What is Gross to Chinese People (and Vice Versa) – Cultural Differences

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Western habits the Chinese consider gross or dirty:

Walking around barefoot, or in your socks. If you’re on a flight from the US to Beijing, don’t lose face by walking around the plane in your socks. Double-gross for doing this outside on the pavement. To the Chinese, this is just appalling.

Setting your bag, purse, or backpack down on the ground. Large pieces of luggage, okay, but not smaller bags. The Chinese think that the ground is dirty, and consider it bad form to put a nice bag on something dirty. Find a chair to put it on if you want to blend.

Eating cheese. A lot of Chinese cringe at the thought of cheese.

Wearing revealing clothing. While Chinese fashion is modern and… interesting, it is rare that a women (or a man) will wear low-cut tops or mini skirts, for example. If you visit China and choose to bring along a more revealing wardrobe, be prepared to get stared at by some men and scowled at by some older women.

Eating too fast. The Chinese are about slow-paced meals. This is when conversations and gatherings take place. Don’t ruin it, or lose your face, by scarfing down your food. Eating while in a hurry is an odd concept for the Chinese.

Genetically Engineered Food. GMO, or genetically modified organisms, are becoming more prevalent in Chinese society. But as a whole, Chinese prefer the organic, free-range philosophy of food and frown at the thought of pumping an animal full of hormones just so it looks bigger.

Sitting on a public toilet. No doubt you will frequent at least one McDonald’s in China and see the “Western” toilet seat all loose and mangled with footprints all over it — and when you do, now you’ll know why! Chinese people don’t sit on them. They squat on them, because to the Chinese, sitting on a public toilet (seat cover or not) is disgusting.

Buying “Old” Food. Chinese people are about fresh. They buy chickens alive, kill them, and eat them all in the same day. China is filled with farmer’s markets, where you can buy fresh vegetables straight from the fields. Canned veggies and and meat that has been sitting on the shelf for a few days is considered disgusting.

Chinese habits Westerners consider gross or dirty

Not washing your hands. A water rinse doesn’t cut it for most Westerner after a trip to the restroom. It is also nasty that there is usually never soap, and about a quarter of the time there is no running water.

Food in the mouth. Talking with a mouth full of food, smacking, or slurping noodles or soup can be quiet annoying for Westerners.

Public nose picking, ear digging, or spitting.

Meat Sitting Out All Day in ChinaHandling of Meat. Watch this video to see how they roll with meat in China. The Chinese consider this fresh because it was hacked up the same day, and consider the Safeway, 3-day old meat in shrink wrap to be the disgusting choice.

Poo Poo. When visiting the countryside, you may catch a glimpse of a mother holding her baby at the sidewalk (giving a quiet “shhhhh” whistle) to prompt the little feller to do his or her business — right on the ground.

Missing the toilet. Walking into a stall with 1/2 an inch of liquid on the floor can be a gross sight.

No Doors. Need to do a Number Two? You race to the bathroom to find out that there are a handful of guys, in plain site, doing their business in the doorless stalls. I know what you’re thinking. How much did they save by not installing the doors? Are stall doors that expensive in China? Truth is, Chinese people just aren’t tripping. Keep your eyes either up or down, find an empty slot, and breeze on in.

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66 thoughts on “What is Gross to Chinese People (and Vice Versa) – Cultural Differences

  1. This must have been written by a chinese person. here are the real things my chinese coworkers do all day which are disgusting!
    1) Farting in public
    2) Burping in public
    3) Putting their face in their bowl and shoveling food into their mouths and slurping
    4) chewing with their mouth open

  2. I agree with Julie, I too work with many Chinese colleauges closely (in Executive Management) and this is my observation of disgusting habits…

    1) Burping in public
    2) Picking their ears in public
    3) Towering over their food and shoving everything in their mouths
    4) Speaking with their mouths full
    5) Talking SO loud
    6) Swapping food in public (even in front of very big business prospects – it becomes chaotic on the table)
    7) Trying to screw everyone in business (from my OWN colleagues mouths… and THEY’RE Chinese!)
    8) Trying to bargain for EVERYTHING (even in very fancy shops)
    9) Trying to overwork and threaten their employees, especially those who are Chinese as well

    My thoughts are… if you are doing business, visiting, or living in another country – at least LEARN proper etiquette (pertaining to where you are visiting/staying).

  3. Wow. A couple hardcore posts in the last few days. I just wanted to state the differences between the two, and not really single out any particular culture. To be honest, I tried to come up with the craziest, most controversial title for this post and submit it to Digg and Reddit — but it failed miserably.

    For me, it would be really interesting to see what other cultures feel about Americans (using the same amount of enthusiasm in their language).

  4. This list has certainly left out some Chinese habits considered Gross by Western Standards. I’m a Graduate student and I live in University accommodation with 9 other people…sharing a kitchen and bathroom area. Three of the other students are over here studying from China. I’m the only American but the other 6 are all from Western Europe and Canada. Now maybe I just ended up living with 3 Chinese people who set a bad example for their countrymen…but here are some things I’ve noticed.

    1. They don’t believe in refrigeration. I constantly see meat and fish left out…sometimes for days at a time. I don’t know how they don’t get sick. At one point a few months ago a piece of salmon was left out on in an unrefrigerated cupboard for like 2 days…then cooked and eaten. Also, they constantly prepare soup or stew-like dishes in a pot on the stovetop and it will be left for days…intermittently reheated and NEVER refrigerated until it has been consumed. These activities make me very doubtful of the claim that Chinese people only eat fresh food.

    2. They’re comfortable with living the Kitchen FILTHY after cooking or eating. ON a daily basis they do things like cut up chicken on the counter and not wipe it down. I frequently find the counter top crawling with salmonella…from chicken parts and juice that hasn’t been cleaned up. Whenever they eat they get manage to get food all over the place and it is never cleaned up. You can always tell when they ate because there is rice and sauce and whatever else they were eating all over the table and never cleaned up. Basically they just seem to be generally comfortable with the kitchen being disgustingly dirty.

    Now, this could just be my personal experience. However I know at least 6 other graduate students here who also live a similar dorm setting with Chinese students…and ALL of them have separately complained about the same things….food left out and deplorable kitchen hygiene. I can only assume that this is the Chinese way…and any way you cut it, cultural differences aside its disgusting.

  5. Certainly this article strives for political correctness by overlooking many aspects of Chinese culture, but the author obviously hasn’t actually been to China.

    There is no concept of sanitation/hygiene here (I’ve lived in China 6 years). People will seperate chunks of frozen meat by stomping on it with their shoes on at the street curb (on top of dirty black grime made up of god knows what decomposing toxic nastiness) Chinese people don’t know what “cleaning” is; any maid you hire, you will actually have to show her proper cleaning processes, for example, not using the same rag to wash your toilet bowl to dry your dishes and changing mop water once it gets brown.

    If anything Chinese culture is far MORE individualistic than Western culture, though Chinese assert themselves much less individually, there is no sense of the “common good.” Chinese will not help each other if they are in distress, they leave someone injured from a hit and run unattended in the street until the ambulance comes, they have very few social programs and have basically zero social etiquette – pushing and shoving is ok in any context (leftover refugee mentality from Mao days).

    “Face” is another interesting phenomenon that drives Westerners up the wall. Anything potentially embarrassing can be acceptably avoided by lying. So if someone doesn’t know how to do something, they’ll still say yes and do an incredibly poor job and charge you for it, or if they don’t know where something is they’ll often just say “it’s over there” to send you away for someone else to deal with. These things are all improving as the level of education rises, but in the meantime, it takes a lot of getting used to…

  6. @Stephan – I lived in China for two years, I am a resident of China, and have visited China about 10 times in the last four years. I produced and directed a movie about donating a water buffalo to a family in need in China (which has subsequently been viewed over a million times) and has been featured on Huffington Post, MetaFilter, MSNBC, and thousands of other blogs.

    While it seems you experienced some undesirable moments, it is unfortunate that after six years the only thing you can do is complain. Your cleaning person? The way meat is handled? I don’t have to tell you that you sound like a raging, right-wing idiot, you have already shown everyone here, here and here with your anti-China blather.

    You state how the Chinese have, and I quote, “no sense of common good”. The water buffalo we donated to the Su family was not only used for their family, but the rest of the village as well. They took a life changing gift, and instead of only using it for their fields, they helped everyone else in that village — for the common good. How do I now, you ask? Because instead of standing over my cleaning lady barking off instructions on how to properly clean the toilet bowl, I went back to the mountain side, found them, and asked them.

    Spreading anti-China propaganda and making ignorant generalizations do not interest me. Go troll elsewhere.

  7. @Danny – About the meat. I really can’t tell you why that works. I was subjected to that style of cooking for a while, and I never got sick either.

    I asked and my hosts explained that it was okay to leave dishes out on the counter tops because of the hot spicy peppers they used in the meat sauce — apparently, intense spiciness inhibits bacteria growth. I found that difficult to believe, but didn’t give it much thought because again, I didn’t get sick. Here is at least one other person who verifies that:

    via Capital News Online.

    They also studied the bacteria-killing properties of spice plants, including chilies.

    Others spices, including chilies, tackle most of the nasty microbes. Chilies contain the chemical capsaicin, which kills or stops the growth of more than 80 per cent of bacteria. In tropical Mexico, this kept meat fresh longer in the days before refrigeration, Sherman said.

    Check out capsaicin on Wiki.

    But I’m not so hip with the blanket statements like “Chinese people don’t use refrigeration”, because of the hundreds of houses I visited in China, it was only the extremely poor farmers who did not use a refrigerator. 99% percent of the families I visited did.

    As for the filthy roommates — come on man, who hasn’t had filthy roommates? That sounds more personal than anything else. Anyway, that you for taking the time to contribute.

  8. Robert…thanks for the balanced and informative response.

    That really makes sense because the stuff that is left out on the stove top is always something that smelled spicy when it was first cooked.
    Also I didn’t mean that Chinese people don’t believe in refrigeration….Actually they use PLENTY of space in the fridge (as I’ll explain later) but that I’ve noticed a number of items like raw meat and fish left out for days and then eaten.

    and yes….I didn’t intend to make a blanket statement that Chinese people don’t use refrigeration. It shouldn’t be interpreted as such because my intent was only to interject MY personal experience with my 3 Chinese flatmates. And you’re right I’ve had plenty of filthy room-mates, especially in undergrad….but in this case its just something that has come up over the last year. Basically just about everyone living in University Residence Halls here lives with at least 1 person from China and virtually everyone I know has at one time or another brought up the SAME EXACT problems with their respective Chinese flatmates. Particularly the fact that they all have the same trait of never cleaning up in the kitchen…especially when they spill or drop food on the floor. For example there was a recent ironic situation in my friend’s flat. She constantly has complained about her Chinese flatmate spilling and dropping food on the floor and never cleaning it up…to the point where it attracted mice into the flat. Now the Chinese room-mate is repeatedly complaining to university residence halls about the mice…when in essence she caused the problem.
    Absolutely, this could be just a coincidence of random people all with poor kitchen hygiene. However when it comes up over 1 year’s time that everyone I know with Chinese flatmates mentions the same behaviours you start to think this is cultural thing. Mainly because its not a general pattern of dirty behaviour…just in the kitchen.

    And in relation to the other poster’s assertion that Chinese are more individualistic…I don’t know, there might be something to that. Because..I hadn’t brought it up with my last post but the other behaviour EVERYONE I know has had problems with in relation to their Chinese flatmates is taking up all the space in the refrigerator with large quantities of prepared foods and vegetables. Basically the university provides us with 1 fridge for 10 people to share, its the same nearly campus wide. so that means each flatmate gets only 1/2 a shelf. This was clearly discussed when we all moved in. Then a few weeks into the term everyone’s space started to be infringed. things would appear in your space and before long nobody could fit any food. When we sat down and figured it out…all the excess food belonged to our 3 Chinese flatmates. So we all got together, cleaned out the fridge and explained to them AGAIN that we only had a certain amount of space each. So a few weeks later….same situation AGAIN. So we cleaned out the fridge and had the same conversation with them. And a few weeks later…..well you get the picture. This has been a regular struggle for a year. And every time they say OH SORRY..then it just starts again. And once again….EVERYONE I know who has a Chinese flatmate has mentioned this problem too which leads me to believe that this TOO is not just isolated behaviour but a cultural thing.

    Any thoughts? I can’t believe I took the time to write all this but after a year here…this behaviour just perplexes me.

  9. I agree, i had Chinese people living next to me in an apartment complex and they lived in absolute filth. They had a dog (which was not allowed) living in the house and the house was littered with dog excrement which they never cleaned. The house smelt so bad we could smell it next door. On top of that they ate and lived in the most filthiest kitchen and bathroom which they never cleaned (as my friends came to see the apartment after they left). I also go to uni with a lot of Asian students and they keep breaking the toilet seats in the girls bathroom (not sure about the guys :) as they squat on them and then leave excrement on the seat and floor and leave their sanitary pads on the floor…charming!! they have signs on the wall in different asian languages explaining how to use the toilet. Must just be a cultural thing i suppose, not their fault. They also pick their noises and wipe the snot all over public objects including uni computers along with spitting on the floor.

  10. Lisa…you brought up another thing that happens in my university halls constantly. I attend a UK university and if you’ve ever been to the UK you’ve probably seen these bins in public bathrooms that are specifically for throwing away sanitary pads. its like a closed top bin and it says on it that its for sanitary pads…and there are signs ALL OVER the bathroom in my halls directing the residents to dispose of sanitary pads in these bins. But the Chinese girls in my flat NEVER use them. They either just throw used sanitary pads on the floor which is absolutely disgusting…or just throw them in the normal rubbish bin which is nearly as disgusting because you can see them. The maintenance staff in my building has even complained about this to all the girls in my hallway on numerous occasions. But just like the situation with the kitchen, the Chinese girls apologize…then just keep doing it.

    Seriously? What’s not to understand here?

  11. Hey, Danny i know :P, being female myself its absolutely repulsive. Even if you can’t be bothered putting it in the bin (which is so simple) have some consideration for others, i really don’t get why! Ah well maybe its normal over there?? :)

  12. I married a Chinese girl and I have to admit she is the antithesis of the Chinese you have been describing. I am instructed to wash my hands after reading a newpaper and to take off my outdoor clothes when I arrive home and change into “indoor” clothing. We shower before going to bed and the clothes we had been wearing cannot be hung up alongside laundered clothing. I cannot rince off a plate and dry it for future use, it must be placed in the dishwasher. All food is cooked thoroughly and left-overs are placed immediately in the fridge. My wife is from the south of the country I wonder if the folk you all are describing come from the north!!

  13. putting a purse on the floor and walking around in socks is considered disgusting because the ground and floors in China are so filthy – littered with spit, trash, snot, and piss. In the west, you can put down your purse without getting someone’s fecal matter or snot on it, in China, you are exposing yourself to god knows how many germs. And this isn’t just the chinese in the country, it is city chinese too. I have lived in China for 3 years and the lack of hygiene is distressing, to say the least. And to the WORLD FAMOUS buffalo donating movie director (good grief!) – get over yourself. If you’d bother to educate yourself about Chinese culture instead of trying to get famous for some tiny act of charity that, let’s be honest, doesn’t make much difference to anyone (the buffalo will live a tortured existence and worked til it is skin and bones, then devoured) you’d realize that, in fact, Confucianism makes the Chinese relatively unconcerned about those with whom they do not share a direct relationship. Donated buffalo or not, if they’d seen you dying on the side of the road, you’d have been left there to rot unless you had a direct relationship with them, or some powerful guanxi. There are many things that are great about China and the Chinese – but NOT pointing out problems of hygiene don’t help anyone. The chinese suffer as much from this filth as do foreigners who are visiting. Oh – and good luck becoming the next Bono…..

  14. To Robert Thompson: A Chinese American acquaintance of mine, who wa born and raised in AZ, and whose parents immigrated from China visited Canton with his father a few years back. When he returned, I asked him about his first trip to China. His response: I could have kissed the ground when my feet touched American soil. (I didn’t ask him anymore).

  15. I am an ABC and I regularly go back to China (my family is from the heart of Beijing) for up to 3 months a visit at least twice a year for my entire life (17 years). Somehow I have found your article and the comments extremely inaccurately generalizing. Sure, quite a few of the points mentioned are true, it’s common to see mothers helping their children relieve themselves in the street and it’s customary to speak as loud as possible during meals. I, too, have always looked down on these habits and have tried to differentiate myself from them by always calling myself an American, but it’s upsetting to see how other Americans who are not familiar with Chinese culture view these habits.

    My maternal grandparents definitely take part the custom of spitting on the ground in public despite my exasperated attempts to explain from a the unhygienic aspects of doing this. However, whenever we head back into the apartment, I’m required to fully wash my arms with soap before dashing to the other side of the apartment and washing my legs in the bathroom. My paternal grandparents (my grandmother recently passed away) are doctors in the outskirts of Beijing. My grandpa doesn’t keep everything in working order all the time and many things such as his electric system and toilet need to be updated to meet American living standards, but he definitely has what can be considered as clean habits. (With the exception of bowls he places around the apartment as spit receptacles…still working on getting him to get rid of those…:/) You have to remember that China’s environment just isn’t as luxurious as America’s and it has already developed its own customs and habits over the course of its long history – it’s unreasonable to compare Chinese lifestyles with American lifestyles.

    I also find it disgusting how American families often wear their shoes in their homes. I think of my home as a sort of base for my life and to bring in the dirt and grime from outside into my home is kind of appalling. And not to mention the stinky feet that can come from wearing shoes everywhere. Chinese people don’t have BO like non-East Asians do due to our different body oils, so I feel like it’s even worse for Americans to wear their shoes indoors all the time. I also don’t get how people can go to bed without showering first. It’s where you sleep…you lie there for a couple of hours…just…FERMENTING under the covers every night…do you really want to do that with a colony of germs there too? Ugh.

    As for keeping counters clean…I don’t know of any Chinese families (both here in America and in China) who don’t wipe off their counters. My mom is actually a complete fanatic about keeping the kitchen clean. If I don’t wear slippers in the kitchen, she WILL throw a tantrum because I wear flip-flops everyday and she refuses to have the germs I carry in from outside to be brought into the kitchen (or even the rest of the house for that matter). I can’t put my bags on the chairs or tables or counters because they’ve been outside – this is true in both my house and my grandparents’ homes. My grandparents force me to wipe my bag with a cloth before setting it down even on the floor and my mom forces us to rigorously wipe our luggage with cloths before allowing it any further into our home.

    As for the person who’s complained about Chinese dormmates taking up too much space in the fridge…I’m thinking those habits can be attributed a bit to the Chinese mentality of saving food in an environment where there is more food than usual. My mom always makes too much food every night so our fridge is always jam-packed with leftovers. She also often just cooks the leftovers together and reserves it. My brother and I get annoyed all the time when she does this and she ends of eating it herself over a prolonged period of time while we make our own food. :| -guilt-

    China also has a dog-eat-dog mentality outside of the family. It’s kind of like a vicious cycle that continually feeds itself. Really easily illustrated in traffic especially. People will refuse to give others the right of way so it’s basically impossible to merge into another lane so you need to take any opportunity you can get. Opportunities in China are rather scarce. It’s been proved in psychological studies that Chinese people have what is called an external locus of control, a belief that what affects one’s life cannot be affected by one’s actions. AKA the belief that luck is a major player in one’s life and there’s nothing one can do about it.

    Years of oppression has shaped the Chinese view on life into a rather pessimistic and inglorious one. It’s not fair to compare that with the liberating American way and to look down on others with these preconceived biases. Why don’t you take a look at the big picture rather than concentrate on the extreme ends of the spectrum of Chinese culture?

    It’s really not that difficult.

  16. Americans do plenty of “disgusting” things, although perhaps not from a hygiene perspective. I used to live in Europe with a bunch of Americans, and I found their wasteful and self-indulgent use of consumer items “disgusting”. The ridiculous scented, bleached, embossed, 6 ply toilet-paper, for instance. Or the compulsive hair-washing and blow drying. Purchasing overly-packaged food (thinking that garlic only came in a jar, for instance) is so wasteful.

    This is not a chinese v US post, it’s just an observation about how some cultural practices can be so off-putting to foreigners.

  17. @Lax: I’m with you. When I returned to the US after being away for five years straight, things were pretty strange.

    ‘Shocking’ things I remember after getting back:

    – People who use paper towels to wipe something up – then throw it away
    – Using Amazon to Prime Ship something the next day (the mentality is, Free shipping! Buy more!)
    – Going to Costco and seeing people pile on so much junk they needed a construction-grade flat bed cart to move things around
    – Infomercials
    – Bottled water
    – How people never talk to each other in line, and no eye contact on the street

  18. god give us two eyes,on our face,in front of it, cannot look back on ourselves, so we are perfect.
    all your observations are accurate, only in your small circles-location,education,especially socio-economic class background. I know, I know, china is communist country,there should not be any class. but in essence Mao still the king, you know that,now you understand? china still a feudal society. All the Chinese you met may come from disadvantaged background they have different habit, Sam hurst married one may come from priviledge family have different habit.

  19. Robert, Cat.. can you tell me confucian practices and beliefs that are used by famous chinese businessmen in doing their business? hehe it’s my topic for my research paper. And it can really help me if you could give me some information. tnx..

  20. I would just like to add some of these people should get out and do some travelling. Go to Bali and see the way of life there, 5 star resorts on the dirty beach and open sewers in the road just outside. People in poverty with nothing but a smile on there face. Dont judge people by a few remarks posted on a blog. Every where you can find beauty if you look. I have found a beautiful Chinese woman who is going to be my wife in the new year. I am looking foreward to learning her ways in China and i am sure my eyebrows will rise a few times while i am there. But it is a different country and i am intelligent enough to accept it and her ways. I am positive she will have the same feelings when she comes to live in Australia with me. Learning the Aussie culture will open her eye’s quite wide i am shure. Men with massive beer bellies, women walking around with only swimmers on, our lasy ways. Lets just learn to live with each other or as they say “cant beat them lets join them”. On and as far as toilets go the fancy French still have toilets in the middle of the road and they slill have squat toilets in the floor. Quite a suprise when you are wanting to go and that is all that is avaliable. You learn quickly how to use them. See we can all ajust to new things!!!!

  21. hello Robert,
    I would like to talk to you about the chineese reality and problems. Are you still with Cirque du soleil in Barcelona?
    Could we meet?Please let me know at kryszka9@hotmail.com.
    Warm regards!

  22. I have a male 29 yo chinese roommate who is Very educated but doesnt like to use a sponge or clean the stovetop that he uses mostly unless hes left a note. He has a PHD and works for a major pharma company but Still is studying for an MBA. So his excuse for Not cleaning that hes too busy studying. Well, after 1 yr and trying to get him to clean up around mutual areas, im ready to throw his ass out! LOL

  23. As a resident of this country for almost eight years, I must say that the sight of a person holding a child under the age of 2 in order to have him/her poop by the side of the road or on the sidewalk is most definitely not something one encounters only in the countryside. It happens everywhere, except perhaps Shanghai and Beijing (although even there I suspect that it occurs in certain nooks and crannies)… There are cities where such a disgusting sight is not seen often, but in most places this is ubiquitous. I’ve even seen a mother hold her two-year old to have it take a crap right in front of a pharmacy in a average medium-sized city, and I mean *right in front*.

    Also, what another poster said regarding the issue of placing bags on the floor being considered gross makes perfect sense: the ground is already *extremely* filthy, so even the Chinese consider placing a small bag there a virtual sacrilege.

  24. very very interesting post. never even seen someone say such things about Chinese people.

    Often times, or should I say.. ALL the time, Chinese are regarded as very uncivilized (or in rough words “extremely dirty”) from the society.

    I, frankly am a Caucasian individual who traveled to places like Japan, Korea and China (including Hongkong) and been always interested in the Eastern culture.

    China was actually very unpleasant trip for me because of the level of barbarity and such low social quality over all.
    or perhaps visiting places like South Korea and Japan prior to China was to blame my “expected standards” I held.

    South Koreans and the Japanese “generally” look down on the Chinese people and their lifestyle and that’s unfortunate.

    and you must understand how much I have cursed against those people who seemed like they were being discriminative…

    but wow. actually having to travel and experience, I no longer blame the Koreans and the Japanese for doing/saying such things…

    This is no “opinion” when I mention this, however Korean and Japanese lifestyle and their civilization is truly ahead by at least 20 years or so.. even past the American society frankly..

    Slowly though we (Western people) are advancing and leaching off their civilization and of course their Technology (which 6.5 billion people know about those two countries and their impressive accomplishments)

    Sony has been dominating the technology around the world, and Very Quickly if you have noticed… Samsung and LG of South Korea are literally dominating even on top of Sony and exile any other companies. and it is predicted South Korea will be one of the top G7 countries by 2025.

    Please do not accuse me or regard me as someone who is “hating on China just because he fell in “love” with Korea and Japan” …
    Please understand that I truly am being honest and realistic.

    Many things you have pointed out about the ‘differences’ seem to really contradict their living conditions.

  25. You’re not saying anything that is “anti-China”. You’re simply telling the truth. And when you say that Japan and S. Korea are “20 years ahead”, you’re being too kind. Such a number may apply vis-a-vis Shanghai, Beijing, perhaps Hangzhou or Nanjing, but if you travel (or live) anywhere else (especially more than eight hours by train west of any part of the eastern coast) all bets are off — you’ll see and experience a level of social ineptitude, irresponsibility and backwardness greater than almost any place on this earth. The countries you mentioned are socially 50+ years ahead of mainland China. Hong Kong as well, but the mainlanders are gradually making that wonderful territory less and less attractive… I think that, in general, Korean folks are more rude than mainlanders though, albeit in a very different way. The Japanese are no picnic either, but they are alright, and I do appreciate their civility. That’s not to say that mainlanders aren’t rude — far from it. One of the worst things about mainlanders (aside from how terrible and low-class many of their habits are) is how unbelievably *loud* and inconsiderate they most of them are. Try living in a medium-sized Sichuanese city surrounded by local neighbors… It’s absolutely awful.

  26. That’s an extremely difficult question to answer concisely. Impossible, actually, at least for me. China is a big country, so much of it depends of the area you want to know about. It’s a bit like asking someone how they feel about the USA as though that country were a speck on the map. Be that as it may, I would say that in general the PRC (excluding HK) is pretty nasty, yet on rare instances one meets the best people in the world, bar none. Also, the countryside and scenic areas (as long as there are few local tourists) can be some of the most beautiful places in the world, for sure. As far as the cities go (small, medium and large, and in any province) they mostly evince a crushing sameness that I find extremely uninspiring. China is all about the far off places and (mostly) the minorities. And as far as the gov, let’s not go there…

  27. I don’t know about the Chinese finding GMO’s disgusting… How about putting melamine, which is a plastic, in milk for the sole purpose of cheating protein content tests??!

    And it’s not just in the milk…

  28. Wow… I’m just not sure what to say after reading all those posts. Some of them were just down right rude while others came off as whiny and childish. I’m a 19 year Seattleite living and studying in Chengdu. This is not my first stay in China, nor will it be my last so I can say with some certainty that a great deal of what has been posted about Chinese habits hold at least some truth (excluding: unclean kitchens and homes) That said, I like to think of Chinese “clean” is just a different type of clean. China is “uniquely” dirty, there is not getting around it, but they don’t stay in the filth and don’t particularly care for it. Certain things you might find gross are perfectly acceptable here. So, just because you think it is gross does not matter. YOU ARE IN CHINA!!! Things are done a little diffidently here. Get over it or get out!

  29. Alexandra that is all fine and dandy if you live in China, but when they bring those disgusting habits to the US it is gross. I used to work with a lot of asians in Los Angeles and the Chinese were the worst. One guy actually blew his nose in the kitchen sink at the office during lunch one day. They do it in the bathroom which is bad enough (use a kleenex or paper towel) but to do it close to where we all prepare lunches that is just nasty.

  30. Living in Nantong, Jiangsu Province, for some months now has brought new perspective for me on China. Before, when coming to work for a couple of months at a time, I learned to ignore the “weird stuff” and just do the job. Now I see the “weird stuff” every day. However, most of these things are simply different ways of viewing the world or living in it.
    I personally think China is no where near as dirty as many other places I have traveled, and dirtier than others. The real issue is not how China is, but whether you can accept the fact that it will not change just for you, and whether you can live there or not. If the answer is not, best get on a plane and head home. Otherwise you are only wasting your own time and energy.
    Sure there are things that drive me crazy every day. Just as someone from here living in the States would find the same. I have just chosen to learn to deal with it and keep focused on more important thing. One thing many of the expats here all say to each other when we encounter the incomprehensible — TIC — This is China. I guess I don’t feel that I have been appointed to worry about how they choose to live in their own country.

  31. @ Ken & Alexandra,

    As per indicated in your posts, you guys are noobs in China, with very little experience in this country. Jiangsu is nothing in comparison to many other places around the country; I lived in Changzhou and that was far more civilized than many other parts. As for Chengdu, I also lived there for a couple of years and Chengdu is far more easy to deal with than other parts of Sichuan. I’ve live in several Sichuan cities for a total of some seven years and those cities can’t even begin to compare with Chengdu. You guys should not blow off what some people are saying here simply because of your limited experience in two slightly above normal places. It’s not fair to those expats that live and work in other places and have to suffer and put up with all kinds of things that are simply unacceptable in almost every country on earth. The mantra of “love it or leave it/China is China” is old and most of us have heard it a thousand times from rookies, and it does nothing but perpetuate terrible behaviours that many Chinese are perfectly aware of and would like to definitely change and put to rest. I also guarantee to you that eventually you will get sick of it all, once the honeymoon is over. If you stay here for more than three years I would be very surprised. Most foreigners don’t even last two…

  32. I find a great many of these comments offensive and ignorant. However, Ken pretty much hit the nail on the head. Anyways, I lived in Shanghai for a year, Xian for six months, and have had exposure to the remotest of villages. Certainly, on the street level the large cities are rather filthy. I’d say that’s pretty much explainable simply by how large Shanghai and Beijing are, at least 20 million each with the migrant worker population. But every Chinese family I’ve spent time with and every roommate I’ve had has had the utmost respect for cleanliness and the respective personal space of myself and my American roommates. I find it funny that so many of you claim Chinese people you know will simply say sorry and then continue their behavior (they aren’t stupid, they’re purposely doing it because you’re being a wanker). Judging from the negative attitudes in your posts, this is an intentional reaction to your most likely obvious signs of prejudice. If you weren’t receiving respect from someone, would you give respect to them? Lamanogaucha, you’re full of bs. No one has the right to say anywhere is fifty years ahead of anywhere “socially.” WTF does that even mean? Social culture is distinct in different regions of the world because of a whole host of factors including such things as history, population, geographic features, etc that are not quantifiable in terms of their effects on society. And Jake, you’re a germaphobe if you can’t handle some snot in the sink. Guess what else going in the sink? Saliva that is all over everyone’s utensils and plates. Snot is perceived as being so gross when in fact the mouth is a massive cesspool of bacteria, it’s basically disgusting that we kiss each other (sex drive is a wonderful thing!). What’s also interesting is the spread of antibacterial soaps in the West and the lack of said soaps in China. Studies have been conducted that antibacterial soaps may actually be harmful because they prevent the body from building up immunities. The expected age of death for a Chinese person is 73.18 according to the CIA fact book. What’s an American’s expected age of death, 77? Considering something like 90 percent of Chinese men are smokers I’d say that’s pretty remarkable. In fact, I would conclude, on the basis of obesity alone, Chinese people live a much healthier lifestyle than Americans. I think I’ve said enough. I may have offended some of you, but I’m just trying to open your minds a bit.

  33. I just stumbled across your page just now and felt compelled to respond to an earlier comment re ‘dirty’ chinese housemates/colleagues. I have lived in China previously and plan on returning for another few months soon. I have visited many chinese homes and never felt that the kitchen was really an issue. It is a bit unfair to make these generalisations about cleanliness based on university students etc, especially the ones abroad, who (dare I say) may come from a slightly more pampered background.
    Many years ago I also used to live with similarly indulged groups of American college students on exchange to Australia and I can tell you they had some kitchen habits to rival those above. I hope that I would not be so ignorant as to complain no American can use a kitchen cloth!
    I guess what I’m saying is with some of these flatmates/colleagues you mention, if you were to visit their mum in China, you might be surprised at how clean and inviting the home actually is.

  34. i find it rude when they are in a big group with other Chinese people, you feel really left out if one of them is your friend. All they do is talk to each other in chinese. I also find they are unhygienic.I just got really sick from eating at a small chinese restaurant, probably from carelessness. I’ll never do that again. Also, why do 99.99% of them smoke?

  35. Well said, Patrick, but I’m neither rude nor full of bs; I’m simply stating the truth. Living in Shanghai for some time, six months in Xi’an and “exposure” to the “countryside” does not make you an expert on the matter. Also, if you read more carefully, you will notice that I clearly stated that most Chinese people are perfectly aware of the fact that far too many of their brethren need to change their habits, and would most definitely like to see that happen. Taking your kid to take a dump in front of a pharmacy is not cool… and they know it (i.e. they don’t have to be reminded). As for some some Chinese people being very clean, that is a fact. My family (father and mother-in-law, wife and sister) can attest to that. Thank you. And as for me being prejudiced, you’re 100% wrong. The fact that China is filthy, noisy, rude and often crushingly backwards and narrowminded has nothing to do with bigotry — it’s just a fact of life. Comprende, amigo?

  36. I have been living in China for a year and for those of you dumping on the mainland, I am in Wuhan in Hubei province. Not a tourist area! Yes, the streets can be dirty as in just about any large city anywhere in the world! Lamanogaucha, your last post could have been about New York, Baltimore, Memphis, Vancouver or any other city in the world. At least here you do not have to watch for used condoms or needles as you are walking around the streets. It amazes me that we wear our shoes inside in North America. I have been just as (or more) grossed out in North American cities (mostly in the US) as I have been here. I have seen adults urinating and other things on the street in any city I have been in.

    As to the university students, I have yet to go into a university residence without the urge to take a week to clean! Some of these have been all North American students. The situations described above sounds better than the shared house I spent time in last summer while visiting my husband’s son and his university friends. As it has already been said, if you give no respect and come off as a bigot than you get no respect.

    As to accidents with people laying in the streets for hours. Not true! I got a scooter to be able to get around more freely while I am here. I of course crashed (my own fault) at top speed. Amazingly there was only one person around when this happened but they immediately ran up to help. Thankfully I only broke my leg.

    As per cleaning and hired cleaners. I have a wonderful cleaning lady that comes in once a week. I would love to keep her for life! She is the greatest! She goes beyond what is required and does the most amazing job for pennies! The first day my leg was broken (I didn’t even have crutches yet) she washed my foot because it was dirty.

    As to food, I have yet to get sick from eating anything here including street food. However, I have had food poisoning in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada from a street food vendor. Bon appetit!

    Everyone here is polite, sweet, and helpful. I have not been in a dirty home yet. Public bathrooms can be a bit nasty but Canadians complain about the public bathrooms in the United States (for those that can’t tell this is a hint). From my experience, most public bathrooms are nasty everywhere. There are disgusting things and habits in every country.

    Have a good day and (if you wish) keep complaining about everything.


  37. OK, that’s the second PC lily that comes to attack me as though I wrote every single post here, when in fact I only wrote three or four. You want to put words in my mouth? Fine… Here’s the deal:

    China is cleaner, more educated, more polite, less poluted, quiter, more honest, more open, more transparent, less nationalistic, better planned, with greener cities, with finer public, hospital and citizen services, infrastructure, hospitality and social security than any country in the world.

    Congrats. You’re doing a great service to the mainland Chinese by stating the obvious. Have a good day.

  38. Last post.

    Question: Why are there frequent commercials/public announcements on mainland television telling viewers not to spit, litter (or worse) on the streets, and also on the theme of courtesy, politeness and honest dealing? If such behaviours are so absent from the PRC, why spend the money on such announcements? I wonder…

    Question: What did the PC brigade here type on the search fields to find this page? What even brought them to this page? It all smells like hypocrisy coupled with a guilty conscience…

    Question: Can some of these people even get a decent job in their own countries? Perhaps, but it’s always much easier to take advantage of the people of a developing nation. All it takes is a little bit of butt kissing…

    Question: In view that some of the PC brigade care so much about the PRC and its people, what are they going to do to expand and contribute in the developing of this culturally rich and old country? Stand in front of a classroom and deliver some bs “lessons” with a hangover the size of Xinjiang and then collect collect 4-8K monthly kuai, which is at least two or three times more than truly qualified local teachers? I wonder…

    And so on. You guys do a disservice to China! Take care.

  39. As Robert says, enough already! I really don’t understand some of the negativity in these oomments. I chose to move from Canada to live here for a few years, just as I chose to live in Scotland a decade ago. We are guests in a foreign land; it is not up to us to judge how others live or act just because it does not jive with the social norms we are accustomed to in our home countries.

    BTW, I am teaching senior chemistry and mathematics here and have over 20 years experience teaching in Canada. I have rarely, if ever, taught with a hangover (never in China lol). The fact that I took a very big cut in salary to move here or that I make way more than my Chinese counterparts is totally irrelevant. I am not here for the money, I am here to learn as much as I can about another country and its people. I would like to think that I am contributing to my students’ understanding of other cultures as well.

  40. OK, I have to leave one more because your post, Steve, is good. I commend you for what you do. You are a rare foreigner here, as you are a *real* educator with maturity.

    “I am here to learn as much as I can about another country and its people. I would like to think that I am contributing to my students.” That’s extremely important and it stands in sharp contrast to what Robert said: “China is what it is — it is *what you can take away* from it that is important.” It speaks volumes.

    Most foreign teachers here from the PC brigade (and I’m not saying that Robert is a teacher, as I have no idea) are losers, plain and simple, and yes, they come “to take”, not “to give”, and then proceed to pass judgement on the people that point out some of the realities of the PRC, ugly as they are. True, many of those “complainers” are not cool people and they simply don’t like the Chinese, but guess what, as for me, I love them, I live with them, I have family with them, and I care about them and their reputation in the world.

    The Chinese have something that in English roughly translates as “criticism”. In essence, if a person, let’s say, a local worker in a factory goes and does something wrong and gets called to see the supervisor, said supervisor will “criticise” him/her, not “reprimand” or “warn” as we usually would describe such a situtation, even if it is exactly the same thing. Why? Because the Chinese do appreciate (in spite of the temporary loss of face) the pointing out of foibles. These are a proud people and want to be better and better. In fact, they would not mind becoming the greatest country on Earth (and in many ways they richly deserve it, but not yet, as it is self-evident that some things must change in the next few decades.) There is nothing wrong with pointing out something that is plainly wrong, especially if you do care about someone and do it in good faith. It helps, in fact. The PC brigade does not understand that, and like I said, they only do a disservice to this great country. Enough. I’m out. Good luck to all.

  41. I’m working on a play and came to this website because I googled: what do Chinese people find disgusting. I read the entries with interest. Chinese people don’t like cheese? Interesting. Im writing this scene where one group tries to woe a Chinese company to invest, but their competitors are trying to scare off the Chinese investors, what would we the easiest way to insult them?

  42. Just saying, the only reason why they try bargaining for everything is mostly because of their past. At least I think so. I thought my opnion counts about the chinese since I’m chinese too!! (I do not want to brag.)

  43. Adding to my old post, did you know a long time ago people would sell things to China at a very high price? Now, I think we’re getting used to trying to bargain. (and not all of us tries to bargain ALL the time!!)

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