Surprise! Unexpected Cultural Differences between the US and China

Senior international business major Emily Seratch ’19 tried to prepare for the culture shock awaiting in China. Even though she prepped as much as possible prior to studying abroad, there are several small cultural differences she has noticed while spending time in Dalian.

One unexpected cultural difference is tying a knot. When ordering takeout, Emily noticed the plastic bag being tied by intertwining the handles twice, as opposed to how we tie bags in the US.

Another cultural difference is what is considered a hamburger. After a few confusing orders with friends, Emily realized that in China a beef patty is not a hamburger; anything served on a bun is a hamburger. Emily also mentions that the bread in China tastes much sweeter than in the United States.

In Dalian, Mandarin is the common language, but most students speak at least three languages. International students normally speak Mandarin, English and their mother language. Many people are surprised that Emily can only speak two languages and are even more shocked when they learn she cannot speak French (A myth about America is all students must learn French). The diversity of language was also a surprise for Emily, which has inspired her to work harder at her language skills.

Tourist attractions in China are a great experience for students studying abroad, but Emily warns they can cost a lot of money. Many tourist centers have set up shops and restaurants which sell overpriced memorabilia and meals. Emily was shocked by the prices at tourist attractions, but believes additions such as mountain paths add for the best overall experience.

For someone who doesn’t enjoy doing laundry, the washing and drying process in China was a shock. Washing machines in China are smaller than in the US. They’re so small that most people do laundry daily. There are also no dryers, so every room has a balcony to air dry.

The final major difference is the water. Because the tap water is unsafe, students must buy a water card. The fountains offer cold, warm, and hot water. At first, Emily was unsure about this difference, but now she is obsessed with using hot water to keep warm.

Although Emily faced a variety of unexpected cultural differences, she feels they have added to her experience and she cannot wait to see what other differences China has to offer.

*Click on the hyperlinks above to read Emily’s original blog published by BCA Study Abroad on January 31, 2018. Since Emily studied abroad, BCA discontinued the Dalian program. Please consult our list of affiliated, semester-long programs to review our current opportunities. 

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