I lived and worked for a year and a half in Taiwan and visited many times in China and Taiwan. I have gained extensive experience working with Chinese for many years. In addition to working with Chinese, and traveling in Taiwan and China, I have studied Chinese history and culture in depth. The following post details my subjective impression about China, based on my personal experience.
Most of the Taiwanese I knew (and loved very much) saw themselves as different from the Chinese in China, and there are differences between Chinese and Taiwanese. But for a stranger like me who comes from outside, these differences are visible only to some extent.
Overall, in the most significant things for people, such as family, language, history, culture, holidays, food, there is a huge similarity between Chinese and Taiwanese, so from now on, when I use the term "Chinese", I refer to both Chinese and Taiwanese.
The Chinese are very proud of themselves, their culture, their people, their history and what they are becoming, one of the world's great powers, with the leading trio including the United States and India.
There's something confusing about the foreigner's perception about Chinese.
Quite a few foreigners think the Chinese are being rude, talking loudly, a lot of hand gestures, pushing, not always polite.
On the other hand, when you are in contact with the Chinese, the experience is completely different. The Chinese turn out to be friendly, gentle and exemplary hosts.
Since there are close to 1.3 billion Chinese and I did not get to know everyone, then my impression is very subjective and based on the people I knew and met :)
The Chinese are very curious to hear what foreigners think of them. I had the privilege of being a guest in many breakfasts, lunches and dinners with Chinese, customers and colleagues.
As long as we did not drink too much, the Chinese were very curious to hear how foreigners see China, what they think of China, its place in the world, its future. The Chinese love to entertain, they like to be happy, to eat, to drink together.
They highly value those who drink with them and they definitely earn special points :)
Unlike the past, the Chinese do not criticize or speak about the ruling party, but they are not afraid to talk about more general politics, and especially to question (positively) foreigners about it.
Someone (Chinese) explained to me in the past that the Chinese are very concentrated in their economic growth and the importance of the party's rule is only secondary.
They do not want to deal with it as long as the economic situation continues to improve.
After the trauma of the Cultural Revolution, which acted like an enormous machine of destruction of authentic Chinese culture in the second half of the 1970s, and the rise of Deng Xiaoping, the leader who opened China to the world and started its remarkable growth, China began a return to its origins.
China has established more than 500 Confucius Institutes in the world that promote, teach, and encourage students to learn Chinese culture.
In Confucian culture, the hierarchical structure is built in. There is respect for elder people. There is respect for the ruler. There is a social order.
Regarding the work ethic, there is a paradox. People talk about spoiled Chinese children who grow alone, parents who do not stop spoiling them.
I must say that I did not feel it in my work environment. The feeling was that the Chinese were industrious, hard-working, long hours, very determined.
With regard to the Europe in which I lived and worked, it is impossible to compare labor ethics in East Asia, China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea to European countries. In terms of diligence, willingness to work hard and strenuous, commitment to family, society and state, East Asian countries are long before Europe.
Knowing Chinese culture, I knew it was something to be careful about. I have delivered dozens of Customers Facing workshops to engineers who worked worldwide.
With regard to China and Taiwan, I have always stressed the need to avoid getting into a situation where one is causing lose face situation even without and bad intention. The visits to China only sharpened it further.
The Chinese characters for Mianzi
The term refers to the importance the Chinese have to the personal dignity of each individual and the need to preserve it.
Causing lose face is not the right thing to do in any culture, but for the Chinese, it's even worse.
A criticism that can be considered acceptable in other countries, will also be perceived as a cause of losing face, so it is something that every person who visits China has some kind of contact with Chinese, should be aware of and sensitive to it.
Food in China
I have not seen a similar competing variety of dishes in any other kitchen. The amount of dishes is endless. There are different characteristics to different areas in China but I am not a culinary expert that can analyze them :)
My personal experience with Chinese food is more challenging ...
Today I am a vegetarian, but even when I ate meat, it was very difficult for me to get used to the way the meat was made and cooked in China, and most of the Westerners I knew, had a hard time getting used to the Chinese cuisine.
Those who longed for meat usually went to Western restaurants. But the vegetarian part of the Chinese food was very tasty. Green salads, potatoes, mushrooms and plenty of additional tasty dishes.
For those who are accustomed to Chinese taste, it is a gastronomic paradise with an endless selection of seafood, meat and fish.
But there are a few other significant differences between Chinese food and Western food:
Transportation in China
China is in an amazing process of development. I remember visiting Beijing before the Olympics and after the Olympics.
It was amazing to see what the Chinese had built in a short time in Beijing. The trains infrastructure was built overnight. It was almost incomprehensible.
Still, Beijing is a megacity with over 20 million inhabitants. Lots of traffic jams. The same is true in Shanghai.
But on the other hand, in other big cities I visited, with about 10 million people, I was able to see that the overall situation was not bad. There are loads but nothing unusual.
What could be better than China? Instead of buying from those who buy from the Chinese, buy from them directly :)
It very depends on where you are located in China. Shopping in major cities and tourism can be as expensive as shopping in the big cities of the US and Europe. There is no difference.
If you arrive at a wholesale shopping area, that's another story. I visited a city called Lin Yi in northern China. A medium-sized city with just over 10 million inhabitants.
Local friends took me shopping in a certain area of the city where I saw a huge network of streets, divided into sub-regions and every sub-area has dozens of stores of the same type. For example, dozens of toy stores which are quite similar.
I have been told by a local friend that this area is the main goods hub for all North China, an area of about 300 million people.
It was a hidden paradise for shopping that only a few foreigners visited but I happened to get there :)
Sex traps in China
In the main major cities of China, there are sex traps for tourists. These are young women who turn to foreigners in the streets, try to make friends with them, and then offer them massage service in some location.
Once the lady manages to bring the foreigner to the specific location, usually by Taxi, she will disappear and leave the poor guy with local gang members that will blackmail him and hold him till he pays them a significant amount of money.
Need to mention, the Chinese police aware of this phenomena and try to prevent it when they see it but apparently they didn't manage to terminate it.
How do I know?
I experienced it partially. This happened when I visited China with a friend for business purposes. We were in Shanghai and in the evening we went out to walk around the main streets nearby the sea.
A young, innocent-looking girl approached us and tried to make friends with us. She walked for 2-3 minutes with us until we came across Chinese police patrol. They stopped her and didn't let her go. They blocked her way despite her protests.
At first glance, it seemed to us like an arbitrary bullying of the policemen against a poor innocent girl. But it was at first sight only. Local friends explained to us the full picture in more details.
I have never felt a sense of insecurity in China and Taiwan. Even if I walked late at night, on the side streets, there is a very strong sense of security.
This is something remarkable and is completely not taken for granted in the US or in Western European countries.
Places to see
The size of China is 9.5 million square kilometers. Only slightly smaller than the United States. It should take a lot of life cycles to cover all of China... but a small part can certainly do.
Terracotta soldiers in X'ian
I visited Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Guandong, Lin Yi, Changsha, Shenzhen and Xi'an.
Of course, not all places are as beautiful or as interesting.I think the best way to know a place is to walk it through your legs and walk as far as possible between the different streets, get lost, be curious.
The Great Wall northern to Beijing
The history of China is so rich and ancient. There is plenty to see and learn. A lot of places to visit, plenty of dishes to taste and eat. A lot of people to meet. Much to experience.
China is a fascinating country to visit. There is no doubt that I will return to China for more visits.
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