One thing I learned very quickly from my many excursions to China is the word guanxi 关系.
Almost as soon as I landed and started conversing with others, I was told that I seem to have a lot of Guanxi! I wondered, but didn’t want to ask, what in the world they meant by that? So, I looked it up.
Guanxi (pronounced GWAN-She) is defined as “the fundamental dynamic in personalized social networks of power, and is a crucial system of beliefs in Chinese culture. In Western media, this Chinese word is becoming more widely used instead of the two common translations of it—"connections" and "relationships"— but neither of those terms sufficiently reflects the wide cultural implications that guanxi describes in China.
Yes, I have guanxi 关系. I’m not sure that there is a word in English that describes my personality more. I have taught in a visiting professor program in China during the summer months, nine times from 2010 to 2019, (I also taught in Bangkok, Thailand in 2015). I hope to return and continue going as often as I am able and have opportunity. I have also spent several years in the States tutoring or teaching Chinese university student’s principles of communication, or just simply helping them with their English. It’s been so much fun, and something for which has generated lots of laughs, tears, and heartfelt experiences learning together. Because of these experiences I have become somewhat of an officinato of all thing’s Chinese students, I have often been asked to say what the differences between Chinese and American students might be. I came up with a whimsical, sometimes humorous, and sometimes poignant list of differences.
What do you think? Are there any more than belong on this list?
1. In China - The Umbrella is not for the rain but for the sunshine.
2. Americans like their fish cooked and their meat rare, Chinese like their fish raw and their meat well done.
3. Chinese steam their rice while Americans fry their rice.
4. For Girls in China, it’s High Heels – For American girls it’s flip-flops.
5. In America, Eye Glasses actual have lenses in the frames.
6. In China, it’s Hot Green Tea – In America, it’s Sweet Iced Tea
7. If an American university student gets homesick, it’s just “over the river and through the woods.” For Chinese students its “over the Pacific and through the air.”
8. In America it’s 1-2-3 Cheese! In China it’s EE – R – San: Qiézi 茄子 (translates in English to Eggplant,
9. After a big meal The Chinese go for a walk, in America we take a nap!
10. The purse – in China it’s not just for women!
11. Chinese are not as openly affectionate to one another, especially married people.
12. Chinese students NEVER see their parent’s kiss. American kids don’t want to see their parents’ kiss.
13. Chinese rarely use ice in their drinks. Many think it will make you fat. American like to eat ice.
14. Chinese students drink HOT water to refresh and cool off. That makes no sense to Americans.
15. Chinese don’t ever eat their vegetables cold or raw – they even cook their lettuce!
16. Chinese eat their fish with the heads on them. Americans think the fish is looking at them on the plate
17. Chinese boys spend a lot of time playing video games. Maybe that’s not so different after all?
18. In China, Americans should NEVER speak about the Three T’s: Taiwan, Tibet, and Tiananmen Square
19. Chinese students often start to learn English in kindergarten. Americans NEVER learn Chinese.
20. Chinese students rarely have a sibling. They often refer to their first cousins as "my brother or sister."
Most importantly, I realized that Chinese and American students are not really that different. Both essentially want three things. We all want to be happy, we all want to be loved by somebody, and we all want to love somebody. Please love your neighbor as you would love yourself!
Steve Shaner, also known as Xie Yeye, is a professional story teller that delights in traveling to meet new and old friends. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.