Friday, August 13, 2010


"Do they only eat bread there?"

As you can imagine, there are many misconceptions that Chinese people have about the United States. Likewise, many American beliefs about China are also twisted or incorrect. This is probably because in general, the only knowledge one has about the other is gathered through pop culture, dramatic media reports, and consumerism.

Chinese Misconceptions

1. Food in the U.S. consists only of bread, hamburgers, and french fries. It is laughable how many times relatives have insisted that I eat more of something because "you won't be able to eat it once you leave China." I try to explain that in the U.S., you can find any type of food imaginable, all year round. Even hard to find ethnic foods are found in specialty grocery stores.

Where does this misconception come from? Probably from the abundance of Western fast food restaurants that have spread throughout China in the last decade, serving just those foods.

2. Everyone in the U.S. is rich. It is true that the standard of living in the U.S. is much higher. It is also true that land and housing is much cheaper here. However, there is poverty, found both in inner cities and rural areas. Most people have to work hard to make a living and achieve their "American Dream."

Where does this misconception come from? Films depicting people living in the sprawling suburbs with white picket fences and manicured lawns, news reports of GDP, stories of acquaintances immigrating to America and making it big.

3. America is dangerous. I've always said that I am more likely to get run over in the street in China by a bus than get shot by some gang member in America (streets are very busy and drivers don't do a good job of following traffic laws). But many Chinese people just have this notion that living in the U.S. is not safe.

Where does this misconception come from? People have definitely mentioned to me the fact that Americans can legally own guns. Citizens in China cannot bear arms. There actually doesn't seem to be that big of a black market in China either - at least most attacks occur with knives. I think both countries have their own dangers so the best idea is just to always be careful!


Of course, there are many Chinese also don't have these misconceptions. This is just what I've personally observed to be common. Citizens also have many common opinions on the Iraq war, Taiwan, etc., that are not necessarily right or wrong. But that's another story.

Next time I'll write about common American misconceptions of China.

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