In almost any major city in the world today it is a certainty that you would find a local community of ethnic Chinese. While many of these communities have long since assimilated themselves into their respective local communities, they still do uphold much of the culture and social practices of their ethnic background.
With such a widespread presence, learning key aspects of their culture will prove especially helpful when it comes to business and social interactions, be it in China or your local Chinatown.
A famous Chinese social psychologist divided relationships among the Chinese into three main categories:
1. Affective- Relationships with family members and close friends.
2. Instrumental- Relationships with parties with whom one deals with in order to achieve practical ends.
3. Mixed or ‘guanxi’– Relationships that have both an affective and instrumental dimension.
China is known to be one of the oldest civilizations in the world. The Chinese have been the largest nationality in the world for centuries and their wisdom and hard-working nature has resulted in great contributions towards the ‘Four Great Inventions’ (the compass, gunpowder, paper-making, and printing), agriculture, and manufacturing. They have also developed beautiful art forms such as dance and calligraphy. Hence, they pride themselves for their cultural heritage and take every effort to pass traditions down to the next generation.
The Chinese strive for modesty and humility, and it takes time to understand their ways of life and living. They are reserved and more traditional in their outlook than many other cultures. Being cordial is the best way to go, but don’t be surprised if you do not get the reaction you expected. The Chinese take some time to open up, and unless you are really close to them, they will not indulge in an embrace. Cordial behaviour and a reserved approach while travelling through China will help you understand them gradually.
It is not a coincidence that in Chinese the word “No” does not exist. They have a variation of that, which is not “yes” or “búshì”. Unless the circumstances are extreme, always remember that the Chinese will never say no. It is usually either a yes, or a maybe.
In Chinese culture, much like the Japanese and oriental cultures, respect is critical. They live by a simple philosophy: “You get what you give back”. In this manner, they treat others with respect as they themselves would like to be treated. And expect that their hard work will be rewarded.
The Chinese place special emphasis on the family unit, which includes extended family members. The head of the family is usually the eldest male and will help plan family gatherings, mediate family disagreements, and support other family members in need. Ensuring that the honour of the family name is upheld is also of utmost importance.
Celebrate the differences and embrace Chinese culture for a better travel experience during your visit to China.
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