Differences Between Chinese Culture & Western Culture

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Tourists to China, students and businessmen, experience a cultural shock when first going there. The same is true for people who travel from China, not only to western European countries, but also from the Americas.

Traditions, values and beliefs play an important part in any culture, as they define a group's, so they should be valued as such.


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The Chinese have a strong sense of community. They generally think first in terms of "we" rather than "I," which is the western culture's way of thinking. Society, friends and family are valued above the self. Stability and harmony are concepts the Chinese observe, especially the elder ones, and they believe the way to achieve these concepts is through respecting others and deserving their respect in return. Wisdom, seniority and ability are important Chinese values, unlike Westerners who respect wealth, achievement and business success.


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China is officially considered an atheist country. Most Chinese practices are related to religious and superstitious beliefs rooted in Confucianism, Buddhist and Taoist principles. Eastern religions (especially Buddhism) believe in one reality; all creatures are equally valued, and humans can become better through enlightenment. The major Western religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) consider both material and non-material realities; only humans are important, and people become better if they control their sinful thoughts and deeds.

Family and Relationships

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Family is the fundamental element of Chinese society. Members of a family generally live together or nearby. They help and support one another and respect the elders and parents. They are friendly with other people, but believe strong relationships need time and patience to build to make them solid and long-lasting. In Western countries, you can make easily lots of friends, but friendships don't last long and they change a lot over time. Young adults generally have their own lives and see their parents and families a few times a year, on holidays.


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According to the January 15, 2011 issue of "The New York Times," China has the reputation of being the best among 65 countries regarding students' performance in math, science and reading. The Chinese principle is clear: education is top priority, not only in the big and famous cities and schools, but also in rural areas. Western countries generally consider education a means to get a diploma; in China, education is a purpose in itself. Even if the new generation thinks the way the Chinese school enforces education "kills independent thought and creativity," there is much passion for learning and respect for intellectuals and knowledge in general.