The top 5 differences between America and China

Programs for this blog post

Teach In China Program

Authored By:

Mariah H.

Okay, sorry for the clickbait title. There are a million differences between America and China, both big and small that rank differently depending on your background, reason for travel, and where you end up in China. But, I’m the one writing this, so you’re stuck with my top five. I’ve been abroad a few times before, but I’ve never been to Asia. So the contrast between the west and the east was noticeable. Some things I was able to get used to or even admire, but others I’ve had a hard time accepting. These are the five biggest differences I've noticed.

1. One of the biggest differences is the food. Basically, I miss American food and the variety it offers. Chinese meals are comprised primarily of rice or noodles. I feel as if I might morph into a carb at any moment. Don’t get me wrong, I love rice and noodles, but I am surprised with the monotony of food here. Every vendor from a hole in the wall to a fancy restaurant seem to have all the same ingredients. They just serve them differently. I’ve had enough Sichuan peppers, hot pot, oil and five spice to last a lifetime.

2. The bathrooms, specifically the toilet. No matter how great the angle is for a healthy and natural bowel movement, it just feels demeaning. I am embarrassed with how excited I get when I find a western toilet. It’s half the reason I even go to the gym. They have a magnificent western toilet that I monopolize.

3. My apartment is missing a few appliances that are common in many places in the US. I don’t have a dishwasher, oven or dryer. As a (amateur) baker and avid meal prepper I’m struggling here. I’ve gotten creative and been able to make most everything using the stove and microwave, but I would really love to be able to make chocolate chip cookies. It’s easy enough to manage without a dishwasher, although I would prefer one. Regarding the dryer, I didn’t think I would I miss it too much since I hang draw a lot of my clothes anyway. However, for towels, sheets, and jeans it would be nice to dry them in a dryer since they take longer to dry, especially when it’s so humid.

4. Public bathroom breaks and spitting. It’s totally normal to let children urinate and defecate in the streets in China. I often see a mom or dad carry their kid over to a grassy area to relieve themselves. Toddlers also wear what are basically assless chaps for easy access. Then, there’s the spitting, and spitting is sugar coating it. The older generation is accustomed to hacking and spitting right on the sidewalks, right where you’re about to step.

5. The staring contests. Anywhere I go I get stared at. In China it isn’t considered rude to stare. Knowing that and seeing another western person maybe once a week it makes sense why I get stared at, but it’s tiring. I’ve resorted to instigating my own staring contest to give the hint that I would like them to stop. Also a casual “ni hao” usually snaps them out of it.

This is not to say there aren’t positives in China, but as with anywhere with a starkly different culture you’re bound to have a few customs you can’t accept or adopt. Learning to adapt to the culture is just part of the job description.