Cultural differences between countries can be so huge that, the etiquette makes sense in China will turn out to be a totally different thing in the West. We can see the culture shock from the following scenes:
Scene 1: A school leader introduces a new teacher, who's from the USA, to other teachers.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I'm delighted to introduce to you a very pretty girl, Miss Brown. She is a very good teacher from the USA."
However, it will be better accepted by the American teacher, in this way: "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm delighted to introduce to you a new teacher from the USA Miss Ann Brown. She is a doctor of American Literature with experience of teaching English as a Foreign Language."
Because they prefer objective facts, the subjective evaluation ("pretty" and "good") sounds offensive to them.
Scene 2: A Chinese person shows his concern about his American colleague, who got a cold.
Chinese: You look pale. What's the matter?
American: I'm feeling sick. A cold, maybe.
Chinese: Go and see the doctor. Drink more water. Did you take any pills? Chinese medicine works wonderful. Would you like to try? Put on more clothes. Have a good rest.
American: You are not my mother, are you?!
Suggestions: you can show your care for others, but never give advice, as Americans attach much emphasis on independence. He who is cared by others is considered as a disadvantaged one. Instead, just say "Take care. I hope you'll be better soon".
There are more examples showing culture shock in the Sino-American cross-cultural contact.
In China, where family life is culturally and socially prescriptive, people normally marry in their early twenties, and bear children soon after marriage.
Great importance is placed on the nest – the matrimonial home, usually gotten before marriage – and the preference is for ownership of the matrimonial home.
It is the male who normally purchases the matrimonial home. But my English friend had no inkling of these dynamics – he hails from a world, in Europe, where the ethos of family is different.
Perhaps the greatest difference is communication – or rather, the lack of it.
Chinese people (like many other people in East Asia) are not as communicative as people in the West. This is partly cultural.
In Chinese culture, people tend to avoid discussions that might lead to confrontation or to someone losing 'face' – and people in China learn at an early age to maintain composure and conceal strong emotions.
Moreover, the prescriptiveness of in China means that overt communication about expectations is not needed.
For example, when a Chinese daughter and her family start makes allusions to buying a house to the daughter's boyfriend, the boyfriend would instantly understand that his girlfriend and her parents have their eyes fixed on marriage – it doesn't need to be stated explicitly).
Much of Chinese interpersonal communication follows this pattern where something is implied, not explicitly stated – making explicit demands may cause someone to lose face.
In the West, where people are more individual and families more diverse, a couple heading towards marriage hold comprehensive discussions about what each one of them wants or expects from the marriage. That also includes discussions about whether or when to have a child.
Chinese couples do not need to discuss the question of procreation – in China it is a given that a family ought to have a child – and the Chinese, for example, were very surprised when they found out that some of my aunts and uncles chose to remain unmarried and childless.
These social dynamics in China have the effect of keeping the extended family in close partnership.
An understanding of these family differences between the West and China allows us to make the right choices, and learn from each other's.