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Cultural differences between China and German

Han Yaxi
FH-SWF BBA 1st Semester Group 2


Content 2
1. Abstract

2. Introduction 4
3. Definition of culture 4
4. Different presentations for different cultures5
4.1 Peoples character
4.2 Politeness

4.2.1 Greeting

4.2.2 Modesty 7
4.3 Communication style
4.4 Food

4.5 Festival 9
5. Different cultural highlights 10
5.1 German cultural highlights


5.1.1 Standardization 10
5.1.2 Car culture


5.1.3 A Country of Museums 12

5.2 Chinese cultural highlights
5.2.1 Dining etiquettee
5.2.2 Kung Fu


5.2.3 Beijing Opera



6. The influence of cultural differences for students

7. conclusion


8. Reference




1. Abstract
In recent years, as the frequency between the Chinese and German intercultural activity day
by day, the significance of knowing each cultures has become more and more important. Under
this background, people should improve the ability of intercultural communication and
understand different culture phenomenon and cultural content, and form cross-cultural
awareness consciously. Avoids the cultural conflicts, let the social communication becoming
more free and relaxed between China and German. This paper describes different cultural
presentations of Germany and China, different cultural highlights of both countries and the
influence of different cultures for students.

Key Word


Cultural differences, Cultural highlight, German and Chinese cultures 2. Introduction
Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1972, German has become China's most
important trade, technology and investment partner in Europe. Along with the more and more
frequent economic exchange between China and Germany, the cultural exchange also develops
rapidly. All in all, cultural communication becomes so frequent and is avoidable.
In this context, the cultural exchange is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it can lead to a
whole host of benefits, including healthier communities; increased international, national, and
local commerce; and personal growth through increased tale. On the other hand we can see the
conflicts and the problems: many German businessman come to China to do business but left
with complaint; the teachers comes from German say that Chinese students do not cooperate
with them; some Chinese student go to Germany to study but finally they give up and come
back to China
Without doubt, it is of great practical significance to paying close attention to cultural
differences between China and Germany so that people can better communicate with each other
and avoid the cultural conflicts.

3. Definition of culture
Spencer-Oatey (2012) writes, Culture is a notoriously difficult term to define. In 1952, the
American anthropologists, Kroeber and Kluckhohn, critically reviewed concepts and definitions
of culture, and compiled a list of 164 different definitions. As we can see, culture is really
difficult to define because it is a large and inclusive concept. But what all of these concepts have
in common is that culture is like the water a fish swims in. Culture is everything and everywhere.


4. Different presentations for different cultures
A world traveler who speaks ten languages, British linguist Lewis (2000) plots countries
in relation to three categories: linear-active, multi-active and reactive. Germans are in the group
of linear-active those who plan, schedule, organize, pursue action chains, and do one thing at a
time. Chinese is a typical example of reactive group those cultures that prioritize courtesy and
respect, listening quietly and calmly to their interlocutors and reacting carefully to the other
side's proposals. This model indicates different degrees of difficulty typically encountered when
they interact with each other. As we can see, the culture models of China and Germany are quite
different. Based on this model, there are many different presentations of both German and
Chinese cultures, what follows are just a few.

4.1 Peoples character

If people review the Chinese race and try to picture their national characters they may
find the following traits of characters: sanity, patience, frugality, pacifism, filial piety... Perhaps
the most striking quality of the Chinese people is "old-roguery". The best-known quality of
Chinese is conservatism. As what Yutang (1931) said, Conservatism is a form of pride and rests
on a feeling of satisfaction with present and is really a sign of inward richness, a gift rather to be
envied. So not only the society but also Chinese people themselves try to carry on the excellent
national tradition.
The best-known quality and, in particularly, of the German people is their punctuality.
High value has been settled on time and they make elaborate plans for the time arrangement.
They have developed the habit to attend meeting or come to date on time. In German, if people
want to visit someone, they should make an appointment with him in advance and explain what


they are going to talk and also the detailed time, place. If they discuss about it and agree, people
can then make it out. The punctuality is also showed up in traffic. Trains and buses run daily over
regular routes with timetable precision. However, Chinese people may be more optional on the
time and things will not going as strict as the plans.
In the interpersonal context, according to the model of Peach and Coconut (Heather
Robinson , 2004), German is characterized as being like the coconut. As we all know, coconut is
hard and hairy on the outside, has crunchy, chewy meat and in the center is liquid and sweet.
This metaphor is very appropriate. German seems inaccessible or cold. In fact, they are reserved
and need time to warm up with strangers. Chinese may be characterized as being like the apple.
As the old saying goes, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Apple is a kind of ordinary and
widespread fruit. But there are many kinds of apple. Just like Chinese, its difficult to define how
typical Chinese is even if Chinese people are all around word.

4.2 Politeness
4.2.1 Greeting
Greetings as a significant aspect of politeness phenomenon exist globally. As Brown and
Levinson (1987) claim, greetings occur in all languages. They provide the means for opening
conversations appropriately and for establishing and maintaining social relationships. For
example, such greetings as Hello! How are you! frequently occur in Germany. Chinese on
the other hand are quite used to greetings like Have you eaten? Where are you going? or
What are you busy with? Obviously, people in German culture as well as in Chinese culture
attach great importance to speaking politely. Yet some German people may find Chinese


greetings unacceptable or even offensive for these greetings seem to be concerned about personal
matters. However, they are quite appropriate and friendly in Chinese culture.

4.2.2 Modesty
According to one of the Politeness Principle (Leech, 1983), modesty Maxim means
minimize praise of speaker and maximize dispraise of speaker, by which Chinese can be aptly
described. Chinese prefer modesty and keeping a low profile both in regard to their own
achievements and status as well as their interactions with others. Traditionally in the course of
polite conversation Chinese people will downplay their own positions and achievements while
emphasizing those of others. For example, Chinese may respond to a greeting You look so
pretty today! as No, Im not pretty at all. Yours are better. or to You speak English quite
well! as No, my English is poor. On the contrast, German may accept compliments willingly.
We can see from it, the Germans are straight forward; the Chinese take pride in modesty. In
the response to compliments, Chinese are tends to efface themselves, although they do feel
comfortable about the compliments.

4.3 Communication style

Let s see a typical example: A German businessman goes to China three times a month to
do a business. Every time he comes to China, he is welcomed and treated very well. Chinese
businessman also shows interests on the item but he always doesnt give an exact response.
Finally, the German lose his patient and left with complaint.
Obviously, they stand their own cultural perspective to look at the problem, and both of
them dont realize the cultural differences. From German point of view, Chinese delay to give an


answer, which seems impolite and dishonest. From Chinese point of view, they dont want to be
impolite by rejecting directly even they dont have much interests on that. In practice, Chinese
people like to use a number of filler-answers to either buy time or to put off saying no directly,
such as perhaps, maybe, possibly, and I understand. (Sean Upton-McLaughlin, 2013)
While German people may at times be vague and indirect, this is not the norm and usually
clashes with societys concepts regarding honesty and the truth. Chinese society is the opposite.
To the Chinese, being vague and indirect is a part of everyday life and it not only colors they way
they offer refusals, but also how they communicate in general.

4.4 Food
There is a saying that Food is eating well-deserved for human life, so food is an
indispensable condition for the survival and development of human beings. But what people eat,
how they eat differ greatly because of different culture.
Chinese people consider the rice, steamed buns and noodles as the staple food. They often
have eggs and soybean milk or congee as breakfast. But for lunch and dinner, food varies with
eight main streams of Chinese cuisines. In general, Chinese people prefer hot food and
vegetables and like to have tea and soup in their daily life. Germans tend to eat heavy and hearty
meals that include ample portions of meat and bread. Pork is the most commonly consumed
meat, though various sorts of wurst, or sausage, are often eaten in lieu of meat. Potatoes and
bread are the staple food, and each region has its own favorite ways of preparing them. Fruit
(instead of vegetables) is often combined with meat dishes to add a sweet and sour taste to the
meal (foodbycountry, 2012).


In addition, Chinese people dont use much tableware, which are only bowl, dishes,
chopsticks and spoons. On thecontrary, Germans use much tableware with different kinds and
sizes. For example there are different kinds of names for glasses such as wine glass, cherry glass,
brandy glass, beer glass, and high bowl.

4.5 Festival
The festival is a part of culture. It is both a reflection of culture and a symbol of cultural
identity. It reflects the traditional beliefs of different nations and countries, as well as the
communication between heterogeneous cultures.
The most important festival for the Chinese people is Spring Festival. It falls on the 1st
day of the 1st lunar month, often one month later than the Gregorian calendar. Many customs
accompany the Spring Festival. Before the New Year comes, people completely clean the their
homes as well as their clothes, bedclothes and all their utensils. Then people begin decorating
their clean rooms featuring an atmosphere of rejoicing and festivity. All the door panels will be
pasted with Spring Festival couplets. On Spring Festival Eve, all family members eat dinner
together and stay up to see the New Year in. Waking up on New Year, everybody dresses up. First
they extend greetings to their parents. Then each child will get money as a New Year gift,
wrapped up in red paper. People will eat dumplings because the shape of the dumpling is like
gold ingot from ancient China and also burn fireworks. The lively atmosphere not only fills
every household, but also permeates to streets and lanes. A series of activities such as lion
dancing, dragon lantern dancing, lantern festivals and temple fairs will be held for days. The
Spring Festival then comes to an end when the Lantern Festival is finished.


German festivals are world-famous, ranging from Munichs famous Oktoberfest to a
multitude of funfairs, commonly known as Kirmes, with their diverse stalls and rides. The
Oktoberfest is known as the Largest Volksfest (People's Fair) in the World (USA Today, 2010). It
is a 16-day festival running from late September to the first weekend in October with more than
6 million people from around the world attending the event every year.
The best known of all the traditional festivals in Germany is the Carnival, which is held
each year in spring, especially in the strongholds of Cologne, Dsseldorf, and Mainz. The
rigorous Germans are crazy on this day. The "crazy days" of Carnival are celebrated with parties
on the streets, in public squares and in pubs. People wear fancy dress and watch the parade
where they will get candies and followers.
A national festival is a platform that shows the culture. It cannot only reflect a nation's
diet, entertainment and customs, but also its spiritual beliefs and ethics. By comparing Chinese
and German festival, people can identify and gain some insights into each culture.

5. Different cultural highlights

Physical characteristics are features about something that can be seen on the outside. For
a human it could be their hair, face, the way they walk or talk. Based on that, a cultural trait, or
highlight, is an identifiable part of a particular culture. It is also not comparable since every
culture is different.

5.1 German cultural highlight

5.1.1 Standardization


There is a very pervasive catchphrase in German (Alles) In Ordnung which means
everything is in order. German regard standard and order as their life, which can be seen in
everywhere. For example, there are more than 1774 thousands German articles on Wikipedia. It
is the second highest number of articles, but there are only approximately 120 million native
speakers of German in the world (Wikipedia). Their intense desire to make things orderly can be
easily seen from this example. Another typical example is that they are strict with garbage
classification. In Germany, if people want to throw old furniture away, they must follow the rule
or they will be fined. The rigorousness can also be seen in German industry. The standard defines
the pitch of stairs was created by German. The standard defines A4 was first introduced as a DIN
standard (DIN 476) in Germany in 1922 (Wikipedia). DIN (the German Institute for
Standardization) is the German national organization for standardization. There are currently
around thirty thousand DIN Standards, covering nearly every field of technology (Wikipedia).
We can say that German is the headstream of world industrial standardization.

5.1.2 Car culture

According to the statistik, Germany's population is about 82 millions and the number of car
is about 53 millions (statistik-portal, 2014), which means car is a irreplaceable and significant
tool for Germans. German car is one of the leading automobile havens in the world (Amondson,
2014). German is a country that has produced many firsts among others, like the automobile
invented by Carl Benz in 1886 and also a country that is famous for its cars such as BMW,
Volkswagen, Porsche, and Mercedes. The car industry of Germany is one of the industris which
have most close connection with German socierty, economy and culture. Under this background,
Germans have a people-oriented driving style. For example, when a person cross the road


without traffic lights, the driver will give a sign to the person and let the person go first. As we
can see from it, the car culture reflects peoples way of life.Without doubt, it is the culture that
best highlight the tradition and wisdom of a nation; it is the car culture that best highlight the
tradition and wisdom of the German culture.
5.1.3 A Country of Museums
A museum is an institution that cares for a collection of artifacts and other objects of
scientific, artistic, cultural, or historical importance and makes them available for public viewing
through exhibits (Edward Porter Alexander, 2008). Museum provides a visual form to reflect the
importance of national treatment of culture. There is no doubt that German is a country of
museums. Every year, around 18 million tickets are sold to Germanys more than 6,000
museums. The German Museum in Munich alone boasts ticket sales of 1.44 million not even
football stadiums can compete (Deutschland.de, 2014). From art museums to science centers
the German museum scene is diverse and attractive. Museums can be seen as an identifiable part
of German culture, which is one of the most important cultural highlights.

5.2 Chinese cultural highlights

5.2.1 Dining etiquette
China is a country with a long history of ritual and etiquette, and eating is highly
important feature of China's culture, so naturally dining etiquette has developed to a high degree.
In China, the act of dining is a channel for conducting business deals, building relationships, and
showing respect. It may be strange or unknown to the most Germans, but it is one of the most
important Chinese cultural highlights and can be divided into three parts: seating arrangement;
ordering and eating; drinking and toasting.


First of all, the seating arrangements serve the purpose of denoting where a particular
person exists in a hierarchy (business, society, family, or friends) and also clearly defines how
much respect that particular person is due. When dining at a round table, the seat directly facing
the door is generally reserved for the most important attendee. From there the seating hierarchy
will continue outward from the seat of the highest level attendee, with left taking precedence
over right when distance is equal.
Secondly, ordering dishes is reserved for the host for both Chinese and German people.
Chinese cuisine is composed of meat and vegetarian dishes, as well as hot and cold dishes, with
cold dishes being served before the hot. An average of one dish per attendee is usual; when
mostly people are in attendance, more dishes can be ordered and with a larger percentage of
meat. Eating usually commences with a signal from the host and can be accompanied by a short
speech. It is more common in China to use personal chopsticks to serve oneself, even at formal
banquets. This does not violate any rules of etiquette.
Furthermore, drinking during meals is common throughout Chinese dinners and has deep
roots in Chinese history as a method of demonstrating respect. People toast everyone at least
once, starting with the highest ranking attendees and moving down. When delivering a toast, it is
customary to stand and use both hands to hold glass or cup. Usually, a toast is accompanied by a
few words.

5.2.2 Kung Fu
Chinese kung fu, also known as Chinese martial arts, is one of the most well known
examples of traditional Chinese culture. Chinese kung fu is a large system of theory and practice.
It combines techniques of self-defense and health keeping. The theory of kung fu is based upon


classical Chinese philosophy. Over its long history it has developed as a unique combination of
exercise, practical self-defense, self-discipline, and art (chinahighlights). Kong fu is not only in
the film but also in peoples life. In China, most high school use Taiji, a kind of kong fu, as their
broadcast exercises.
5.2.3 Beijing Opera
Beijing Opera of China is a national treasure with a history of 200 years. It is a synthesis
of stylized action, singing, dialogue and mime, acrobatic fighting and dancing to represent a
story or depict different characters and their feelings (Goldstein, 2007). The characters may be
loyal or treacherous, beautiful or ugly, good or bad, their images being vividly manifested.
Beijing Opera features four main types of performers. With their elaborate and colorful
costumes, performers are the only focal points on Beijing Operas characteristically sparse stage.
Culture is learned

6. The influence of cultural differences for students

To better know the influence of cultural differences for students, I made a questionnaire
about cultural identity for 20 students who come from China and study in Germany within three
months. They are required to answer the following questions.
1. I find my life in German is boring, without much fun.
A. Agree
7 35%
B. Neutral
9 45%
C. Disagree
2. I am not interested in the topics when talking to my German friends.
A. Agree
8 40%
B. Neutral
10 50%
C. Disagree
3. When walking along the streets, I am always aware that I am a foreigner.
A. Agree
11 55%
B. Neutral
7 35%
C. Disagree
4. Its difficult for me to accept some of the customs and ways of life of German.
A. Agree
11 55%
B. Neutral
6 30%
C. Disagree
5. I dont gain some insights into German culture.
A. Agree
15 75%
B. Neutral
2 10%
C. Disagree







According to the result of this questionnaire, most of students do not know much about
German culture. More than half of the students believe that they are foreigners and not used to
the ways of life in Germany. Some of them are socially awkward and they have trouble making
friends. It is obvious that Chinese students who study in German with short times are facing
problems. Students should improve the ability of intercultural communication and understand
different culture phenomenon and cultural content, forming cross-cultural awareness consciously.

7. Conclusion
By the text from this thesis, we can easily find that there exist various differences
between Chinese and German cultures. China and German cultures are quite different, not better
or worse, but simply different. People should treat the differences between cultures correctly
instead of prejudice, disoriented and making mistakes. Furthermore, each country should focus
more on how to assimilate advantages of the other countries culture, abandon its shortcoming,
and how to transform and make it localized.


8. Reference