CULTURE

The cultural manifold is as big as the country itself! For the interested traveller Yunnan offers an almost inexhaustible variety of ethnic, art, music, history, language and philosophy.

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Hence, Myanmar’s people, regardless of their race or ethnic origin are peace-loving, friendly, generous and hospitable. They also have an innate sense of duty to family, community and country.

HINTS

  1. the Han Chinese which make the biggest (92%)
  2. 55 officially recognized ethnic groups in China, of which 25 call the Yunnan Province in South-West China
  3. Life Style in Yunnan is usually a bit more relaxed compared to the northern parts of China
  4. Chinese people from the south often appear shy and self conscious to Westerners, especially when they are around foreigners
  5. The Chinese are very conscious of face. Face is essentially “respect” in a community and is a crucial underpinning of society.
  6. Chinese can also be very indirect, especially when talking about something that bothers them or may cause them to look bad.
  7. The main difference between Chinese and western eating habits is that people in China sit around the table and share the food with each other
  8. It’s the host’s responsibility to make sure a guest’s bowl is never empty, especially if that guest is highly respected and/or elderly.

You decide on the focal points of your trip and we will be more than happy organizing a corresponding trip for you! Our trained, local tour guides know about the local customs and practices and will be helping you to understand them.

Due to the sheer size of China, Chinese people are as diverse and manifold as the Country itself. Talking about the “Chinese” people is the same as talking about a “European”. From an ethnical point of view both don’t really exist. So when we generally talk about the “Chinese” we usually mean the Han Chinese which make the biggest (92%) ethnic group within China. People often tend to forget that there are also another 55 officially recognized ethnic groups in China, of which 25 call the Yunnan Province in South-West China their home. Each of these ethnic groups have their own, local customs and traditions and that makes Yunnan such a wonderful place!

Life Style

Life Style in Yunnan is usually a bit more relaxed compared to the northern parts of China. People in the south are generally friendlier and seem to be more laid back than their northern counterparts. Generally speaking the further south you travel in Yunnan the more smiles you get and the more friendly the people become.

However, the rapid development of the past 15 years not only created great opportunities in southern China, but has also generated a lot of stress and a strong sense of being left out and not getting a share of wealth no matter how hard you try. Especially for the ethnic minority groups, the last to have benefited from China’s recent prosperity, the economic development is certain to erode and modify their cultures.

The first three questions

Generally speaking the Chinese people from the south often appear shy and self conscious to Westerners, especially when they are around foreigners or are in situations which they are not used to. In the west the first 3 questions usually asked when meeting new people are: “What is your Name?”, “Where do you come from?” and “What do you do for a living?”. Whereas in China the first 3 questions usually are: “Where do you come from?”, “Can you speak Chinese?” and “Can you use Chopsticks?”.

Most Chinese will not inquire about the job as this can create a loss of face for the other person.
In more rural areas Chinese people love to stare at foreigners and it is not unusual to gather around a tourist in rural towns where local people don’t see many foreign visitors.

“Keeping Face”

The Chinese are very conscious of face. Face is essentially “respect” in a community and is a crucial underpinning of society. Loss of that respect threatens the relations of individuals with almost everyone in his or her world and is hard to get back once lost, and thus must be avoided at all costs.

Face is called “mianzi” in mandarin, which can also be translated to mean “dignity, prestige and reputation.” It has been said that “face is more important than truth or justice.” Losing face is often people’s worst fear. Chinese go out of their way to be polite and accommodating, to maintain dignity in a variety of situations and avoid disputes, conflicts and embarrassment in their pursuit to avoid losing face.

Chinese can also be very indirect, especially when talking about something that bothers them or may cause them to look bad. They will often tell you what they think you would like to hear. Chinese, for example, consider it rude to ask for something directly and tend to avoid using questions that have a yes or no answer to avoid putting someone in the position where they might have to give an answer they don’t want to give or hurt someone’s feelings. Even inquiring about directions can be perceived as impolite because the person who is asked directions may not know where the place is and this could cause them to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. The best way to ask for direction is asking three police men: If two of them are pointing in the same direction the chances of going in the right direction are about 80%.

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Eating Habits

The main difference between Chinese and western eating habits is that people in China sit around the table and share the food with each other; while in the West, people only eat the food on their own plates. The Chinese are very proud of their food, and if you’re invited to a Chinese meal be prepared for special hospitality and specific eating habits. Usually Chinese hosts, who are not familiar with western culture, will continue putting food into a bowl or onto a plate for a guest, as a way of showing their hospitality and politeness. It’s the host’s responsibility to make sure a guest’s bowl is never empty, especially if that guest is highly respected and/or elderly. To be polite and show respect when the host offers food, take it using both hands. If the host is the eldest, always stand while accepting the food with both hands; otherwise remain seated when the food is offered. If you are full, your host will usually insist that you eat some more and sometimes it is quite difficult for foreigners to convince the host that you have eaten enough.

Noise

The Chinese like to shout and make noise and can be quite loud and boisterous. What sounds like a bitter argument is often just a normal conversation, especially in southern China. What sounds like a loud party is often just an ordinary get together.

There seems to be a competition for who can speak the loudest, turn the radio or TV up to the highest volume and detonate the most firecrackers. Something that does not make noise in southern China is probably broken. Many scenic and otherwise serene spots in China are embellished with loud crackly music blaring from speakers nailed onto temples and trees. Chinese vitality is sometimes described with the word “renao,” meaning “hot and noisy.” Even though Chinese can be loud and physical themselves they often frown upon Western-style loudness and boisterousness.

At hotels it is not uncommon that one guest has an hour long “shouting-conversation” with his friend who is at the other end of the corridor, no matter what time of the night. Ear plugs are sometimes a life safer while travelling in China.

Standing in Line

Southern Chinese generally don’t form lines they form “huddles” around ticket booths and bank clerks unless they are forced to do otherwise. After years of long queues, Chinese people have learned to be ruthless about cutting in line. They act pushy unconsciously. They don’t have the same concept of personal space as Westerners. If directly translated the word “privacy” has a different meaning in Chinese. Chinese are used to crowds and pushing your way through a busy sidewalk or subway station is considered normal. If two people collide, a brief apology might be offered, but then people continue with their business as if nothing happened. It can happen, that you stand “in line” to buy a bus or train ticket. After 20 minutes you will often realize that you are still the last in the queue.

Criticism

Chinese people are not very tolerant of insubordination and criticism of China and Chinese culture. In general Chinese people do not bother too much about politics, as long as it does not affect their lives in a negative way. Towards politics they have a rather fatalistic approach: why bother about something that can not be changed. Most Chinese people do not like to discuss about politics with strangers as we would do in the west. If you decide to talk politics with your guide be prepared to get some answers that may not be in line with your own political views or ideas. Most Chinese people are quite patriotic if not nationalistic and can become quite irritated about criticism of their system and their country. Respect, acceptance and tolerance are the key words here.

DOS & DON’TS

  1. DON’T – Leave Baggage Unattended. While violent crime against foreigners is extremely rare, theft is common in crowded areas and tourist destinations..
  2. DON’T – Bargain To Extremes If You Have No Intention To Buy. Westerners are often quoted prices much greater than the actual value of the product, often times as great as 400-500% higher. When given a price, you should answer with something much lower, and work your way up. It will depend on your bargaining skills to get the price you desire, but remember to stay friendly with the vendor and smile when bargaining. Bargaining can certainly be a lot of fun, but be mindful that it is many peoples’ livelihood so try not to push the price far below what you are willing to pay.
  3. DO – Ask For Permission When Photographing Locals – When taking photos of locals, especially in more remote areas, it can be a good idea to ask their permission by making a small gesture with your camera. Generally they will not ask for anything, and will simply be happy if you show them the digital photo after snapping it.
  4. DO – Conserve your water usage. The availability of a clean water supply is a growing problem throughout China, and tourists often disregard this when showering or washing up. While brushing your teeth, do not leave the faucet running. Do not shower for any longer than is necessary. Minimising water usage is very easy, but is often overlooked and will have a tremendous impact on a destination’s resources
  5. DO – Use Local Energy and Water Efficiently. Make sure you turn of your lights and air conditioners when you leave your room and minimise your need for electric appliances.
  6. Dining Etiquette – Eating plays a very large role in Chinese culture and it is very important to have an understanding of what is expected and what is frowned upon when dining with locals
  7. Lifting your bowl to your mouth or lowering your head to the bowl or plate is normal while eating in China.
  8. It is always polite to keep the host’s cup full while dining or drinking or to scoop rice for everyone if you are next to the rice pot.
  9. Lay your chopsticks down on your bowl or the table while not eating, do not stick them into your food or bowl
  10. Finishing everything on your plate or in your bowl is the polite way to show the chef or host that you appreciated the meal.

 

 

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