Here are a few things I’ve already noticed about Chinese culture that are different from American culture.
People can’t drive here. When back home we say Boston drivers suck, compared to drivers here they’re angels. Traffic laws do exist, it’s just that no one really bothers to follow or enforce them. If you’re driving too slow, cars will swerve around you to get ahead, even if the road isn’t really wide enough. On some of the more rural roads there aren’t even lines painted on the road, so cars going in both directions just stay on their general half while avoiding people riding bikes or motorcycles on the side. Pedestrians don’t really have the right of way like they do in America. If you’re crossing the street, cars won’t stop for you-you have to stop for them or risk almost getting run over. When you want to stop for some reason, you just pull over on the side of the road, regardless of the traffic conditions, and if you want something on the opposite side of the road you make a U-turn into oncoming traffic. It’s ridiculous. Granted, I’ve only seen Shangdong province so far which is much more rural than Beijing, but I don’t think it’s any better there.
Television is much different. In the US, television is run by many different media sources like ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, etc. They broadcast what they like according to ratings, and have many different kinds of shows like medical dramas, crime dramas and such. In China, television is run by CCTV (China Central Television), a state-run media corporation. Everything broadcasted by CCTV is subject to approval by the government and boy do they approve some really weird stuff. There are Chinese soap operas which, like American ones, are terrible. They have some crazy Asian game shows that look and sound really trippy, and they have some other channels that mostly broadcast people yelling at each other and overreacting. There’s also NBA. They show replays of Houston Rockets games because China loves Yao Ming. All in all, I don’t think the Chinese are nearly as attached to their televisions as Americans.
Whereas back home my parents yell at me if I’m hungry right after a meal, in China they worry if I don’t want more food. They keep suggesting that I eat this or that, and they get concerned if they think I’m not eating enough. When eating a meal, I eat until I’m full and then some. If I stop eating for more than a minute or two, someone’s there to offer me more food. They only stop once I tell them “bao le” or “I’m full”. At that point they seem convinced that I’m not just rejecting food to not impose.
Fireworks continue day and night for the Year of the Ox. In America around Chinese New Year, some of my Chinese friends will tell me happy new year (xin nian kuai le 新年快乐), but I’ve realized that the way we celebrate it in America pales in comparison to how they celebrate it here. For one thing, the government specifically makes home fireworks legal for the holiday. That means that everyone lights their own fireworks, which is so much more fun than watching organized ones. The Chinese have a different sense of danger too, and we’ll only stand a few feet away when things explode and make really loud pops. The Chinese did invent gunpowder after all.