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Culture & Customs

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Cultural Comparison

It is always difficult to describe people in just a few words. While we attempt to look at the lives of the Chinese here, it is important to remember that these perspectives are from Americans studying abroad. It is essential to keep an open mind when looking at cultures other than one’s own. We may not agree with everything they do, but as guests in their countries, we should respect their customs and beliefs.

Manners

Lines are usually formed haphazardly and many students become frustrated when the locals “cut the line.” Our advice is to be patient.

The Chinese are also very strict about other table manners when they are eating with others. When pouring tea, you must always pour tea for your guests before pouring for yourself. 

Shanghainese

Like other provinces of China, the Shanghainese speak their own dialect. Many people do speak Mandarin, but you will hear differences in their accents. Travel throughout Shanghai and explore as many aspects of the city as you possibly can.

Hobbies

One of the most popular hobbies in China is Tai Chi Quan ( 太極拳 ). Tai Chi is an internal martial art which promotes health and longevity. Early in the morning, people of all ages gather outside in large groups to exercise. They usually meet at parks and listen to the radio, which leads them through slow, synchronized moves. Chinese students often comment that foreigners think all Chinese people practice martial arts. This is a common misconception study abroad students should recognize. In the case of Tai Chi, for example, many people do practice it, but most of the people at parks in the morning are older Chinese men and women.

Language Tips

  • Learn how to navigate taxi drivers to the NYU Center and your dorm. If you get lost in Shanghai, you will always know how to get home! Also, keep a copy of the address in your purse or wallet, just in case the driver cannot understand you.
  • Speak as much Chinese as you can at all times. You are in China! Take advantage of your location, and utilize your skills!
  • Do not be afraid to speak because you think your American accent is horrible. You will find that the Chinese are very encouraging of new speakers, and even if you think your accent is horrible, they will always compliment you on your speaking.
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