind. I used to look down on things like the peeing in the streets, the dancing ladies in the squares, the lack of any concept of personal space or hygiene or the rats running by whilst I'm in the middle of my dinner. In the end, I decided to get off my high horse and just accept it for what it is: a fascinatingly different culture. I have no right to say my own culture is better than that of the Chinese and I think there's a huge amount we can learn from each other. You shouldn't come here with preconceptions.




dancing lady in the squares:广场舞大妈

the lack of concept of personal space or hygiene:没有私人空间意识,不讲卫生

get off my high horse:放下身段


Culture difference:“按照中国的习惯,小辈通常不能以名字称呼长辈(甚至哥哥、姐姐),而在西方,子女对父母(甚至孙子、孙女称呼祖父母)直呼其名是一种亲切的表示。一次,我去一位美国朋友家做客,初次见面时,他家4岁的孩子叫我“Mr. Chen”,去过几次后小家伙见了我老远就喊:“Dezhang, come here and see my new toys!”这表明他已把我当成他的好朋友。”《陈德彰:做“老子”也未必占便宜》



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