Culture Matters

In a long-term work as English-speaking tour guide. I want to share some interesting stories caused by cultural differences between the East and the West.

Usually I introduce where I come from in the beginning,  but Chinese people often talk about the origin of their ancestors while foreigners often talk about the place where they grow up or live. Once I introduced that  driver’s a Cantonese, then there’s a guest asked me if he can speak Cantonese. His reply was a no. In fact, the driver’s ancestral home is Guangdong, but he came to Shanghai with his father from Guangdong to find a living since he was a kid. So his Shanghai dialect is better than Cantonese.

Many foreigners came to Shanghai and told me that Shanghai was a very young city. Once a guest said:” There are so many young people like you on the streets.”  I replied ” yes, there are a lot of young people came from all over the country looking for the opportunities.” and jokingly said, “I am not young, I’m 34, I was born in 1985. The foreigner said that I was also born in 85, but I’m 32! Then I explained:” On the date of birth we already have one year age and if you’re born before the soon coming Chinese New Year you’ll be added one year when people celebrate the festival. e.g. I was born several days before the Chinese New year, Thus I have two years more than my real age”. I continued:  “There is an educated way to find out someone’s age without asking them directly. People usually just ask the sign of the Chinese zodiac, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.  you can soon calculate approximately  what year they were born and how old they are.

When it’s time for departure, especially the French lady, they kiss the cheeks and say goodbye. Chinese doesn’t show the hospitality by kissing the cheeks, even with families or very close friends. We usually nod or smile, the only physical contact is to shake hands and rarely hug.  Later, I gradually got used to this kind of way to express myself with the Westners.

© 2019, Chris. All rights reserved.

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