New Cultural Understandings


  • In China, they use the Chinese unit measure of “jīn” (斤) for a lot of things. There are 500 grams in 1 jin. There is 1.1 jin in 1 pound (or 0.91 pounds in 1 jin). You will use this in the market place.
  • Body Weight (体重 tǐzhòng): When you are asked for your body weight at a health checkup in China, you need to give the answer in kilograms. There is 2 jin in 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds in 1 kilogram. Therefore, you need to be able to do the calculations (you can use an app for this). If your weight is 150 lb. then you would need to tell them 68 kg.
  • So if you are keeping up with the weights:
    • 1 jin is equal to 500 grams or 0.5 kilograms or 1.1 pounds.
    • 1 kilogram is 1000 grams or 2 jin or 2.2 pounds.
    • 1 pound is 453.59 grams or 0.45 kilograms or 0.91 jins.
  • Body Height (身高 shēngāo): When you are asked for your height at a health checkup in China, you need to give the answer in centimeters. There are 2.45 centimeters in 1 inch (or 0.39 inches in 1 centimeter). There are 30.48 centimeters are in 1 foot (or 0.033 feet are in 1 centimeter). Therefore, you need to be able to do the calculations (you can use an app for this). If your height is 6 feet tall then you would need to tell them 183 cm.
  • Chinese words to know: 斤 jīn; 公斤 gōngjīn kilograms; 克 kè grams; 磅 bàng pound—(this is a loanword and is rarely used in China, so you will not use it in daily life)


  • In China, dates are written with the year first, month second, and date third. Think about this as writing the largest to the smallest. Therefore, an American date that would normally be written as 11/04/1865 (month/date/year) in China would be written 1865/11/04 (year/month/date). This will include all dates and birthdays.
  • In China, birthdays are calculated differently and it can be a little confusing. When a baby is born they start with days, then they give the age in weeks, and then in months. (There is a celebration when the baby reaches 30 days old and the mother ends the month resting period, traditionally they did a 100 days celebration.) There are two main ways to calculate a person’s age:
    • (1) 虚岁 xūsuì – Chinese Traditional Method – This means a person’s age is equal to the number of Chinese calendar years in which they have lived. A person is 1-year-old when they are born (not 0) because they lived in that year. Then it increases by one year on Chinese new year.
    • The above calculation doesn’t mean it is automatically 2 years difference. Americans increase by one year on the exact date. Thus, if today’s date is August 13, 2017, and man (A) was born May 2, 1984, and man(B) was born on November 11, 1984, then in China both men would be considered 34-years-old, but in America one man (A) is 33 and man (B) is 32 years old.
    • (2) 周岁 zhōusuì – To say your actual (legal) age use these words (三十二周岁 sānshíèr zhōusuì 32-years-old).
  • Ultimately, to avoid confusion, you can just give the year that you were born in.
  • Chinese words to know: 年 nián year; 月 yuè month; 日 rì day.


  • In China, names usually consist of two or three Chinese characters with the surname being one character in length and the “first name” having one or two characters. The order of a name is also different from the American order. Chinese names start with the Surname (姓 xìng) follow by the “first name” (名字 míngzi). For example, the last name 张 zhāng would be written first, followed by his “first name” 振宇 zhènyǔ and would be written as the following: 张振宇 zhāng zhènyǔ.
  • In China, many people also have nicknames and often use them around friends and family. If you don’t know someone it is common just to give them your surname and not your whole name.
  • In China, titles follow the surname. For example, you would say (surname) 张 zhāng (teacher) 老师 lǎoshī and write it all together as 张老师 zhāng lǎoshī.
  • In China, it is also common to call a person a “family title” based on their age in relation to yourself. For example, a child would call another child younger than him “little brother (弟弟 dìdi)” or “little sister (妹妹 mèimei)”. He would call another child older than him “older brother (哥哥 gēge)” or “older sister (姐姐 jiějie)”. He would call someone the same age as his parents “uncle (叔叔 shūshu)” or “aunt (阿姨 āyí)”. He would call someone as old as his grandparents “grandpa (爷爷 yéye)” or “grandma (奶奶 nǎinai)”. Also, you can add the surname of the person before this title, for example, (surname) 王 wáng (aunt) 阿姨 āyí and write it all together as 王阿姨 wáng āyí.
  • In China, there is a different title for every person in your family based on their relation to you and the side of the family they are on. Thus, for a child, the grandparents on the mom’s side would have different titles that grandparents on the dad’s side. This gets confusing and will be learned as you study the language.


  • In China, when you to the gas station (加油站 jiāyóuzhàn) to get gas you will be charged by the liter and not the gallon. There are 3.79 liters in 1 gallon (or 0.26 gallons in 1 liter).
  • In China, when you drive a car, the speed limit will be posted in kilometers per hour (kph) and not miles per hour (mph). The calculations for the difference in speed is as follows: 1.61 kph is 1 mph (or 0.62 mph is 1 kph). Therefore, if you are traveling at 30 kph you are only traveling at 18.64 mph.
  • Chinese words to know: 加满 jiāmǎn fill up; 换机油 huàn jīyóu oil change.


  • In China, you can use one hand to count to 10. (See illustration)
  • In China, counting is also different from its English counterpart. In Chinese, counting from  1-9999 is very logical and easy to remember. But it gets confusing for the English learner because the numbers are not grouped by “three zeroes” as in English but they are grouped by “four zeroes”. Which generally means the higher the number, the more confusing it gets.
  • In China, there is a lot of superstition connect to numbers. Some are lucky (6, 8) and some are not lucky (4). There are also many things associated with how the numbers sound when they are put together.

Although some of these may vary based on region, this is what we learned in the Northeast.