Why Chinese seem “impolite” in their behavior

To say Chinese are not polite is simply not true. In fact, Chinese can be some of the most polite and nice people you know, provided you know them without the eyes of judgment as well as what a typical Westerner’s so-called ideal polite person is.

In the West, people tend to be very concerned about space and everything in it is personal. So, when someone gets into a Westerner’s “personal space”, or invades it, they take it as an insult. “Why would you bump into me or walk right in front of me like that. There is plenty of space over there”, you may have found yourself asking in regards to a Chinese person that just bumped into you.

If this has happened to you, you probably noticed your blood pressure rise, feelings of anger and frustration increase amongst many other negative side effects-but that’s because like many people, you may have misunderstood the Chinese person’s actions.

Unfortunately for the Westerner, the Chinese sense of personal space is much different, as they come from a much different community and culture that doesn’t leave for a lot of legroom and personal space. Anyone who has been to China knows how crowded it is, especially in the major cities. A so-called small city in China is often 10 times bigger and more populated than an average suburban city in the US, and space for housing everyone is limited. Therefore, Chinese are very used to being around people literally all the time, which can get a bit bumpy and cause people to be more aggressive in their behavior.

But it’s not that Chinese become physical towards one another out of anger in the sense that the only way for them to get around and survive is be rude through shoving; rather, the shoving is a bi-product of their environment, a behavior that is adopted that allows them to get from one place to place on time and in the manner they see fit.

Every culture has their ways of reacting to their environments. Typically, in most large cities around the world people tend to walk a lot faster; are more direct and “rude”; and are not afraid to bump into someone if they are trying to get off a train in a hurry. Likewise, people in small cities tend to talk slower, drive slower and have that more “small-town” complexion that you know I’m talking about.

So, when it comes to a group of people such as the Chinese that pretty much only know crowds, hordes of traffic, giant skyscrapers coupled with customs of being very direct in speech, it only becomes habitual for them to act in their push and shove way that people often complain about, especially while trying to take in tourist spots in the country. Have you ever met someone who was born in China but then moved to a small city in the US, acts completely Western and doesn’t have the non-pushy like behavior that you like? If so, then you understand what this habitual behavior I am talking about. If not, you can probably guess at what I am talking about.

But without getting too vague, just remember-if you get pushed or shoved by a Chinese, don’t let it get to you and that it is not personal! If you are preparing for a trip to China this will be some advice worth remembering, or if you are there now trying to work, study or travel, keep reminding yourself that it’s not appropriate for you to expect your standard of etiquette from everyone.

If you can accept this then you won’t feel so hostile towards Chinese and the feeling of being attacked will dissipate as well. You will also be more likely to engage with more people in China and realize that there is more to their character than hostile, rude folks that don’t know a thing about the world.

Or, at the very least, remember that there are 1.3 billion of them and how many million of you, so statistically and as hard as it is to accept, their behavior could also be regarded as more normal than your own.


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