Black in Asia

4 more weird cultural differences I learned while in China

1.) Don’t ever, I mean never ever, give an umbrella to a Chinese person, especially on a rainy day. Sound weird? Here’s why:

Instance #1

Me and some Chinese friends were playing badminton in a gym, after we finished, they walked me back to my dorm, and I proceeded to hand off my umbrella to someone else…. And I got a collective gasp as a result….

culture gasp

Instance #2

Went on a hangout session with some girl who lived close to our international students dorms. Once again, rained, tried to give her an umbrella because she wanted to go back off campus, I’m a nice guy, but when I’m in my dorm, not going back off campus, sue me. Anyway, she went from cheerful day, to angry housewife, and said how could I treat her like this? And weren’t we good friends?

culture 1

Second time this happened, so after she was mad at me for a week, she explained the cultural difference: “In China, to give someone an umbrella means to cut the ties of our friendship and to give them a farewell gift.”

So…by giving her my umbrella it seemed as I was cutting our friendship and sending her out onto the rain, I’m some gentleman huh?

2.) Like your food, but don’t like it too much. Sound weird? Here’s why:

Instance #1

Went to a Chinese banquet with a friend of mine. They were his friends not mine, so I acted as normal as an african american guy can at a Chinese banquet with no less than 200 Chinese people and a white guy. Well, they always said “eat more,” and he literally stacked his plate, and they looked at his like an alien. (well, all expats are from the country “foreign” in Asia anyway. You’re either born in China for example, or from a foreign country, which are all grouped together. Seems mean at first, then it just gets funny.)

culture 3

~Side note~ I actually told a little girl one time that I wasn’t from Africa but from Mars, and that is why my skin is black. She went to tell all her friends who were inside the store I was at, and I left pretty quick lol. Probably not the best idea but so funny at the time…tell me you wouldn’t do it too. (Liars)

culture 3

Instance #2

This one is my fault, most expats favorite Chinese dish when they get to China is usually Kung Pao Chicken, after you get a little more seasoned in Chinese styles, you diversify a bit. I’m a hefty guy right? So I had Sweet & Sour Pork at a restaurant called DongBei with some friends, and the food was so finger-licking good, I was pretty much licking the rice grains from the chopsticks, (stop thinking dirty), well, it looked like a food porno in the restaurant, because I was definitely the foreigner of the day; By the way!

culture 4

Most Chinese people, I don’t know about the older generation, but with the students, I noticed that they tend to eat everything with a knife and fork, when eating western food. Such as french fries, salad, pizza or a burger. After asking some of them why? They said french fries are not supposed to be eaten with bare hands, it’s not sanitary, salads must be cut with a knife, you look to hungry when you “shove” it down, (can’t word this any differently lol), pizza must also be cut, and hamburgers shouldn’t be touched because of too much grease. Then they said, it’s just that westerns like the food too much, so we eat with hands. I never knew Chinese people invented western food too 🙂


3.) Don’t assume that every asian you see in China is Chinese.

Instance #1 of 3!

This one, is so obvious, but it on;y takes getting it wrong once, and you can get your life violated. What I mean is, don’t be like my friend, ignorant American, in fact, if you know someone is gonna get you into trouble, don’t hangout with them; even for comic relief. So, one day, we see a tour group from Taiwan, I know what the Taiwanese flag looks like; he didn’t. He proceeded to ask a girl what city in China is she from, she said I’m not from China! I’m a Taiwan person! He said, Taiwan isn’t a part of China?

taiwan flag china flag

Wrong! I won’t go into territorial disputes, but never bring this up, ever. Unless you are a politician. But my friend did learn some new curse words that day.


Instance #2 of 3!

My Chinese friends were so sure that a group of girls were Korean. I knew it was a bad idea, I just knew it. Why did I accompany these three idiots…. to speak broken, pathetic Korean between the four of us, to a group of Japanese girls? I knew it was dumb, not only did we embarrass ourselves, but the group of old people around just shook their heads in disappointment. That burns…rejected from the ladies and the seniors.



Instance #3 of 3!

The whole story will be brought up in a future article, but I went to Macao for a week during my 2nd trip in China; Gambled and all. And I won a lot too! But, I went to a country, where Cantonese prevails and I dared to go speak Mandarin with them? I was a foreigner among foreigners in an even more foreign country. Well, some people may or many not know that tensions are a little high between mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. Because China claims all 3, and these places claim they are independent. Many Hong Kong’ers (new word, approved in Oxford dictionary very recently) don’t like being called Chinese, and basically rebel anything Chinese, including Mandarin. Same with Macao, and Taiwan. By me, speaking mainstream Chinese with them, most people refused to speak back. They would reply in Cantonese, which is hard as hell. Or reply in English, shame on me.

4.) Don’t fight for everyone’s justice


Instance #1 of 1

Only one instance for this, because I learned my lesson quick. Here’s the story, I went with some people in my program to go the fake markets and haggle for some goods. All fine and all, since we were veteran bargain shoppers, it’s in my blood, we were getting deals, I personally purchased an iPad mini keyboard for 60 RMB!

Since we were doing good, I thought that hey, I see some American travellers over there. They were getting pretty ripped off. They couldn’t speak Chinese, and were getting pressured by the sales clerks, I know the feeling, gotta seem strong, or else, you will get ripped off, you can’t be weak in China. So I told the guy, don’t do it, you just gotta walk away.

no thanks

Bad Move Daniel!

The sales clerk spoke perfect English, or good enough to understand my ebonics because I definitely spoke to him with some strong slang. And this lady let me have it. The only person who ever cussed me out worse than this was my mom for getting a 40% on a math test, when I was about 12 years old. She gave me an earful, threw me out her store, and forbid me from coming back to that floor. Since those places are mafia run anyway….she might be a mafia general so let’s be safe, and get off. The guy I tried to help, ended up giving in and buying 2 pairs of pants for 700 RMB, which was around $108 at the time.

You can bargain a pair of pants to 100-120 RMB normally, or for 60-90 if you’re good at the game. Bottom line, don’t interfere. It good to be nice, but I learned later on that The reason people can do “good” at bargaining is because they allow it. Since there are thousands of new tourist like him, getting ripped off daily, for 10X the price, they can allow me and other foreigners who learned decent Chinese to get a good deal. Plus with our Chinese, we’re a headache, so..”take this at slightly inflated price and go away, so next foreigner behind you can get ripped off.”


This part, had a little more information, but the next post on this topic will contain many of China’s unwritten rules, which knowing even a few of these will make your life simpler. Thanks for reading.



2 replies »

  1. I have been reading your blog. You have some great stories. Its good to see someone from NY here ! I am from BK and I am exploring opportunies while learning the culture and eventually the language. Send me an email ( when you can . I am in Guangzhou and visit Shenzhen often. I enjoy learning and sharing info about business and travel in China.


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