Chinese Traditions

November 9-15

Week 8 of class: we played a desert island game in class this week, where students had to pick which items they would take to a deserted island.  I also discussed Western culture in my classes this week and had them talk about Chinese traditions that foreigners should learn. Some of them are quite funny.

  • Never share a pear with someone. The Chinese word for pear ‘li’ has the same sound as the Chinese word for “depart”, so if you share with someone it means you will not see them again. (Apples are very good to share, however, because it means safety)
  • Don’t give a clock to someone on their birthday. It means death.
  • Also, don’t give a pair of shoes to someone. It means “go away!”
  • You should not open a present in front of the person who gave it to you. In America, it’s polite to show them you like your gift, but in China you should wait for them to leave to open it.
  • Do not eat one egg the morning you take a test. An egg is shaped like a zero. If you want to do well, you eat a fried bread stick and two eggs because they spell out 100
  • Don’t stick your chopsticks straight up and down in your rice, that means death. Also don’t point them at people, that’s extremely rude.

Some of those traditions depend on the area in China you come from. Before I came to China, I had this idea in mind that it one big country where they have the same traditions and language. How silly that was. People in different parts of China may not even be able to understand each other! They all speak Mandarin, but there are so many dialects depending on what city you live in that my students from the south (where Hengyang is) say they can’t understand what some northern people say.

And then there is Cantonese, which I’ve learned is even harder than Mandarin. They have eight tones to learn for each word instead of just four, like Mandarin does. Most of the people from the Guangdong Province and Hong Kong know Cantonese. My friend told me that many years ago the Chinese people took a vote on what the national language of China should be – Mandarin or Cantonese. Mandarin won by only a few votes, narrowly determining what the people should speak.

Lauren had one of her classes over on Friday night for a party, and we played charades with them. They picked the funniest most difficult words to act out, like dung beetle, ammonia and epilepsy. Lauren made lots of American food for them to try as well – PB&J sandwiches, peanut butter cookies, and banana bread. They’ve never tried PB&J before and ate them with chopsticks and I had to stop myself from dying of laughter.


The final round for the drama competition was also this week, and I was able to see several of my classes perform again. One of my classes with Eudora, Arthur, Jerry, and Big Bro advanced to this round with their performance of Les Mis and it was so inspiring seeing my little Chinese students singing English words about a French Revolution!


It was amazing to see how the Chinese students responded to the Paris tragedy this weekend. Many of my students posted pictures and statuses on their social media QQ and WeChat: “Pray for Paris” “Be Brave and strong France.” Some of the students don’t know much about ISIS or Middle Eastern happenings, so I wasn’t sure how they would respond to the events happening. A few of my more outgoing students were very interested in learning more.

This weekend I also saw my first movie in a Chinese movie theater and it was…interesting. We (4 Americans + Minnie) saw the new James Bond movie ‘Spectre’. It cost about 23 RMB each. They don’t have butter popcorn like American theaters, it’s more of a sweet kettle corn kind, but still delicious. The movie started, and I thought everyone on their phones would stop playing on them, but they didn’t. People were texting and playing video games on their phones, answering phone calls and talking loudly the entire movie! I don’t think all cinema experiences are like this, because Brittany says their first movie experience was better, but Pete said every movie he has seen has been like this too.

As always, China is brimming with new experiences and it’s hard to believe it’s been almost 3 months here.

Also: Alden made an awesome video from our trip to Xi’an. You should check it out here!



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