Western Culture in China

China’s has a very unique, interesting, fun, and awesome culture. Much of their history and ancient ways of doing things are filled with color and lovely expressions. When most people think of China, I think they think about this part of Chinese culture, at least I did before coming to China.

That bubble of a dream is slowly bursted when you step in China’s mega cities and see everyone wearing normal clothes and the city is a nice “cement color”. Although, China does still has tons of interesting and fun culture.

I just want to share in this post about a part of Chinese culture that sticks out to me because I am a foreigner, and that is when Western culture meets China. China has a love/hate relationship with foreigners and foreign culture, but now in China there is a lot of foreign culture…with their own “spin” on it.

I think most of this comes from understanding the basic idea of the foreign culture and then just fitting it into their own system.

Here are a two fun examples:

Christmas: China “unofficially” celebrates many holidays that we do in the USA, such as Christmas. Christmas here has nothing to do with the birth of Christ (even though the name does) and they have abstracted the commercialism side of Christmas from America and added valentines day to it. So you might be going in to buy a Christmas gift and walk out with a heart shaped box of chocolates.

Ikea: We visited Ikea and it was ridiculous. There were people everywhere. I observed. On the “display” floor people weren’t just looking at how the rooms were setup, they were using the display items. There were kids sleeping in the bunk-beds, people eating food in the dining room display and a man with his shoes off asleep on the couch. Then as I approached the snack area looking for a hotdog, I noticed another clash taking place: cheap food and unlimited drinks. People would buy a cup of coffee or a drink cup and stand buy the machines, drinking and drinking and drinking. The hotdogs and ice-cream were so cheap I was amazed, so people were buying handfuls at a time. Then they would take the hotdogs over to the ketchup and mustard stand. Stare at these pumps for awhile and since it was unlimited self-serve, pump globs of mustard and ketchup on their hotdog until the hotdog was swimming in sauce.

Fun times.

Question: For those who have visited China, what are some other “Western Culture in China” things or situations that you have found interesting?

5 thoughts on “Western Culture in China

  1. tom hatley

    The singing of Americana songs with Chinese “hillbilly type” musical instruments. I was amazed by the older Chinese men singing and playing together in a court yard of a concrete city. It reminded me of my youth in East Tennessee, when neighbors would gather, sing, play, eat watermelon, and make homemade ice cream. “Hillbillys in Harbin” I loved it and they loved it that we loved it.

  2. Joseph

    You’re right that western and eastern culture doesn’t always mix. For instance, Ikea used to offer free coffee for those who visited their stores but had to stop when the senior citizen clubs overran their stores and basically turned them into senior citizens’ centers.

    However, I’m not sure China is that unusual when it comes to mixing cultures. For instance, in America some people–especially elementary schools–will “celebrate” Chinese new year. However, as a foreign holiday, you will see some blending of Chinese holidays in the observance. Americans will do the equivalence of giving valentine’s day candy on Christmas.

    Furthermore, when cultures collide in embarrassing ways, it is helpful to remember that cultures are not monolithic. For instance, there are quite a few Chinese that would be annoyed by those in their culture that would nap in Ikea or drown their hotdogs in ketchup. I would be careful about spotlighting cultural oddities. It tends to skew people’s view of the culture as a whole. We wouldn’t want someone going on and on about Americans who keep twenty junked cars in their lawn or grossly overeat at buffets.

    It’s interesting to note cultural oddities, but such talk can quickly give a false impression of a culture and can even offend members of that culture. God bless.

    1. Mark (China Ramblings!) Post author

      Hey Joseph, thanks for throwing water on the party. Just joking, but you are right, in no way would I want to offend or give a false impression of the culture.

      I hope most simply look at the post as fun and interesting. I hope most people understand that this doesn’t apply to every Chinese person, but in the context of 1) where the culture is mixing 2) from what I have experienced (which is a very small potion compared to the whole).

      Yes, some Chinese people may be annoyed the same way we are annoyed or embarrassed when someone does something similar in our culture. BUT I am not saying the way these things are taking place are wrong, just showing some of the difference and clashes from what we are use to.

      I don’t think your example about the Americans applies to this post but do know that Americans love to point out about their own weirdness, such as the guy with the cars in his yard and people who over-eat…we have TV shows dedicated to this! But this has nothing to do with the reverse of the post “Eastern Culture in America”.

      I am sure that there is a reverse to this post and we can look at Chinese holidays (etc.) celebrated and mixed with American culture and find some interesting and fun things as well.

      Thanks for the heads up and leaving a comment! God bless.

      Note: Many who read this blog are friends, supporters (etc.) and mainly people not living in China…thus post like this are meant to simply help people experience a little bit of what we do.


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