East vs West
Chiense girl crouching at metro

Cultural Differences: Public Decency In China And The West

In China, it is commonly accepted that Chinese are conservative people by nature.  Their filial personality and traditional dress sense often reflect this accepted truth.

Good manners and etiquette should complement a conservative Chinese.  However, in my journey to explore cultural differences between China and The West, I have observed exceptions to good manners in Chinese society.

While with a female Chinese friend in China, Guangzhou, the friend smirked, “I just saw a girl riding a bike dressed in a mini-skirt.”

I remarked, “Did she wear underwear?  Or could you see everything?”

She replied, “She was wearing underwear, but you could see.”

I confirmed, “Chinese people do that.  Chinese people really do not consider manners.  This phenomenon would not happen in Australia.”

Who Teaches Good Manners In China?

I explained, “In Australia, kids learn manners when they are at school, and at home.  They learn to be ladylike in public.  A woman will learn to cross legs in public for example.”

“I don’t think anybody learns that in China.  Your family in China will not remind you to show good manners in public.  The Chinese government or the Chinese education system certainly is not going to teach you to show good manners.”

I asked, “Do Chinese people learn manners?”

She said, “No.  The Chinese government does not teach Chinese people about manners.  In Chinese schools, many people oppose learning about these kinds of manners.”

Sexual Education In Chinese Schools

In China, sexual education remains taboo.  When sex is still forbidden to be openly discussed, it lends to the lack of decency and good manners in public.

The Chinese education system attempted to teach sex education in Chinese schools, but conservative Chinese families oppose sex education in schools.

She explained, “Chinese people even opposed sex education that would teach Chinese children about the anatomy of the penis and vagina.”

If Chinese society never educates people about the opposite sex, and you are never told how to behave, then ignorance towards manners would develop.

What Manners Are Important In China?

I asked, “If no one is teaching you ladylike manners, then what manners do you learn from school in China?”

She answered, “I was taught not to spit in public, to look after the elderly, and to respect the elderly.”

These manners are core Chinese cultural identifiers.

Chinese people have adopted propriety in manners more associated with Confucius (孔子). To my knowledge, however, Confucius does not teach one how to be ladylike.

This complete lack of manners in Chinese society would be the reason we see so many Chinese females crouch down on the sidewalks, ride bikes in miniskirts, or sit in restaurants with their legs spread and underwear visible.

This phenomenon is very prevalent in China due to the fact that no one teaches Chinese people to be more ladylike.

This lack of education around manners can partly explain the phenomenon of public crudeness; Chinese people who push forward in a queue, who spit in public, who talk loudly, and Chinese parents who hold their babies over public rubbish bins so their babies can go to the toilet.  This behavior occurs because Chinese society does not educate its people on manners.

Cultural Definitions On Decency

Manners are a set of rules that you impose on yourself, because greater society deems those habits to be bad.

Each culture has its own definition on decency; unpleasant habits that human beings have that other human beings could do without.

Society does not mandate for people to cross their legs in public, close their mouth when they chew food, or to form orderly queues.  Manners nonetheless are what people learn in order to cultivate good habits.

According to Western standards of decency, China has maintained a lot of their unpleasant habits.  This is reflected more broadly when Chinese travel overseas.  In China, however, Chinese people have never learnt their conduct is inappropriate.

I personally think decency with Chinese attributes is fun to observe.  These cultural differences make a trip to China more colorful, yet some propriety in manners rooted in Confucius (孔子) such as filial piety (孝顺) can take frustrating years to fully understand.

Are you looking for suitable English-Chinese language exchange partners in China and Abroad?

Guangzhou One Day Love Cartoon


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