Much like Western cultures, family is valued greatly among Chinese but differences still exist. Since the beginning of time, Chinese families have followed a patriarchal system where men run the household. In this changing society however, China has transformed from a patriarchal system to one in which women can act as the “man of the house.” One traditional belief that has long been imbedded in Chinese culture is respecting elders. Unlike the West where “children are the future,” China sees elders as the deeply respected and greatly listened by the rest of the family. Disputes with elders are acts of disgrace and leave others the impression that your family is fragmented and not unified, as Chinese believe families should be. Keep in mind that family is valued above everything and adhering to Chinese family principles helps solidify a healthy, family relationship.
The concept of friendship in Western society may be like this: John Doe is the average expat and is willing to befriend everyone he meets; therefore he has a large group of friends, some of which he holds close ties to while others may be aquaintances with short-lasting friendships. He will casually chat with strangers, conversing about a wide variety of topics. Whenever a new neighbor moves in, he will automatically greet them, show them around, and maybe even engage in some activities with them. He will feel delighted to do favors for his friends, with the exception of lending money, but he will avoid invading other’s privacy and expects others to do the same in return.
Then how would the average Chinese react to this?
Be wary that befriending strangers is not part of the Chinese mindset, for trust in whether a person is good or bad varies. Chinese typically value long-lasting friendships and prefer to stay with friends who they have close ties with, often who they have known for a long time. In addition, friends feel obligated to help as much as possible whenever their friend is in need of assistance. However, locals can show too much interest and concern over your life that it may turn out to invade your privacy. Make sure to set a clear border for what you share and what you do not. In addition, do not expect a greeting if you are the new girl next door or the new kid at work, not because the Chinese environment is unfriendly, but it is because you are new to them. In time, the locals will get used to you and maybe even initiate a friendship to start.
Although society has move passed most of its traditional ways, Chinese still have a tendency to hide in their shell, especially when it comes to displaying signs of affection. It goes without saying that PDA-ing is not frequently seen in society. Hugging and holding hands in public are now considered normal, unlike the past when people found these two gestures of affection as rude if done in public. However, kissing in public is very rare since Chinese are rather conservative by nature. Kissing, especially french kissing, can be perceived as annoying or distracting, explaining why the gesture is usually done in private. Before a man and woman can become husband and wife, Chinese often require approval the blessings from both sides of the family. After marriage, commitment to marriage that lasts for an eternal lifetime is crucial. Chinese society frowns upon affairs and divorces, both frequently seen overseas but rarely done in China.
Overall, Chinese place the highest value on family relationships but that does not lessen the importance of other relationships. Whether you are befriending local or dating a local, understanding the Chinese perception of different relationships is critical to keeping that relationship alive.