Why are Chinese so direct?

Chinese have a reputation for being direct towards people both in their speech and actions. For Chinese this is common but for foreigners it can be a major challenge while either traveling, studying or working in China.

My best advice is to not think about it too much. Chinese interact with one another in their own way, which is usually more direct, just as Westerners tend to be (not always) less direct in their speech. It’s not that either is more correct, but just the way it is.

One example that always gets brought up is talking about physical appearances. It is very common for Chinese to tell one another “You put on weight recently” or “Wearing those clothes makes you look skinnier.” For a Chinese, neither sentences are really a critique or a compliment on that person’s appearance nor are they meant to carry sentiments of which the listener is expected to react to with some other kind of emotion of their own. Instead, the Chinese feel they are stating the obvious and in fact may even be curious as to why the way someone looks the way they do. Even if there is curiosity, however, it’s not necessarily related to some sort of judgment.

Likewise with foreigners Chinese tend to talk the same way. “You have a really big nose” is a common phrase foreigners hear along with “You are so tall” and “Your hair is blond.”

If you can remember that there aren’t any offensive notions attached to what they are saying and really consider the different ways Chinese speak to you then you can realize they are just direct in nature. Think of it rather as just an observation or a statement based on the obvious from their worldviews. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are right, but it is what it is.

Chinese also talk really fast and to the point. Actually, this is quite common in big cities all over the world but in China where there is a much larger population and Chinese are used to doing things quickly, the need for being direct and fast is a must.

For a Chinese, they really just want to get to the point of a conversation and not spend time chatting on the phone over details that should have been thought up before the conversation. Also, in China phone companies charge by the minute and there are no such things as free calls after 7pm or on the weekends to getting that fast phone call in is a must! Because Chinese usually have a lot going on with work and other things in their lives, they make it a point to keep things short.

If you don’t think this is how it goes try being direct with a Chinese but in a manner, which you have received before. Obviously, like in any language if you walk up to someone and say “I have never seen such a foul-smelled funny looking Wanker in my life” then likely that person is going to get upset. Rather, if you comment on something that they may not consider so personal such as their weight you are likely to see that they will not react with offensive statements.

This is hard to practice but what it comes down to is understanding and knowing that people express themselves and communicate in different ways. I have seen people get into arguments over innocent statements and hopefully you can avoid similar scenarios.

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