August 18, 2013, by Tony Hong

The Differences between Western and Chinese Culture

By Abigail Hopcroft,

Studying Sport, PE and Coaching Science at the University of Birmingham UK.

After visiting Shanghai and Ningbo, trying to compare Western and Chinese culture is like trying to compare day and night. The cultural difference is open to interpretation and is a question of perspectives, beliefs and values; not all Western things are good, and not all things Chinese are bad. Learning to appreciate the differences between the two cultures is important and helps to broaden the understanding of cultural differences. 

Western cultures are based on individualism rather than collectivism. For instance in many Western societies, there is an emphasis on individual rights rather than placing the whole society above one self. This is clearly different in China where the country, society or family are based above one self.

There are many day to day differences in culture that can be noticed imminently. When it comes to greeting people in China, Chinese people tend to greet each other by asking questions such as have you had dinner and where are you going; this would very much confuse Westerners as they would see their way of greeting as a general questions. In Western societies questions like this would not be asked when greeting someone, Westerns would simply say “hello, how are you?”. There is also no distinction between formal and informal greetings in China. However in Western societies it is polite to shake hands in formal situations.

Etiquette is something that Westerners seem to be much more hard up on than in China. Table manners and general politeness and customer service seem to be apparent in Western countries.  For example Westerners would not pick up a bowl off the table when eating, they would also not eat off their cutlery. In China this is the way in which they eat. They do not use a knife and fork like in Western societies. Instead chopsticks are used and bowls are picked up off the table. The Chinese eat off their chopsticks and do not cut up food. The way in which meals are presented is also very different in the two cultures. In China, dishes will be placed in the middle of the table for everyone to share. In Western countries, everyone will choose an individual dish.

When it comes to the weather in China, there can be very hot days and very rainy days. In Western countries there can also be very hot days and very rainy days. The difference is in China an umbrella will be used whether is it raining or whether it is hot, however in Western societies the umbrella will only be used in the rain. The Chinese like to protect their skin from the sun, they prefer to be pale. This is the complete opposite to many Westerners who worship the sun in order to get a tan.

Another major difference in the two cultures is the work ethic of the Chinese when compared with the work ethic of many Western countries. The Chinese appear to work very hard, especially when compared with English people. They get up very early and go to bed much earlier. They don’t appear to have a drinking culture and their main focus is to be able to provide for their families and achieve a good education to allow them to do so. A lot of pressure is put on the younger Chinese generation in education to be able to provide for parents and grandparents due to the One Child Policy so they do not want to disappoint.

After a short period of time in China it is obvious that the differences in Western and Chinese cultures are endless and explains the culture shock that Westerners experience when visiting China and the Chinese also experience when visiting Western countries. 

Posted in Uncategorized