How to tell if you're Chinese
The authors are the English class at the Suzhou branch of Agile Software Co. They are an active, high-efficiency team of twelve software engineers whose interests may include any of the following: fighting software bugs, smoking Cuban cigars, eating American chocolate, trying out new hairstyles on each other, playing badminton and ping pong, holding majiang competitions, drinking large bottles of Tsingtao, and watching TV. And, of course, not speaking Chinese during English class.
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If you're Chinese...
Who knows where that bear's paw has been?
- You don't believe in God. You accept everything claimed by teachers and "experts." If you find errors in their thinking, you will complain, but next time you will still believe them.
- You are familiar with Qín Shīhuáng, Sūnzǐ, Confucius, Zhōngshān Sūn, Xùn Lǔ, Chairman Máo, Prime Minister Zhōu, GuānYīn bodhisattva, Wùkōng Sūn, the Spring Festival, dumplings, fire crackers, and the Great Wall.
- You know how table tennis and badminton are played. You know how to do at least some Gōngfu (Wūshù). If you are female, you played "Chinese jump rope" as a child; if you are male, you knew how to use a slingshot.
- You get seven days vacation every Spring Festival, National Day and Labor Day, during which you can travel to other cities or go home to stay with your family.
- You're likely to believe in Buddha. If not, you probably believe you will be reborn in the future, and the species of your reincarnation will depend on your behavior in your current life.
- You don't think of McDonald's, KFC, and Pizza Hut as tasty, healthy, or cheap food-- everybody knows that Chinese food is the most delicious in the world. Somehow, when you do go to McDonald's or KFC, you have trouble finding a seat because there are so many people eating there.
- You probably have a telephone and a TV at home. If you live in northern China, your place is heated in the winter, but it isn't if you are in the south. It has its own bathroom. Unless you live in a developed city, you do your laundry by hand, and no matter where you live, you hang it out to dry. You eat at a table, sitting on chairs
A wàn-year life to you!
- You eat almost anything, which, especially if you are in Guangdong, includes a variety of mammals, reptiles, and insects. However, feasting on one-time delicacies such as monkey brain and bear paws is now prohibited and widely frowned upon.
- A bathroom in a house has a good shower and a good toilet in it; the toilet in a public bathroom will quite likely be a hole in the ground with the ability to flush.
- The train system is acceptable. But there are too many people on the trains. Taking a plane, if you can afford it, is a better way to travel.
- You find a one-party system natural. You expect the Chinese Communist Party to be responsive to business, strong on defense, and concerned with the poor. You find the People's Congress Systems efficient
- You don't expect to hear socialism, Communism and such boring things discussed.
- You think of all the races in China as a big family, or that's what you've been told (see the first item on the list).
- You think most problems could be solved if only people would work hard together.
- You'd respect someone who speaks a foreign language, but, although you most likely studied English for at least ten years in school, you very likely don't speak well enough to communicate with a monolingual foreigner. In Hong Kong and Taiwan--which are certainly China--you think the schools should teach kids Chinese. And that means Mandarin, none of that Yuèyǔ.
- Despite this, the importance of learning English has been emphasized to you. Not that you're likely to travel to an English-speaking country, but if you want a high salary, you'll probably look for a position with a foreign company in China.
To add to your Amazon wish list
- You think a tax level of 10% is very high.
- School is free through middle school; high school and college aren't, unless you get a scholarship.
- College is (normally, and excluding graduate study) four years long.
- Mustard comes in jars, but nobody buys it. Shaving cream comes in cans. Milk comes in plastic jugs or bags, cardboard boxes, and sometimes in bottles.
- The year comes first: 1949/10/01. (And you know what happened on that day.)
- If you use a comma as a decimal point, your math teacher will punish you.
- Higher numbers go by groups of four digits. Above a thousand, you go from wàn (1 0000 or ten thousand) to yì (1 0000 0000 or one hundred million).
- World War II was eight years long for the Chinese, and we fought with Japan the whole time. It was a miserable period for the Chinese, but since then there has been no major tragedy in China.
- You expect most marriages to be made for love, although your parents might arrange your marriage. And a man cannot have more than one wife at a time--legally--even if he wants to. For everybody besides the bride and groom, the wedding is a burden--they have to prepare the "red envelope."
- If a man has sex with another man, he's "a gay," and he cannot get a marriage certificate.
- Once you're introduced to people, you can call them by their full name, but depending on their social status, you can call them by their family name plus their title. You can also call them Xiǎo (young) or Lǎo (old) plus their family name.
- If you're a woman, you don't go to the beach topless.
- A hotel room has a private bath and a toilet.
- You'd rather a film be subtitled than dubbed (if you go to foreign films at all).
- If a politician has been cheating on his wife, you would never know unless he told you in person.
- Credit cards are popular only in the big cities, although they are becoming more widely used even in the smaller cities.
- A company can mostly fire whom it wants. In most cases a month salary will be offered as compensation.
- Labor Day is on the first of May, but the holiday lasts for seven days.
And what did he do to his nose?
- You've probably seen ShaoLin Temple, Red Jowar, East Bubai, Telephone, and Hero. If you are under forty, add Dàhuà Xīyóu, Bet Deity, Story of Policeman, Fēihóng Huáng, New Longmen Inn; otherwise, add Love Story on Lu Shan, Guest from Ice Mountain, Grazier, and Lightning Storm.
- You know Yōnglín Tán, Guóróng Zhāng, Xuéyōu Zhāng, Déhuá Liú, Fēi Wáng, Xiùwén Zhèng, Yīlín Cài, and Jiélún Zhōu. If not, you know Huān Liú, Nán sūn, Yū Quán, Yīng Nà, Hóng Hán, and Míng Chén.
- Since medical fees are so high, you generally exercise and pray that you don't fall ill. If you're rich, you can access high-quality medicine to delay your death, but if not, you just wait for the inevitable.
- Your country has been conquered by foreign nations, and you'd rather not talk about it.
- You're used to a wide variety of choices for almost anything you buy.
- You still measure things in Chinese units sometimes; otherwise, you use centimeters, grams, and liters.
- You may be a farmer. But if you are, you're probably not reading this.
- You drive on the right side of the road. You may or may not stop at red lights whether or not anybody's around. When you're riding a bicycle or walking on the road, you will trust your eyes over the stoplights. You may still drive a car on the road after you've had a drink.
- You consider the Volkswagen Santana to be a medium-sized car as well as the vehicle of taxi drivers. Volkswagen Beetle? What's that?
- The police are armed, but in most cases, don't use weapons.
- If a woman is plumper than average, it doesn't improve her looks. And "average" in China is much thinner than in most Western countries.
- The biggest meal of the day is in the evening.
- There's parts of the country you definitely want to avoid, period.
The secret to our success: no lawyers
- You would probably prefer to work for a foreign company, because you can get a higher salary and more valuable work experience.
- You usually prefer to buy foreign products, because you believe they're of better quality. If you have the opportunity to publicly display your indulgence in foreign products, by, say, eating in a Häagen-Dazs restaurant, all the better.
- However, you're very unlikely to buy Japanese products. This is due mostly to the tension between China and Japan that's existed since World War II and continued as a result of their refusal to acknowledge the atrocities they committed during that time. You generally feel that Japanese look down on the Chinese and don't want to interact with them as a group or individually. Frankly, you don't want to say you hate them, but... Then you read what the Japan culture test says about Chinese, and your animosity is revived.
- Korea, on the other hand, is a very good neighbor, who you think China has historically had a very good relationship with. You don't have much opinion one way or the other about any of the remaining countries that neighbor China.
- You would find a foreign son-in-law unacceptable. It would be good if the family's financial situation of your son in law is almost the same as yours.
- You think of Michael Jackson as the greatest dancer; however, he's kind of crazy for changing his complexion from black to white.
Space and time
- You feel that you aren't considered as important as the people living in Beijing.
- You tend to save most of your salary in the bank. And though credit cards are not very common, nearly everybody has an ATM card or three.
- The normal thing, when a couple dies, is for the elder or the poorer among their children to get a larger piece of the estate.
- Spring Festival is in the winter. You spend it with your family, visit your relatives and friends, and have a delicious meal together.
- You may think a temple is a holy place. But you don't want to live in it.
- You'd be hard-pressed to name the capitals or the leaders of all the nations of Asia.
- You will never leave a message at the beep. Most of the time, in fact, there is no beep.
- Villas are built for wealthy men and foreigners.
- You are distrustful of welfare. You want the government to improve social security and health care.
- If you want to be a doctor, you need to get a doctor's degree. Otherwise, you can't get a job in a good hospital.
- You don't think you will need a lawyer during your lifetime.
- If you are male and your girlfriend is late for a meeting, you must wait there and be patient, and when she arrives, you should still smile. If you are female and your boyfriend arrives late, you will be very angry, and you will accuse him of not loving you. But after you are married, the above will be reversed.
- The things you expect to bargain for are houses, cars, consumer electronics, clothing, food... If possible, you will haggle for just about anything. Haggling is to prevent you from being cheated or ripped off.
- You will feel uncomfortable if a stranger--with the exception of a good-looking member of the opposite sex--is talking to you from closer than a meter away. If you are in a crowded supermarket, train, bus, queue--just about anywhere, as a matter of fact--you will have no choice but to bump into and push other people. In this case, comfort or discomfort is irrelevant: your only concern is for your personal belongings.
- Once you're past college, you very rarely simply show up at someone's place. But you and your classmates/roommates will plan a meeting every few years to talk about your life and have a meal together.