I spent six months in the city of Dalian, China from March to September of 2015. During this time I had the opportunity to learn what daily life is like in China. I put together a series of posts that hopefully help you get a better understanding of what it would be like to live in China and know what life will be like for us once we arrive on the field.
People In China
In all of China or even specifically in Dalian, you will meet many different kinds of people with many different personalities. No two people are the same. Everyone has their different likes and dislikes, personality quirks, and different ways that they think. However, though, because of being apart of the same country, language, and culture there seem to be some general similarities that most Chinese people share. I would like to give in this blog post my opinions and things I have observed about Chinese people from my time living in Dalian, China. I hope to give the best answer I can to the question, “What are people here like?”
In order to help me learn more about Chinese people I presented five different personal questions at an English Corner and had ten of the people that attended answer the questions in their own words. For this post, I will write out the questions I asked at the English corner. I will give a short explanation I gave of the question, a summary of the answers I received, and my own thoughts on the question. The opinions I give are simply my opinions. These can and will probably change over time as I get to know Chinese people better. I have enjoyed getting to know people here in Dalian, China and think people here are friendly and fun to be around. They are a great people. I am privileged to get to know them.
Are You An Organized Person?
I described organized as being a person that like to things according to a plan and in an orderly fashion. Three of the ten people I asked said that they would describe themselves as an organized person. The rest described themselves as being organized. One guy explained that the reason he describes himself as being organized today is because from a child he has been surrounded by a structure of school and study that has forced him to have a schedule. He has had to plan out what things he needs to get done. I would agree with his comment. It seems like most Chinese people have such an intense education schedule in primary, middle school, and high-school that it causes them to have a habit of having a schedule and working to get tasks done. Of course, not all people are organized, but I would say that the majority of people lean more towards being on the organized side especially when it comes to keeping a schedule. When you arrange to meet someone at a certain time, they will usually show up five to ten minutes early or let you know in advance if they can`t make it. It is extremely rare for them to just not show up and not tell you why.
Are You An Open Or Closed Person?
I described an open person as a person that is open to new ideas. On the other hand, I described a closed person as a person that is less acceptive of change. He or she likes things to stay the same way that they are. Out of the ten people I asked this question, two of them said that they would consider themselves closed while the rest said that they are more open to change. I think most Chinese people are very open to change. Pretty much all of old Chinese culture and ways were taken away during the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960`s and early 1970`s. Therefore, the cultural of China today is a very new culture and people have been experiencing and embracing much change over the last few decades. There are always some people that are more closed to new ideas, but it seems like most people in China are open and welcoming change.
Are You A Warm or Cold Person?
I described a warm person as a person that is an approachable and social kind of person. They are usually very friendly and enjoy spending time with other people around them. I described a cold person as someone that is un-approachable and anti-social. Everyone I asked this question said that they would consider themselves a warm person. Probably no one wanted to be known as being an anti-social person. Maybe some of the people I asked are less social than others but did not want to be known as being less social. However, I do think most of the Chinese people I know are very social and friendly to me. Many of the people I know are trying to learn English, so they especially want to be friendly to me, a native English speaker. When, I observe Chinese people interact with each other though it seems that people are not over the top friendly. When you see people buy something at a store or go about their normal activities, they usually do not engage in much small talk or go out of their way to meet new people. They stay more to themselves. Once they meet someone new and do establish a relationship with them though they seem to be very friendly and outgoing and will spend much time with people they know. On the whole I would say Chinese people are a friendly and warm people.
Are You A Trusting Or Distrusting Person?
I described a trusting person as someone that is not afraid of people around him. He or she does not fear people hurting him and usually trusts people with things without knowing them that well. I described a distrusting person as someone that is more suspicious of people. This kind of person will usually not trust people with things until they know that person well. When I asked ten people about whether they were a trusting or distrusting person, three people said they were distrusting while the rest said they would consider them self a trusting person. Many of them said that the reason they are trusting of people is because they want people to trust them back. In China, it seems like people are very trusting of people that are in their circles. People will often be very trusting of people they naturally spend time with such as co-workers or classmates. If someone is in a circle they are in; they will often trust them even if they haven`t known that person for very long.
What is your family situation like?
I asked people about the size of the family they grew up in. Of the ten people I asked, three said that they had one sibling while the rest were an only child. Most of the middle-aged and younger generations in China come from a home where they were an only child. This is because of the Chinese government`s one-child policy. This creates an interesting cultural phenomenon. Generally people that grow up as a single child are more spoiled and selfish and have more attention given to them growing up than children that have siblings. When nearly everyone in the country grows up like this, it makes for an interesting society. People are more inclined to look out for themselves and getting their own way. While this is true of every society, it seems to maybe be just a little more noticeable in China because of the majority of people being from only child homes.
How do Chinese people accept foreign missionaries? What is their natural attitude towards them like? It is important for someone that is planning to do missionary work in China, to know what people`s natural reaction to them is going to be like.
What is their attitude towards missionaries?
People think that anyone involved with promoting Christianity is promoting an idea that comes from the West. They think good or bad that missionaries are teaching something that is not native to China, and that is a foreign idea for Chinese society. Their natural reaction to Christianity is not necessarily a negative reaction but rather that they think it is an interesting concept that doesn`t affect them. It is best to not call yourself a missionary while in China, but rather call yourself a Bible teacher. Because of things that have happened in the past the word missionary can have a negative connotation. It can cause people to think of someone that is trying to start a revolution or promote western capitalism.
What have missionaries done that have caused hard feelings and problems?
1. CHRISTIANITY ASSOCIATED WITH REVOLT:
In China`s history, there was a major revolt against the government started by a man, Hong Xiuquan that claimed to be Jesus` brother and promote a false form of Christianity. This civil war took place from 1850 to 1864. Hong Xiuquan started the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, which revolted against the reigning Qing Dynasty. It was a major war with the Qing dynasty eventually defeating the Taiping rebels, but not until after a serious death toll had taken place. Some sources put the death toll high enough to have been the fifth largest war in history. All of it started by a man that read a tract given to him by Christian missionaries and spent two months studying the Bible with an American Southern Baptist. Obviously from his claim to be Jesus` brother he was not a real Christian, but many people that are not Christians may think he was actually a Christian. Understanding more about this rebellion helps me see why even to today the Chinese government is suspicious of Christian groups starting up. This group that started up calling themselves Christian was responsible for the deaths of millions of people.
2. MISSIONARIES HAVE SIDED WITH FOREIGN COUNTRIES IN THEIR WARS AGAINST CHINA.
In many of the wars between western powers and China, missionaries have found themselves often against their will to be on the side of the western power attacking China. In the opium wars, missionaries found themselves associated with the British, who were illegally importing, getting people addicted to, and selling opium to the Chinese. In the Boxer Rebellion, missionaries were rightfully or wrongfully associated with the looting and other terrible atrocities committed by the western powers in the aftermath of the war. Missionaries have always been associated with western imperialism and foreigners trying to assert power over China.
Resources used in writing this article: