When you first come to China you can almost imagine that it isn’t really that different from home. It certainly isn’t the old China that you see in the movies – women walking around in Qipao, Shaolin monks roaming the streets, temples and pagodas on every corner. In fact, many Chinese cities physically resemble their counterparts abroad, and it can be easy when you first step off the plane to feel like, aside from the funny signs in a different language, not that much is different. But the differences between China and the West are often more subtle and include differences in lifestyle and ways that might not stand out immediately when you take your first forays onto Chinese soil; but you will notice them, in time. Here we look at ways that Chinese lives are different from ours back home.
1) No Car Culture
Although car ownership is becoming more common in China, you are just as likely to see people walking or riding bikes as you are to see them behind the wheel. Aside from the obvious health benefits to walking and bike riding, the lack of a car culture in China has a larger effect on Chinese lifestyles than you might first realise. There are almost no drive-through fast food restaurants, for starters, which means that while fast food is popular in China it is not so convenient as to have become a daily part of most people’s routines. Because most Chinese people are not car owners, Chinese cities have extremely well developed public transportation. Lack of car ownership also means less urban sprawl, with most city dwellers concentrated in urban areas near the city center. Although these features of Chinese life are changing, we doubt that cars will completely overtake other forms of transportation anytime soon.
2) On Being a Teen
Chinese culture does not indulge in the idea that kids will be kids or that teenagers are bound to get up to no good. You won’t hear tales from Chinese teenagers about the keggers they went to after homecoming or the joints they smoked under the bleachers. There is no high school football team and no cheerleaders, no yearbook, no senior prom. Instead, young Chinese people spend hours upon relentless hours prepping for their college entrance exams. They are often not allowed to date and while of course teenage puppy love exists, open displays of affection can be grounds for serious punishment or even expulsion in some Chinese high schools. In the West our stories of our wild and crazy youth are a huge part of our collective consciousness, so much so that the topic has spawned countless movies, songs, and T.V. shows, and has shaped how we ourselves view the boundaries between childhood and adulthood. In China, teenagers are still very much children and are expected to do as they are told, get good grades and not disappoint their families.
3) Sense of Community
The local parks and neighbourhood courtyards are a cornerstone of the social network for Chinese people. After dinner and before the sun goes down, the parks start to fill up with people – older people practicing tai qi, middle aged men playing cards or chess, young people strolling in pairs, and children running around as their parents look on. This evening time is when Chinese families come out to socialize, to gossip with the neighbours, enjoy some fresh air, and get a bit of exercise. While we in the West, especially America, have become paranoid about the predator lurking around the corner, have become isolated in front of our various screens and devices, over here in China the tradition of the neighbourhood community still persists, bringing back good memories to those of us old enough to remember riding our bikes with the neighbourhood kids or sitting on the front porch and chatting with the neighbours.
4) Fresh Food
In China, frozen TV dinners are largely a foreign concept. Each morning you can see the mothers, grandmothers and ayis on their way to the market to buy the fresh produce they need for the family’s meals. Many Chinese families still do not have refrigerators, nor do they particularly see the need for them, as they buy what they need for each day’s meal every day, sometimes even making several trips to the market in one day. Although it is arguably more convenient to make weekly or bi-weekly shopping trips to the big mega-mart, shopping daily ensures less waste, as you only buy what you are sure you will use in a day. Fresh meat and produce is also healthier than processed food, which is largely why Chinese food, despite being cooked in vats of oil, has a reputation for being better for you than Western food.
5) Family First
珍爱家庭自然也是西方人所崇尚的理念，只是在西方人眼里，中国人至今坚持的传统家庭模式早已过时。比如，中国人认为传统的两性婚姻是人生幸福的必要前提，所以在中国，单身妈妈或过了30岁依然未婚的男女并不多见。 绝大部分的中国家庭是这样构成的：妈妈、爸爸、一到两个小孩，他们一起和爷爷奶奶或外公外婆住一起，这样的好处是老人可以帮助照看孩子，而爸爸妈妈则可以更好地外出赚钱养家。 到了傍晚，一家人齐聚一堂，共同分享由长辈们准备的晚餐，这样的晚餐通常由好几道菜组成，颇为丰盛。我们在上世纪50年代也曾拥有过这样的家庭模式，只是如今早已不见其踪影，这引起了许多学者、政治家的热烈讨论。信奉传统家庭理念的人们大可不必失望，因为至少在像北京、上海、西安这样的中国大城市里，传统的家庭模式依然完好地存在着。
While Westerners certainly love and cherish their families, the traditional family is the cornerstone of the Chinese lifestyle in ways that have become nearly obsolete back home. A traditional opposite sex marriage, for example, is considered essential to happiness and in China, single mothers or unmarried men and women over the age of 30 are rare. Most Chinese families consist of a mother, a father, a child or perhaps two, and one’s elderly parents living in the home and helping the family to raise their children while mother and father work hard to support the family financially. Most Chinese families have sit down dinners each night with all of the members of the family present and the matriarch of the family usually prepares a proper meal with several courses. The loss of this 1950’s-style family model has caused much discussion back home, as politicians rally around the family as a “cause,” the Pat Robertsons of the world need not despair, for better or worse the traditional family is alive and well – in Beijing, Shanghai and Xi’an.
2011-02-23 13:57 编辑：kuaileyingyu
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