The following article comes from language specialist Ivan Suchkov, who shares the importance of understanding Chinese culture. 

As China has now become an influential player in the international arena owing to its rapid economic growth, more and more people have started to consider China to be their destination for further career development.

However, living in China could be quite challenging in that many foreigners are often faced with problems which can directly affect their daily lives, with the language barrier and cultural differences being the two especially acute issues.

Language Barrier

English vs. Chinese

One of the biggest problems that most foreigners are faced with during their stay in China is the language barrier. Despite the fact that nowadays young people in China have realized the importance of gaining a good command of English (some of them do speak fluent English), Chinese people’s overall English level is hardly comparable with that of people from most European countries.

Therefore, being able to speak English can barely serve as a “remedy” for smooth communication.

Well, the most effective way to overcome the language barrier is to learn Chinese. Although studying Chinese is a marathon rather than a sprint, it’ll be still helpful to learn at least some basic Chinese phrases in that it will more or less make your life easier in China.

Make Some Chinese Friends

If you are wondering where to start in order for you to equip yourself with sufficient knowledge of Chinese to cope with your life in China, it’ll be a good idea for you to make some Chinese friends if you would like to quickly improve your Chinese language skills.

Fortunately, it’s not that hard to build friendships with Chinese as many of them are eager to learn more about different cultures.

As has been mentioned above, young people in China are striving to reach a decent level of English so that they will become more competitive in terms of job-hunting. Therefore, it would be easy for you find a language exchange partner if you are a native English speaker.

What you can benefit from practicing Chinese with a native speaker or a certified Chinese language teacher is that in addition to those words and phrases which are essential for having daily conversations in Chinese, you will also have the opportunity to learn youth slang words and colloquialisms that will make you sound like a native.

Sign-up For a Chinese Course

Another possible thing to do is to sign up for a course at a Chinese language school, which will allow you to devote a certain amount of class hours to your Chinese learning on a weekly basis.

By studying Chinese with a professional Chinese language teacher, you will be able to gain a better understanding of Chinese grammar and vocabulary as well as the use of different structures in various situations.

Moreover, attending a Chinese language school will certainly provide you with the opportunity to meet other Chinese learners from different cultural backgrounds, which could also be quite interesting.

Cultural Differences

China vs. the West

If you have already got used to the western lifestyle, you would find that the cultural differences are vast when you were to compare it with Chinese culture.

Instead of making a fuss about how uncomfortable the local people’s behaviour makes you feel, it is sensible to hold a tolerant attitude towards it as you need to understand that the culture of a country is closely related to its history and the local people’s mentality, which means it’s got nothing to do with who is right and who is wrong.

For instance, if you happen to study or work in China, you may want to pay attention to the following two cultural elements that can be observed in modern Chinese society.

Asking Personal Questions

Chinese are really curious about other people’s lives, especially between close friends. Therefore, they tend to ask all kinds of personal questions ranging from a person’s age to his monthly salary, which are unacceptable in most western countries.

What is interesting about it is that the local people wouldn’t take offence at these questions in that they have been asking other people similar questions as well. One of the reasons why Chinese like asking about, let’s say, other people’s salaries is just they want to know if they are fairly paid by their own companies.

No Personal Space

If you are already in China, you might have noticed that Chinese people pay no attention to personal space, and the fact that Chinese like jumping the queue is the perfect reflection of their negligent attitude towards personal space.

Some foreigners believe that Chinese people neglect the importance of personal space due to the fact that China has a major overpopulation problem. However, what you need to bear in mind is that some Chinese people (especially young Chinese girls) want to get close to you simply because they want to be friendly with you, and it is often just another way to show hospitality.


Ivan Suchkov

Language Specialist at That’s Mandarin Chinese Language School.

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