Modern Western culture has spread throughout the world, and as English teachers in China, it can be argued that we are helping to spread it. Some may consider this to be a form of neocolonialism, while other may consider it to be bringing a civilizing effect. Both arguments are with reason, but despite the spread of Americana and Western ways, Chinese culture still remains strong. In this article, we will explore some of the most shocking, differences between life in the United States of America and Life in China.
No TP For Your Bunghole
Cornholio of Beavis and Butt-Head infamy would have a fit living in Mainland China. Most public restrooms lack toilet paper since people coming from rural areas would likely steal it to use it at home. People in America are probably used to taking extra napkins or straws from fast food restaurants, but taking toilet paper really takes the cake! Some public restrooms in China do not have soap either for the same reason.
No Drying Machines
If you want to clean your clothes at home, you will likely have to hang them up to dry. Portable dryer tents are sold in major appliance stores and at Wal-Mart, but built-in dryers are not seen as a necessity in the Middle Kingdom like they are in American homes and apartments. Chinese people prefer to hang their clothes, which can be very inconvenient, especially in southern China where it is humid and rainy for large parts of the year. Most larger cities have easy access to dry-cleaners at metro stations, however, and given how services are generally cheaper in China, getting your clothing cleaned won't break your bank.
Being a Good Samaritan Doesn't Pay
In the United States of America, states have Good Samaritan laws to protect people that help others in distress. Such laws do not exist in China. In fact, people often completely ignore cries for help in something that is known as the “bystander effect.” This is at least partially due to the fact that some people in China will fake injury to get over on others, or will blame those that are trying to render assistance. In the Middle Kingdom, it is often better to mind your own business and just keep walking.
The Great Firewall
Do you love Facebook, Twitter, and Google? If you are planning a trip to China, then you are going to have to learn to do without. Life without these sites can be frustrating, but you can always learn to use Chinese alternatives such as RenRen, Weibo, and Baidu. If you absolutely cannot live without the comforts of Western Internet, you can always invest in a VPN which allows the “Great Firewall” to be circumvented. Be careful with this though because using a VPN to access sites blocked by the Chinese Communist Party is illegal.
As Chinese as Red Bean Pie
Western fast food like McDonald's and KFC are easy to find in China. Certain food items like apple pies might be hard to find though. American companies in China must appeal to local tastes, so what is on the menu might be a bit different from what you are used to. Some things, like squid burgers, might seem really strange, but they are worth trying. You might end up being reverse culture shocked when you can't find red bean pie or other items at McDonald's back home in the States!
No Fortune Cookies?
Just like American chain restaurants in China must appeal to local tastes, Chinese food in America is designed to be marketed to Americans. In China, you cannot expect a fortune cookie at the end of your meal. Depending on the province that you are in, the food might be something that you are not used to at all. If you are going to China expecting to eat what you are used to calling Chinese food in America, then it is best to take a trip to Guangdong province, since Cantonese food is the closest to what is most common in the USA.
Still Living at Home in Your Twenties
In America, it is common for kids to move out of their parents' houses when they go to college, or at least after they graduate and find a job. In China, it is common for kids to still be living at home well into their twenties if they are not yet married. It is even common to find men and women in their thirties living at home who have never had a date. This is changing, especially in bigger cities, but traditionally, Chinese people (especially women) are to remain chaste until marriage. Foreign influence (yours truly included) is changing that. The upside to this is that it saves money, and in a world where it is difficult to find stable employment, this living arrangement is also becoming more and more common in the United States.
A Sense of Community
In China, there is a stronger sense of community than there is in the general American society, where individualism is more prized. Adult children are more likely to listen to their parents as if they were still in kindergarten. This might seem restrictive to some, but it also has its perks. One such perk comes at mealtime when meals are shared. This gives a sense of togetherness that is not found in America where everyone gobbles down their own dish. Not to mention that it gives us a chance to sample a variety of delicious foods!
Life in China can be a shock for those of us used to life in the West, but new experiences are very rewarding. Although some things that you see there may be shocking, others inconvenient, and others yet absolutely disgusting, but a change from the monotony of the United States made life a lot more interesting for me. Keep an open mind in your travels; you never know what differences you might actually enjoy, or better yet be able to learn from or capitalize off of.