Guest post: 5 common questions Chinese ask foreigners in China

Today I’m featuring a guest post by Sara Jaaksola. Sara wanted to go to China ever since she was little and has made her dream come true in 2010, when she  finally went to Guangzhou to study Chinese. She has stayed there ever since and gives advice on life, love and traveling in China on her blog Living a Dream in China and she also writes the occasional post about how to make your dreams come true. You can also follow Sara on Facebook. Here goes:

When you move to China you will quickly realize that Chinese are very interested in who you are and what you do. If asking complete strangers various questions isn’t familiar in your own culture, you might feel a bit strange during your first weeks in China. Just remember that they don’t mean any harm, it’s often just small talk or they want to learn more about thinking and customs abroad.

When you prepare your trip or move to China, you can also prepare for all the questions you will surely be asked by many friendly locals. Here are some of the most common ones you will encounter:

  1. Where are you from? Must be the most common questions you will hear during your time in China. I’m usually guessed to be Russian or American, just because they have a lot of both nationalities here in Guangzhou where I live. It’s a good conversation starter between expats too.
  2. Are you studying or working here? What you do in China is of course a question that locals like to ask us foreigners. If you are young they probably expect you to be a student, otherwise they might ask you about your job.
  3. How much do you earn? Money is no taboo in China and anyone can ask your salary, even a cab driver or your neighbor while waiting for the lift together. You might also be asked about your rent and how much apartments cost in your country.
  4. Are you married? Marriage and family are very important for the Chinese so you will encounter this question sooner or later. In China you are supposed to get married and start a family quite soon after your university graduation. When kids turn 25 parents start to get worried and a woman over 30 is considered as a left over. If you are single and over 30 years old, Chinese might ask you many questions about why you haven’t settled down yet.
  5. Do you like China? Or: What do you think of Chinese food? These are questions that you have to find an answer to as well. Chinese people are very interested in knowing what foreigners think of their country and if we like their delicious food. When answering these questions it’s best to be polite and avoid difficult topics like politics.

There are as many questions to be asked from you as there are people in China, but by being prepared for these basic ones you don’t feel startled when curious locals start enquiring this and that about you. You can return the favor and learn something about them too!

Which questions have you been asked while living in China that surprised you?

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Would you also like to write a guest post that is connected to the topic of this blog? Send me an e-mail at chinaelevatorstories{at}gmail.com. I reserve the right to refuse publishing guest posts for any reason.

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10 thoughts on “Guest post: 5 common questions Chinese ask foreigners in China

  1. I like Sara’s straight-forward advice and positive attitude. I think for Americans #3 is the hardest question. Whether you earn more or less than the questioner, you may feel embarrassed and one or the other of you may feel jealous. When you answer this question truthfully, what kind of response do you get?

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    • Not just for Americans, I think most Europeans have a hard time talking about this too.

      @Nicole: I can only answer for myself. I did not like this question in the past, but I’ve learned to ask people back about their salaries and it sure does put things into perspective. The responses can be very different, concerning the person. I just went to smaller cities in Yunnan and people there thought how much I earn is an incredible high amount, one cab driver even said: “How do you spend all this money? Even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t know how to spend that much money”, while people in Shenzhen know that living expenses here are much more expensive than in some other parts of China and don’t think it’s an incredible high amount, albeit it’s still more than what most Chinese with the same job would earn.

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    • I’ts hard for us Finns too, we don’t really talk about money. As I’m still a student I’m not asked this questions just yet, but yesterday a motorcycle taxi driver asked if my boyfriend’s salary reached ten thousand or not. I answered him not so directly, but truthfully.

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  2. Pingback: Common questions in China and an interview | Living A Dream In China

  3. I used to get embarrassed by these questions too, but in the end I just changed my attitude. Now I just answer these questions directly and honestly where possible. I just think if they asked the question then they wanted to know, so I shouldn’t be embarrassed about earning more or less than them.

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    • You have a good point Hugh, they probably are interested in the corret figure, not something we make up when we are too embarrased.

      Talking about money, sometimes I’m embarrased in an expat company when I can’t afford to eat in some of the better restaurants or go out to expensive places.Or when people ask why I haven’t been home for such a long time, well, the tickets are just too expensive for me.

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  4. Love your posts and so glad I came across your blog! Thanks for sharing! Yes when I lived in China I was at first surprised by asking if I was married and what age I was… but would always answer honestly and with a smile as it was asked in a nice way and not in a nosy intruding way… if people asked about rent, the cost of living I was fine about answering that and thought they were good questions to ask, you often hear things through the grapevine, which are inaccurate or downright false so to get information first hand is always a plus :0) I liked that they were open with their questions… and would ask you to your face rather than behind your back.

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    • Thanks for your comment! I think this is the first time I hear someone saying that she or he didn’t have any problems with people asking such questions. I don’t have any problems with it anymore, but it surely did bother me in my first months in China.

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  5. Pingback: Top 10 posts on China Elevator Stories, post 51-100 | China elevator stories

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