#14 Cultural contrasts in China

Food market streets in China - very popular
Food market streets in China – very popular

The more and more I travel through China, I learn about the cultural differences to Europe. A lot of things are fascinating, like getting to know the Buddhism religion and being a part of this one billion of people living in this country. For other things it is a completely new cultural experience like:

  • the toilets: first there are only on the ground to sit down, secondly it is normal to take your own toilet paper each time and to throw it in the bin next to the toilet. Third, some Chinese let the door of the toilet open to show that it is occupied! Absolutely the opposite of what I would expect – open means free
  • the strange hole in the pants of the children (read more in my article about Xi’an)
  • Entrance for students is most of the time half price! Yeah! (and over 60years as well)
  • the traffic: It is so crazy, the cars just don’t stop when people want to cross at the zebra, they just go on and motorcycles are so popular that they even behave like pedestrians and due to air pollution they have to drive with electric engine in the cities so they are very calm (read more in my article about Beijing)
  • the Chinese are kings in building fences, first they had the Great Wall and then all public streets have some kind of barrier, often a fence in the middle in the street so you cannot cross anywhere you like (not even if there is a bus station you need to reach) except there is an underground path or a construction above the street; additionally all parks are fenced off and you have to pay entry to get inside same with mountain areas – they are all built as a national park for tourists to pay (on the other side there are more facilities and jobs made of this)

–> same with fences for the internet: no Google, no Facebook, no YouTube (but I can recommend the free VPN “Psiphon”)

  • the Chinese food is not as the “China Box” we have in Germany – of course – but I thought it is maybe even more delicious but it is the opposite for me (for my mum it is easier): once we thought we ordered some yummy chicken skewer but it was only cartilages (the material from ear/ Knorpel)… in general vegetables are more rare and the food is very spicy, it is either soup with noodles or rice with meat but anyway it is very interesting to taste all the special food on the street market, once I ate really tasty fried bread with nice herbs there you can see the real China life with raw meat like chickens, parts of a pig, the viscera (different dead organs) of the animals or fried insects
  • Chinese speak really little English, every time I asked for the way it was a challenge to communicate, the same in the trains – even the young people where I would expect potential for foreign language only speak some words… but the translator is a handy thing and if you come closer to the big cities like Shanghai they speak more English, in Hong Kong almost everyone because it was an English colony
  • But nevertheless I have to say that the Chinese are very very friendly and always trying to help, they never accept presents or little offers, they only give you something (sometimes I was wondering if they think my things are poisoned or if it is really just a cultural thing)


  • They better say yes to a question even they don’t know the right answer just to be polite but in some cases it is important to admit of not knowing it like we took a completely wrong bus because of that and after driving half an hour we found it out and had to pay extra to get back and take the right one
  • the people: at the train stations or in the different cities I have been I wonder a lot where all these people come from, in Berlin it would be a popular football game if so many people come together as for a usual train in China and they all want to be on time and the first in the train – so be prepared for cuddeling!
Crazy metro train station in Beijing
Crazy metro train station in Beijing


One thing I could adapt to our German culture is that the Chinese men always carry the handbags of the women to help and care about them.


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