Common misconceptions and clichés about life in China

Hello everyone,

Old clichés die hard, as the saying goes... and living in China can generate lots of misconceptions in the eyes of the people.

What are the most common misconceptions about the expat lifestyle in China?

What are the most common clichés about life in China in general?

Did you have a biased view of the country before moving there? What is you view now?

Thanks in advance,


I lived in Beijing for 5 years and everytime someone tells me "oh i love NEMS! You're lucky you had a lot there!" I'm just "ahhhh nooooo NEMS are from Vietnam .... so i had some when i ate at Vietnamese restaurant" ... and people seem disappointed !! Ahaha ... happened already MANY TIMES !!!!

Come November, I will have lived and worked in China for twenty years. Answering this question, "common misconceptions and cliches", would be difficult as actually misconceptions are not equivalent to cliches. Cliches are cliches for a reason. For example; Expats often say when met with obstacles, "After all, This is China". This is a reasonable albeit truncated evaluation. However a misconception is different. For instance, one can be wrong about Chinese people all being short, as attested to those living in Beijing and discovered many very large Chinese people.

There are culture shocks when you move to a new country but I have experienced a lot of it throughout my 12 years of living in China.
I was very skeptical about moving to China to start with but after all these years, I must say I'm loving it in the mist of the shocks.
Chinese people have a different view of foreigners. They are not racist but too curious of us.
They are very nice when you speak their language because in that way they can easily identify with you. China is a great place to relocate to. Visa regulations are being changed regularly to make life easier for foreigners.

There is a cliche, with many variations, more often heard in far provinces and counties when trying to do business. Once, in Guizhou, I heard it translated as "the dragon in the sky can't see the snake on the ground".   
I think it's similar to when a western business contemplates taking a risk by non-compliance with authorities, rules, or regulations. I suspect it goes back to ancient times, the dragon being the Emperor.

Good morning, Ian.  I celebrated 20 years in China this past July.  As you aptly implied, "This is China" is a throw away, catch all phrase that could be used by any expat in any country.
Stereotypes abound here, but they are soon dispelled. I have traveled extensively across the vast and compelling country filled with surprises, delicious foods and cultures, climates, over mountains across torrential rivers with surprises at every turn.
No plan on leaving as long as the authorities permit my remaining.

David Fieldman, Beijing

I think the hardest thing to adapt to is when you go grocery shopping, most of the labels are in Chinese, lol.  The good thing is, your Chinese reading skills improve dramatically  :D

New topic