I grew up in Germany, have Vietnamese roots and study Chinese Business Communication. That’s why we had to go to a Chinese speaking country to learn the language.
Writing and reading is difficult, but talking is not so difficult, because Vietnamese and Chinese are similar in their tone. There are five or six tones in Vietnamese, and there are three tones in Chinese.
I thought Shanghai would be a good choice because it is very western. I was there for a semester abroad.
Although I was in other cities like Beijing, I noticed a bit the difference. They are more traditional and if you speak a different language, they look at you like “oh she looks Asian, but does not speak Chinese”.
And it’s different in Shanghai. You can speak any language and Chinese do not stare at you. They know that there are many foreigners.
Shanghai is beautiful and very modern. The tall buildings impressed me a lot because I am not used to it here in Bavaria. Unfortunately, the subway stops service at 10pm. The good thing about the city is that the shops are open from Monday to Friday until 11pm.
About Vietnamese and Chinese mentality
Shanghai is very different. I actually thought that I would get along well, because Vietnam is right next to China and the Confucius philosophy has a lot of influence there. But I think Chinese are still a bit tougher on that.
I had the impression that people of Shanghai are not as friendly, not even towards foreigners. In Vietnam, I have always experienced that when , for example, Germans are there, they are treated quite differently because of their blond hair and white skin. They have a special status there, they (Vietnamese) stare at them and treat them more politely.
In Shanghai, they make no difference, I do not think it’s bad.
Also, ‘gagging mucus from their throat’ and burping is normal there. When they sneeze, they do not turn away or sneeze in their elbows. They just sneeze straight. Over the time, you get used to it a bit.
Culinary: oil, oil and a little more oil
I did not cook much, I was always eating out. In front of our student residence, there were always street food stands, but Chinese food is not so much my thing.
Typical Chinese food is oily food. They add oil to every meal, even in white rice. It tastes bland, it is fried or simply bathed in oil. Even boiled vegetables are garnished with oil. In Bavaria, where I come from, we have more solid and salty food and I missed it all.
“They do not know to keep distance and privacy”
When the metro arrives, people do not let the other passengers get off first, they push you directly in. I could not get off a couple of times. As soon as the door opens, they are afraid not to get into the subway.
Sure, when there are so many people, this is, on one hand, understandable, but on the other hand the subway does not run away. I had to fight very often through human masses, which was very exhausting.
I was not aware that they do not care much about privacy,
that was completely new to me.
In the subway, for example, they watch videos without headphones, they watch with sound turned on. I thought that was funny. It does not make them feel uncomfortable that other people around them watch with them. It was not embarrassing videos, but still I do not want to draw all the attention to me by watching videos.
If you sit in the subway, no matter how little space there is, they squeeze in. Or sit with half of their butt on the bench. When people bump into each other, it is just normal for them and they do not apologize.
They do not know privacy. When standing in a line, when you go shopping, people stand close to you, they do not know how to keep distance. I was so happy to be back here in Germany. When I arrived at the airport, and no matter how crowded it was, the people kept distance.
It is said, Chinese have a good job ethic that they are very diligent and I find that is true. Shops are open from Monday to Sunday (from 10am to 10pm or 11pm), but on the other hand they do not work after 10pm at all.
For example, taking a taxi in Qingdao: My girlfriend and I were on the beach and we wanted to go home and tried to stop a taxi. They said, “No, it’s lunch now, I cannot drive you home.” It took us almost two hours to get a taxi!
They therefore strictly adhere to their working hours. In Germany, if a customer enters the shop ten minutes before the shop closes, it’s perhaps annoying, but they still are able to shop.
In China, they scare customer off. They do not mince matters and say “No, get out here, we are closing soon.”
The courtesy is simply better in Germany. When I went to the bank, I was so happy when the lady said, “Hello, what can I do for you?” And “thank you” and “goodbye.”
In China they do not do that.
Coming soon: Part 2 “Social media in China? Almost no chance! “