Expat Advice: Culture Shock in China, China
What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?
Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?
None, I spent 4 months living in San Ya, a resort city at the extreme southern tip of China's Hainan province.
Moving to China soon?
If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?
No; I didn't speak Chinese and can not read or write Chinese. This was the biggest difficulty and compounded the culture shock.
Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?
Some, not enough.
How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?
I wouldn't say that it came as a big surprise to me but it runs so deep through every facet of life from the simplest daily activities to the more complex aspects of relations.
Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?
I can't say that there were stages for me, but I left China after 2 years. My leaving wasn't directly due to cultural differences but as I said before cultural differences are involved in everything.
What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.
I can't say that I had any real reactions. I knew going in that the culture was very different and approached it with an open mind to change.
What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?
The ties to family and friends is much deeper and the reliance on others is far more of a necessity than in the US or anywhere else I have lived.
What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?
The difference of knowledge of such things as basic science and understandings of how and why things work the way they do is vast. It can be very trying to the patience and can be a significant problem in any type of emergency situation.
Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!
I had very good handlers so I did not commit any big mistakes. But I saw others do so. One example came when we went out to dinner with a large group of friends and family. The man who invited us, American, wanted to split the bill at the end of the night. This is NEVER done in China. I told him this but he didn't listen. He insisted that we calculate the bill at the table and came up with what he thought everyone should put in. From that day on he was branded a cheapskate and shunned by almost everyone. The word spreads quickly in China and in a few days all of the extended families and friends turned a cold shoulder to him in every way. In China the one who invites, or even suggests, going to a restaurant pays the entire bill, the wives of girlfriends will scrutinize it for any possible errors. It should be paid with no fanfare once the women OK the amount.
Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?
If you are not open to change in every aspect of life or are set in your ways living abroad may not be for you. Plan to live in your country of choice for at least 2 years before making major commitments. China didn't work out for me in the end and I now am living in Colombia, SA
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