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China

Agnieszka Putkiewicz


Basic information

People and their culture

National holidays and customs

Everyday life

Cuisine

Associations with Poland

Integration in Poland – successes and difficulties


Basic information

wspolczesna ulica noca2China is the third largest country in the world, smaller only than the Russian Federation and Canada. Mountainous areas occupy the western part of the country and thus clusters of people are concentrated in the east. The western part the country includes, among others, Tibet and the mighty Himalayas with the highest peak on Earth - Mount Everest - 8,850 meters above sea level. The north-western part of China is, on the other hand, the Kunlun, Tian Shan and Pamir mountains. On the other hand, the lowest location in China is the Turpan Depression - located in the north-western part of the country - 154 meters below sea level. China's northern plains are covered by deserts, including Gobi and Taklamakan. From the east China is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean (the East China Sea in the northern part, the South China Sea in the southern part and the Yellow Sea separating China from the Korean Peninsula. The population of China is 1.30 billion people and thus almost every fourth person in the world is Chinese.

 

 
People and their culture


The Han ethnic group dominates in China (1.2 billion people, which is 91% of China's population). Apart from the Han, there are also 55 the so-called ethnic minorities: Zhuang (18 million), Manchu (11 million), Hui (9 million), Miao (9 million), Uyghur (8.7 million), Yi (8 million), Tujia (8 million), Tibetan (6 million), Mongols (5.8 million), Dong (3 million), Yao (2.6 million), Bouyei (2.5 million), Kazakh (2.2 million), Koreans (2 million), Bai (1.8 million), Hani (1.5 million), Li (1.25 million), Dai (1.15 million); others below 1 million: She, Lisu, Gelao, Lahu, Dongxiang, Va, Sui, Naxhi, Qiang, Tu, Xibe, Mulao, Kyrgyz, Daur, Jingpo, Salar, Blang, Maonan, Tajik, Pumi, Achang, Nu, Ewenki, Vietnamese, Jino, De'ang, Uzbek, Russians, Yugur, Bonan, Monba, Oroqen, Derung, Tatars, Hezhen, Lhoba, Taiwanese Aborigines.
Two thirds of the country's population lives in rural areas. The majority of the Chinese - more than 90% - lives on the coast and along rivers, including the largest ones:  the Yellow River, the Yangtze River, the Pearl River, the Mekong River. The majority of arable lands in China is irrigated by the rivers listed above fertilizing adjacent areas, which also involves a temporary excess or lack of water. This problem is to be solved by dams (including the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River). Two thirds of China's area is useless for agriculture due to its mountain nature or dry land.
Great religious commitment in the Chinese mentality is associated with abandoning the secular status, thus it is typical of monks. Since materialism is omnipresent, and gods receive the same treatment as emperors did previously - they used to collect tributes through their servants - contemporary gods are also bribed in a way, people enter "guanxi" (connections) with them, e.g. " if I'm successful in this business, I'll build a temple here". Centuries of the emperors' reigns popularized Buddhism, then Taoism. When the communist party came to power, people in China saw Mao Zedong as the next ruler - but in a different "form" - people still call him "a conqueror of ghosts" up to this day and his statuette is placed on the highest shelf in the house so he can dominate everything. Materialism has been dominant since Mao Zedong's times, Chinese atheism is, in fact, the cult of money. The percentage share of significant religions is small, there are local worships present mainly in rural areas and among ethnic minorities. Young people and the inhabitants of large cities rarely declare membership in any religions. The situation is different with older people, born before the Cultural Revolution which established a unique historical turning point dividing China into "former" and "modern".
Significant Chinese philosophical religious systems, especially for the elderly in China include Taoism and Confucianism. The Chinese culture is very rich, it lasts continuously for over five thousand years. According to the Chinese, they invented everything apart from glass which, of course, is an overstatement but it is worth knowing this opinion. 


National holidays and customs

Holidays for the Chinese are a time free from work, the time of family meetings, breaks in the everyday pursuit, the time of celebrating meals and the sense of being a part of a huge, ancient civilization and the resulting sense of pride and satisfaction. The Chinese emphasize their joy because of holidays by hanging paper ornaments in their houses and in front of them (e.g. the sign "fu" turned upside down, namely happiness, the sign is turned so that the gods do not need to tilt their heads to read it, according to the Chinese) or dressing children in new, usually red, clothes.
Because all Chinese celebrate at the same time, China does not have several weeks of leave which can be planned at any date. Therefore, the entire country celebrates on holidays and this is always the time of holidays - state or traditional ones.


Everyday life

Everyday life of the Chinese is organized by the large number of social relations. The day of an average Chinese starts early in the morning - about 6 am. After older people wake up, they go to parks to practice healthy exercises such as taijiquan or qigong. Students and working people practice similar exercises just before the beginning of school and work.
Breakfasts in China are not substantial, they consist, e.g. of a rice soup to which the Chinese add pickled vegetables or a roll cooked by steaming stuffed with meat, vegetables or sweet beans. Chinese living in the north of China eat long pancakes in the morning. Regardless of the type of food in the morning, it needs to be warm.  
Since China is still dominated by green tea, a pinch of leaves is put inside a jar, mug or thermos flask every day in the morning and then the Chinese repeatedly pour hot water (not boiling water) during the day over them and drink in the form of the so-called  tea water (without sugar).
Employees in companies, institutions or students work until noon, when the Chinese eat lunch. This usually is rice or pasta with chicken, fish, a piece of pork or beef but most often with vegetables and eggs.
After lunch everyone takes a nap which lasts approx. one hour and then they return to their duties to end work around 4 pm and have dinner. After dinner, the Chinese spend time on homework, additional classes (students), shopping, social life and chores at home (adults).


Cuisine

China is characterized by eating with chopsticks and thus meals need to be crumbled, they are usually boiled or fried, almost nothing raw is eaten.
Chinese chopsticks, as opposed to metal chopsticks from Korea, are usually made from bamboo trees. They are also larger than the Japanese chopsticks. In restaurants, people usually eat at a round table with a red tablecloth, drink weak tea, try vegetable-meat snacks and nuts while waiting for meals.
There is at least one meal more than the people, the meal are put on a round turning plate-tray in the middle of the table. When the meals are brought by the waiter, the tray starts to move, everyone puts a little bit of each meal on their plate. One bowl of rice is usually ordered per one table so as to fill the possible free place in the stomach with rice having eaten the vegetable-meat meals. Chinese cuisine is the cuisine of many regions, strongly related to the climate. The cuisine from Guangzhou (south), Beijing and ???Shangdu??? (north), Shanghai (east) and Sichuan (west) are the most known ones.
The cuisine of Beijing and Shangdon is quite salty, its meals are based on wheat semi-products. Its most popular meal are dumplings stuffed with pork with vegetables, soya sauce and rice vinegar, pastas and rolls cooked by steaming - mantou.


Associations with Poland

The first "recorded" Chinese who came in a greater group to Poland for a longer time were associated with the first Chinese-foreign joint-venture company in the world Chipolbrok - the Chinese-Polish Towarzystwo Okrętowe S.A.  based in Shanghai, Tianjin and Gdynia which was established in 1951. Chinese restaurants slowly began to appear later in Warsaw - the oldest ones are "Szanghaj" and "Bliss", then in other Polish cities.
The Chinese started to come to newly created companies in the 1990s and in the first years of the 21st century - the investment-development company Minhong, the largest Chinese wholesale-distribution center in Central-Eastern Europe GD (Wólka Kosowska, 25 km from Warsaw, 40 hectares house 6 halls and 4 warehouses) or the global supplier of data communication solutions, Huawei. It has been employing 500 employees in Warsaw since 2004, many of which are Chinese.
A large group of the Chinese are employees in the Chinese embassy in Warsaw. 4,800 Chinese citizens had the right to stay in Poland in 2013.
Although this number is increased by illegal emigrants, it is not a high percentage of foreign citizens living in our country as compared to Vietnamese citizens the number of which in our country is approx. ten times higher and the citizens of our eastern neighbors, such as Ukraine, Lithuania, Russia or Belarus.

Integration in Poland – successes and difficulties

The Chinese in Poland stay together. They are a group separate from other nationalities, there are relatively few Chinese-Polish marriages. If there are, they are often hard for both parties and quite often end with divorces because of the deepening cultural differences. Since Poland has no birth control programs, as opposed to China, Chinese women and their husbands in our country may afford more than one child. As is shown by research results, children and grandchildren from parents or grandparents who came from China assimilate and integrate much better than the older generation.
When asked what they like in Poland, the Chinese answer - the Main Market Square in Kraków - large, old and always crowded. The Chinese feel very good there because this place meets the requirement of "renao" important for the Chinese - namely "hot, noisy, crowded". What they like in the Polish cuisine - tripe and knuckle of pork (there are similar meals in China). What impresses them - Polish forests and dogs, in particular the largest ones: Alsatians or Mastiffs. On the other hand, when asked what they do not like, the Chinese answer that there are too few Chinese and Chinese restaurants, they lack an expanded nightlife (China, e.g. has popular night food courts) or a place where they can have a foot massage (a very popular way of spending free time in China - relaxing and, at the same time, good for the health).
As shown by research, the Chinese community does not assimilate in other countries to the same degree as many other nationalities. This results, among others, from an upbringing in the sense of being a citizen of China, while any other country is "barbaric". A former opinion about the superiority of the Confucian culture over others persists to this day. The Chinese are proud of the continuity of the Chinese civilization for which the most valuable things are the largest ones, the most impressive ones, the richest ones.
Chinese in other countries form a kind of a country within a country. Look at Chinatown in London, Paris or in American cities - in Poland we have the Chinese Center GD or the more and more numerous Chinese language schools, companies and travel agencies where the hierarchy is clear - everyone is subject to the Chinese boss.
This results from various factors: the hierarchical educational system in which Chinese citizens were brought up, the totalitarian nature of the country they come from, following a different religion than the one dominant in a given country, e.g. very few Chinese in Poland, a Catholic country, are Catholics; character traits such as distrust, keeping with the strong, subordination to the authority of power, the feeling of superiority or inferiority, but not equality, the lack of empathy and belief in humanistic values.
The Chinese are materialists and the principle of mutual favors is binding for them - this is the way they function and find themselves under new conditions. Building a position, money position to a large extent, as well as prestige are basic objectives for them.
Trying to fit the Chinese into our Christian system of values may result in an aversion to a large part of them. However, if we have an opportunity to get to know them better and to break away from our world order and vision - we will also discover their various positive qualities - no complaining, resourcefulness, appreciation of good food, wisdom in assessing the situation, an impartial view of the world, not breaking down under adversities, sociability, no stress in situations which would be stressful for us, and which they treat as independent.
When integrating with the Chinese, it is important to remember about several matters related to cultural differences:
•    avoid hostile confrontations - the Chinese try to remember about the so-called keeping face. This is related to shame they do not want to experience, nor do they want to impose it on others. When it is impossible to avoid an open confrontation and it is no longer effective to be polite and nice, the Chinese start to act sharply and firmly.
•    when we introduce ourselves, we present the Chinese with our business card, we do it with both hands, just like we receive the business card from the Chinese.
•    if we are dealing with a Chinese from the south of China, let us not be surprised if he turns out to be very superstitious, if possible let him arrange the date of signing an agreement or the date of the meeting.
•    the Chinese often avoid presenting the matter in an open way. However, they do it not because they wish to intentionally mislead us but because they care for our good mood
•    smiling for the Chinese is an expression of embarrassment, and not an expression of joy and satisfaction
•    The Chinese are used to giving bribes, let us not be surprised then when a police officer giving a fine to the Chinese is offered money, or when the Chinese expect gratuity for help in dealing with a certain matter
•    When the Chinese have dinner with a potential business partner, they will try to close the deal during the dinner - that is why they chose a nice restaurant and invited him for a meal
•    offering cigarettes to one another will be appreciated among men
In private contacts, it is not appropriate to give money to the Chinese in return for a favor, but coming to Chinese hosts with a bouquet of flowers or two bottles of vodka or a wine from our part of the continent (this will be received better than a single bottle or a flower).