Why do Chinese People wear Masks and drink hot Water?
Chinese views of other countries through the questions they ask online
Google search engine auto-complete results show that these are the questions asked about China and Chinese people. Though these questions are all-too-familiar with expats in China and those outside of China, many of us don’t have a clue of the way Chinese view other countries like the US, France, Russia or Japan?
Baidu is China’s most popular search engine, and the autocomplete feature works similar to Google’s, choosing the best among netizens’ most common searches. Some of them involve trendy events in the political arena or common stereotypes and misunderstandings, while others may be more particular and surprising. Daxue Consulting translated the search engine auto-complete results of many languages to compare them against Chinese inquiries. The results are a fun and interesting spectacle showing China’s global views and other countries view of China.
Before continuing, please note that the autocomplete results on search engines is not a search suggestion or an indicator of the most searched inquiries, but rather an estimation of the search based on previous inquiries.
France, the capital of romance with small and expensive dishes
“Le parfum, l’amour, la France”. Chinese people love France and what it represents culturally, and the millions of Chinese tourists that visit France and Paris every year show an apparent never-ending interest in France.
Chinese view France as the most romantic country in the world, but they are also curious about its culinary culture, including the lack of some important dishes: Eating pigs’ feet and romanticism do not seem to match very well. With or without pig feet, Chinese perceive French food as exquisite, if only the portions were a bit larger. The appreciation for each other’s cuisine is mutual between Chinese and French, with French asking why is Chinese food the best? In a more political tone, concerns over China’s extending power also appear in Google’s most searched questions in France.
Two world superpowers: one has Captain America and the other owns all pandas
What are Chinese views of the US? There seems to be a lot of curiosity about politics and current events. The trade war between the U.S. and China seems to be between the top concerns of netizens from both countries, and we can note a subtle critical tone in the searches ranging from Huawei’s sanction to the US policing the world.
Away from the political arena, the Americans cannot decide whether they like Chinese food: Why is Chinese food so good/Why is Chinese food so bad for you? Why is Chinese food not filling/Why is Chinese food so filling? Though most Chinese brush their teeth before breakfast, Americans will not hesitate to brush their teeth after eating, especially after breakfast, or perhaps after indulging in expensive American watermelon or drinking tap water directly.
Long live the Queen! (and football)
What are Chinese perceptions of the UK? Football, bad food, and the royal family. It seems that the UK’s stereotypes travel worldwide, and have reached China too. Chinese are interested in why the British people, apart from generally being bald, seem not to be very fond of some famous personalities, according to Baidu searches.
However, one of the topics that seem to worry the Brits the most is the red color in China. Indeed, the color may be everywhere in China, from the ribs of Chinese people to the rivers of the country, and don’t forget the flag either. Speaking of flags, Chinese netizens are wondering why the cross of the UK flag looks like the character 米 (mǐ) which means rice in Chinese.
Xi Ban Ya: the “pressed salted duck country of the west”, commonly known as Spain
Spain has wine and bullfights, high-ranked football teams and good food, and yet the Chinese still ask Baidu, Why is Spanish so popular? They may also be astonished to know that Spanish people eat a lot of rice: don’t forget the Spanish legendary “paella”.
Coming from a developed gastronomic culture, Spanish people also wonder about Chinese eating habits. Eating insects, live animals and virtually everything is something about Chinese people that fascinates Spain, even if it mostly stays a stereotype.
Truly revealing Spanish keen curiosity, we also find questions like Why is China called China in Google Spain, in between the serious wonders of Why is China communist and Why is China a developed country.
“Undercooked” Italian pasta versus Chinese noodles
The tenderness of Italian pasta seems to be a worrying fact among Chinese people who are used to softer noodles used in many of their own dishes. What can we learn from Chinese view of Italy?
The “Dolce Far Niente”, or “pleasure idleness” is commonly known to characterize Italians, and the stereotype has travelled to China as well. Chinese people ask Baidu why Italians are so handsome but lazy. Italy is not the only country rich in Italian sports cars, but there is quiet a market for Italian sports cars in China as well.
Japanese people live longer: they have effective medicine and drink ice water
While Chinese netizens are wondering why Japanese people live long, Japanese are asking why Chinese are fascinated by their toilets. Additionally Japanese netizens have searched Why Chinese don’t carry wallets, haven’t they heard? With China’s mobile payment systems, there is no need to carry a wallet!
The Chinese view of Japan is quiet curious, the fact that Japanese people tend to drink ice water may be surprising to Chinese, who believe hot water has much more health benefits. A happy Chinese netizen watches Japanese anime while munching on large Chinese food portions.
Korean people’s skin is so good China envies it
Apparently, cosmetics in South Korea are better and cheaper than in China, making its people have good skin and their Chinese neighbors jealous of it. The Chinese view of Korea is shaped by Korea’s soft power, also known as the ‘Korean Wave’, part of which includes movies that are apparently too dark for Chinese netizens tastes.
On the other hand, netizens in South Korea seem to dedicate much time thinking of China’s size and population: China will never get smaller, even by a dot. On top of politics and debating history, Korean netizens are wondering why the Korean wave, like K-pop, is accepted in China, and why Chinese smile when they are angry.
Are Russians not afraid of bears or are bears in Russia just docile?
Both questions are very popular in Baidu’s search engine when asking about Russia, while Russians themselves may be more interested in the Chinese ways of writing, speaking, living, working and eating. It is also worth mentioning a very particular Russian concern that has not been mentioned before, how do Chinese guys care for girls?
Once again, we see that Chinese people have a real interest on cosmetics, evidence that cosmetics may considered to be a little expensive in China.
What do these inquires say about Chinese views of other countries?
While stereotypes may vary a little across borders, most western countries have a similar picture of Chinese people, in terms of physical appearance and every day habits. Recent political and economic events also shape the nature of interest that other countries have towards China.
China on the other hand has very different visions of foreign cultures, and some stereotypes are reinforced by the image that foreign and Hollywood films bring into China, while others are just very particular.
Though there is still a lot to learn between China and other countries, there is strong evidence that China has become very open to foreign culture and foreign products. On the ground research in China is the best way to get to know the culture and gain real insights on the Chinese population.
Learn more about Chinese netizen perceptions of foreign imports.
Author: Ines Beneyto Brunet
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