As a Chinese student, I came to the United States and have continuously been learning about the cultural differences between China and the United States. The cultural differences between China and the United States mainly reflect in the food, daily habits, and the way of greeting.
First of all, the way of eating. This is the biggest difference between Chinese and American culture. “Chinese people always eat with chopsticks. Food is placed in the center of the table and can include a variety of entrees to eat with rice. All the food is shared by everyone and will not be divided into several helpings. In America, they eat with a knife and fork. Everyone has their own dish, and do not share. They think it is very hygienic, leaving them to enjoy their food comfortably. However, what they eat is not very healthy, because they like to eat a lot of meat and some high-calorie things. For Chinese, we eat a lot of rice, vegetables, fruit, and wheat – which are the best for your health.” Yinuo Chen said.
Then there are the daily habits. For example, Americans often say “Bless you” when someone nearby sneezes. But if someone where to sneeze nearby in China, people don’t express any concern upon that person. I asked an American student, Lisa Sato about this concept of blessing a sneeze, “Bless you is just a polite word, not a mandatory language habit. My parents used to tell me there is a legend in the United States that a person’s soul goes out of the body when they sneeze and the devil gets in, that’s why we usually say bless you to show our concern. When someone sneezes in the United States and the people around you say bless you, it’s rude and impolite not to respond, so be polite and say, ‘thank you’.”
Another difference between cultures is the way of greeting. Every country has its way of greeting. I asked Min Li this question, and he said, “For most Americans, they will hug when they see someone they haven’t seen in a long time. In China, neither family nor friends often use the simple physical gesture of hugging to show intimacy. The greeting between Chinese people is shaking hands, which seems to be a custom handed down from China’s long history. Chinese people are conservative, so hugging is very intimate for us. If we see a friend, we smile when we meet each other and occasionally we will use a handshake, but we do not hug each other when we meet. Of course, not all Chinese don’t like hugs, and there are still some people who want to use hugs to express their feelings.”
Sato also spoke on the concept of greeting in America, “Hugging in the United States is a habit, it’s a kind of etiquette, but also one of the American culture. Most Americans grow up watching their parents hug their friends, so as we get older, we naturally get used to hugging each other. Most Americans don’t shy away from physical contact. Therefore, hugging in our culture is the equivalent of shaking hands in China.“
Generally speaking, we can’t say which one is right and which one is wrong, because we all know that Americans and Chinese are not the same groups, and the people on the other side of the world will never reach one-thousandth of the people on the other side of the world. While there are many differences between the two countries and their cultures, it’s important to know where these habits came from and how to interact with them.