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Born in the UK but now living in Australia, Paul Fox has travelled to many places throughout China. He has seen the lighter side, the darker side, both the gentle and the seedy sides. He documents his experiences and is willing to share them with anyone who wants to listen. He is not afraid to say things exactly how he sees them, and is quite happy to "name and shame" when necessary.
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Life In China    

By Paul Fox
3463 Views | 5 Comments | 9/13/2017 12:55:34 PM

Thanks to China’s rapid economic growth, the culture shock you are likely to experience in China's cities is much more subtle than in rural areas.

China has a long and rich history of doing things its own way, which almost certainly creates a few raised eyebrows, especially for the unprepared Westerner.

It's been said many times before here on CLM, that China is 'different'. Whether you regard these differences as being positive or negative, the culture of China is strange indeed, and the Chinese certainly have a knack of doing unique things that can certainly shock first-time visitors to the Middle Kingdom.

Here's a list of 10 things you really need to know about China:


To the Chinese, what they call “face” is mega-important - it's known as “mianzi” in Mandarin.

In English, “mianzi” means “face, dignity, prestige, and reputation”.

“Losing face”, in other words losing dignity, is a Chinese person's worst fear, and to many, "face" can be even more important than truth or justice.

In order to maintain their dignity, Chinese people often tend to avoid any kind of conflict if they feel that they may potentially "lose face". So much so, that often it's a total waste of time trying to have a 'sensible argument' with a Chinese person, since you'll never convince them that you're 'right' if there's a liklihood that it means they may be 'wrong'. They would much rather remain polite, accommodating, and do their best to keep their word.

2. Relationships

Relationships matter, and in China it’s called “guanxi”. The term "guanxi" can be better understood as meaning “personal contacts”, and isn’t something that should be under-estimated. It doesn’t only revolve around the family, but it’s also extremely important when it comes to business.

When a foreigner wants to do business in China, it isn’t just a case of the business owner presenting the product and price, to them, building "guanxi" is the only way to succeed.

3. Food

China is a ridiculously huge country and different regions have their own unique style of cooking.

Whilst Chinese food is popular in the West, perhaps the most influential style is Cantonese cuisine, (Hong Kong style). It's this style of Chinese cooking that generally dominates most Chinese restaurants in Western countries, but there are heaps of other well-known styles too.

For instance, Sichuan cuisine is famous for being hot-and-spicy. If you look at the menu in your local Chinese restaurant in the West, you'll probably see dishes called 'Szechuan style' - this is Sichuan-style food.

Chinese food traditions are abundant throughout the country, however, don't be surprised to see all kinds of 'weird' stuff available to eat, including turtles, animal intestines, as well as the heads of ducks and chickens.


4. Sentiment. 'You owe me a favour'

Human sentiment is known in Chinese as “renqing” and is closely related to the previously mentioned "guanxi" and "mianzi", and is just as important.

Essentially, the general rule is this: “If you have received any kind of favour from another person, you should expect to return that favour many times over”.

A Chinese person who has asked a favour from you will automatically feel obliged to return it if and when you have the need to ask them for something.

5. Politeness

Being polite, or “ke qi” as it's called, is not just about 'please' and 'thank you' in China.

In Chinese culture it's more about being modest and humble. Perhaps a good example of this is when receiving gifts. When a Chinese person receives a gift, he or she won’t open it immediately in front of the gift-giver, preferring instead to open it later in order to show respect, and the fact that the gift is not "important".

Like we say in the West "It’s the thought that counts".

Also, Chinese people often show humility when receiving a compliment. This always makes me laugh because many Chinese women actually 'fish' for compliments. When you eventually catch on to what they are doing and then pay them a compliment, they go all shy.

6. Hot and Noisy is good

"Hot and noisy" in Chinese is “renao”. I guess you could say the atmosphere is "renao" if the place is bustling or lively, busy and exciting. Commonly used at parties and large gatherings, it can also be used to describe busy shopping malls, etc.

Whilst huge crowds are often regarded by us Westerners as being uncomfortable, Chinese people often regard them as being "successful" with a feeling of "social belonging".

7. Cutting in Line

This one REALLY winds me up! Other than sheer ignorance and laziness, it’s hard to find a reason why Chinese people push in front of you whilst you are waiting in a line. Of course, not all people do it, but it's damned irritating when they do.

While waiting to buy a train ticket for example, there’s always a chance that some idiot – or even a group of them – that will try to push into the line. Strangely enough, some people don't seem to mind, but on the odd occasion that it's happened to me, I physically pushed them away and shouted "houmian qu!", which means "get to the back!"

8. Red is lucky, but not for names.

Never write anyone's name using red ink, (except your mother-in-law's, lol) Apparently, in ancient times, red ink was used only for the dead.

These days, writing a name in red means either the person will die soon, or you simply wish they would.

9. Strange and wonderful buildings

You really can't miss some of the strange and wonderful architecture in some Chinese cities. From a 'teapot' to a 'fire extinguisher' whether you think they are 'tacky', or 'awesome', you've really got to hand it to the Chinese for their outstanding construction abilities. Here's a link to an MSN page where you can see a selection for yourself.|36

10. Piracy

Movies, training shoes, designer handbags, watches, Pizza Hut, KFC, Starbucks, you name it, everything can be copied in China. Buying fake goods is perfectly OK just so long as you are not paying 'genuine' prices.


(Thanks to NiuBai Panda for some of the photos and ideas contained in this article)

Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
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#2017-09-13 12:55:09 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

Great blog, Paul, for our newcomers. It will all be very helpful and is all very important to understanding the way Chinese interact and think.

I'd like to add a bit to the section on food. While what you wrote is accurate, I think there are a few other angles to be looked at when discussing food in China.

One is that while you mention how popular Chinese food is in the west, it should be noted that guys going to China to visit or live are not going to actually find any of the Western Chinese food they've come to love in China. Not unless your favorite Chinese restaurant back in hometown, USA (or UK, or Canada, or Australia, etc.), happens to be one of the very few where the Chinese cook is cooking authentic Chinese food for the enjoyment of authentic Chinese customers. Normal Western Chinese is a sorry imitation of real Chinese food.

Two is that amongst the great variety of Chinese food you will find in China, you will sometimes come across the weirdest dishes you can imagine. They are often very hard to look at, let alone eat. I once had to chase down a raw snake organ (unkowning as to what the organ was) with a glass of the same snake's blood because it was customary for the lucky guest of honor to be rewarded with this health enhancing treat. Fish are often served with the head still attached, and the eyes are considered a delicacy. Depending where you are, multiple types of insects might be on the menu. And the snake whose blood I enjoyed soooo much was only one of over 40 varieties that could be ordered in a restaurant that served only dishes with snake in them. Be prepared to be shocked.

Three, food is possibly the number one preoccupation of Chinese people. It is absolutely one of the primary focuses of Chinese culture. Just ordering dinner in a restaurant can take an hour, and eating it another 2 to 3 more. Every meal is an important social event not to be taken lightly.

NOTE Paul, that for me, on Chrome, your link took me to MSN.Com news page, but not one where I could find the story you described. If you can send me a better link I'll get that fixed for you.

#2017-09-13 20:42:10 by spiderboenz @spiderboenz

As to the line cutting... I'm fairly certain that it is one of the after-effects of the "Cultural Revolution," the "Great Leap Forward," and the massive starvation that they caused. There were not enough resources, so if a person could not get to the front of the group, they wouldn't get anything.

#2017-09-14 02:09:24 by anonymous16540 @anonymous16540

LOL Paul you are a funny guy. Loved this post of yours. One thing I would add is the fact that most of the people will stare at you, the women for the most part with admiring eyes the men more with laser beams of death if you happen to be with a chinese woman. lol

The food is as you say..I would also add in the supermarkets the frogs tend to jump out of the bins frequently, the fish in the tanks are dying at an alarmingly high rate and the net wrapped turtles are very difficult to look at. Bleeding out a goat on a side street is not uncommon so be prepared. 

One thing I find amuzing is the men tend to try to stand beside you to see  if they are shorter or taller than you. People tend to yell into their cellphones with abandon not caring if the next province over hears them lol

Oh Yah!! almost forgot to mention..Chinese women LOVE TO FLIRT with westerners so dont get your johnson in a knot if you find yourself the recipient of many many flirting looks and smiles from the abundentl beautiful women. If you are with a chinese woman when this happens it is your fault lol if the flirtee gets a little too agressive be prepared for your woman to go to war with the other woman! Been there done that....

The architecture is crazy although I am not sure these buildings are up to western codes. The elevators scare the shit out of me as they swing side to side or rumble and shake terrilby.


I am sure Barry and a few others could chime in on this blog as well.

Thanks for this blog Paul

#2017-09-20 20:21:31 by paulfox1 @paulfox1


Hi, glad you enjoyed it and I'm sorry for my late response. What you have said is 100% true, I have experinced it all and documented it here in past blogs

Although I'm now back in Australia, I have totally enjoyed the last 3 years in China, and I relished the chance to be submerged in its culture. It was truly an eye-opening and wonderful experience for me on all levels.


#2017-09-20 20:33:01 by paulfox1 @paulfox1


Couple of things...

Firstly, the link I enclosed in the blog is no longer active and I can't find another - perhaps it was BS (Chinese social media is full of BS)

A few nights ago I went out to a 'Chinese restaurant' here in Perth for the first time in nearly 4 years - it was total sh*t !

To think that for many years I had enjoyed Western 'Chinese food' before actually eating REAL Chinese food in China

The crap that we are fed in Chinese restaurants in the West is NOTHING compared to the stuff we can eat in China

Total rip-off!

I spoke to the (allegedly) Chinese owner and asked her for 3 dishes (in Chinese)

She hadn't got a clue!

One of my favourite dishes in China is tomato-and-egg (fanqie chao dan) - and it is a country-wide dish that's available in just about every restaurant in China - whether or not it's on the menu - they'll cook it for you in 2 minutes.

The owner of this place just looked at me with a blank stare

Needless to say that I won't be hurrying back !

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