Are the Chinese the new Americans?

Davey Meelker

Arrogant, rude and loud. When you ask random people on the streets about characteristics of Americans I’m sure you will hear those. But wait a second. Those are the same characteristics of stereotypical Chinese. Most Americans I encountered did not fulfil this stereotype. What about the Chinese I met? Do they fulfil the American stereotype?

To start with the first one: arrogant. Well, the literal translation of the name China in Chinese is Middle Land (read more about the Middle Land perspective here). It is true that many Chinese look down on minorities within their own country, as the Tibetans and the Uyghurs, and we heard the same stories when it comes to other Asian countries and don’t even mention Africans. My own experience, nevertheless, is that they are proud of their country, but also interested in ‘other’ countries (meaning the West). And although the Chinese often stick together (they love group tours), I never observed any hint in any conversation with a Chinese person that they find themselves or their culture better than my culture and myself. In my opinion people in the West look down on the Chinese more than the other way around. So who is more arrogant?

Rude… and dirty. Well this one is trickier. It is true: many Chinese people eat extremely noisily. They often eat with an open mouth, smack and talk with their mouth full. It is evident that in the West people would find this dirty and rude. I would say it is more a culture difference. It is not meant to be rude, it is just their way of eating. Honestly, it took time for me to get used to it, but are etiquettes not just a social construction?

You could say the same for spitting on the ground with lot of noise. We saw people spitting on the floors in restaurants, buses and streets. “Disgusting!” people in the West would say. To my surprise many people in China share this view. Especially the young. And it is true, when you look around, you barely see young people spitting on the ground. In any case it’s a minority who do that.

Maybe it is a cultural difference too, but the Chinese loudness is something that I do consider to be rude. And then I don’t mean the conversations when you don’t know if they are having a good time or want to kill each other. I mean the complete disregard of others around them.  I have been in many sleeper trains and every time I was woken up in the middle of the night. And not in subtle way. People were literary shouting to each other or in their phone. They just didn’t care that besides their screaming the train was completely silent with more than sixty people in the carriage trying to sleep. To my astonishment no one said a word to the noisemakers.

The same counts with the endless pushing in lines and public transport (read our anthropological explanation to this here).  Some Chinese like to push, shove and cut in line (even when there are numbered seats!). Again, this is a minority and again nobody will correct the rude in a country where not losing face is of great importance. As a result, the rude will get away with their rudeness, because the one who corrects the other will get a substitute feeling of losing face. This is maybe worse than losing face yourself. I understand people who say that Chinese are rude and loud, but fortunately it is a minority.

So are the Chinese the new Americans? Well, like many American stereotypes it is just minority or a misconception that results in the stereotypes. Fortunately both countries are not full of arrogance, rudeness and loud people. On the other hand I do understand where most Chinese stereotypes come from. Especially the idea of rudeness and loud people, they easily stand out of the crowd. Now China is a huge economic superpower too I’m afraid it is matter of time the Chinese will be seen as the next Americans, disregarding the reality…

One response to “Are the Chinese the new Americans?”

  1. Hilda Passchier says :

    Thankx voor sharing your experiences, it’s interesting to learn about other cultures and looking into the mirror at the same time. By the way: good news that the winner of the Nobel literature prize pleaded to free the former winner of the Nobel peace prize!

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