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Chinese view Americans as Cowboys

Last week I attended a “Chinese cultural workshop”. The company I work for will open a new manufacturing plant in China soon. So, employees were invited to attend this workshop in order to “understand” the Chinese people and how to do business with them.

My wife is born and raised in China. She taught me everything I needed to know about China. I have visited China twice so far. Nevertheless, I wanted to attend the workshop just in case there was something new I could learn (and maybe brag about in front of my wife) :).

The following are some of the interesting things mentioned in the workshop.

Let me start by saying that there are no such thing as fortune cookies in China. Fortune cookies were invented in California, USA. With that out of the way, let’s see how Americans view Chinese.

Americans view Chinese as:

  • Indistinguishable from one another
  • Unsophisticated
  • Difficult to understand
  • Reserved
  • Secretive
  • Autocratic

Chinese view Americans as:

  • Cowboys – I bet you that they got the “cowboy” stereotype from Hollywood movies
  • Impulsive, impatient, and immature
  • Arrogant, loud, self absorbed
  • Interested only in personal profit
  • Young and rebellious
  • Sexually explicit
  • Good entrepreneurs, innovative and creative

(source: Cowboys and Dragon by Charles Lee)

  • Chinese don’t like the numbers 4 and 5. What they like most are numbers 8 and 9.

  • Chinese don’t like the color white. What they like most is the color red.

If you are traveling to China, here are some tips on what types of gift Chinese will mostly appreciate (or not appreciate).

What to give as gifts:

  • Made in USA products – Almost everything is made in China nowadays, so you’ll have to look hard
  • Name brands like Levis Jeans, Armani…
  • Any highly taxable imports like wine, liquor and cigarettes

What not to give as gifts:

  • Clocks = your time is up, you’re going to die soon
  • Green hats = your wife or husband is cheating on you
  • Cheese – Chinese just do not like cheese
  • Anything white

And if you want to see, listen and read some of my observations when I visited China, proceed to my post titled A Different World.

Filed in Personal, Tips on 06 Jun 06 | Tags:

Reader's Comments

  1. |

    Isn’t that how everyone views Americans? Even fellow Americans?

  2. |

    I like Cowboy, it’s better than lazy-ass or some white-trash reference. Am I arrogant?! Hell ya; I’m American!


  3. |

    Hmmm… having lived in China for 5 years and HK for 5 years before that I consider myself qualified to comment.

    Your trainer is about 10 years out of date.

    Chinese now tend to view Shenzhen and Shanghai people as far more interested in personal profit than Americans.

    Chinese mostly recognize that prostitution is a major industry in China and you see young people eating each others’ tonsils all over China.

    The other points are less dramatically wrong, but probably not what most Chinese people would come up with talking about Americans.

  4. |

    Michael, you are probably more qualified to comment about China than my wife (who has left China more than 10 years ago).

    When I last visited China, I lived with my parents in law in the suburbs of Shanghai for one month. I did notice that there was a big gap between the old and the new Chinese generation. The old generation tends to be more traditional and conservative. The new generation tries to be more open and follow their American counterparts.

    China has changed a lot in the past few years and, from my point of view, the change will not stop anytime soon.

    By the way, Michael, with your experience in the Chinese culture and business, you may want to consider opening your own consultancy business here in the US, to advise people how to do business in China. As more American businesses are looking to invest in China, there is a high demand for such a service. You’ll make a lot of money 🙂

  5. |

    […] Anyway, I got this very nice distressed green and white cap from Puma on Thursday and I’ve been wearing it around (to break it in, but also because I actually like this hat a lot). I wore it over to lunch yesterday and I took it off and placed it on the table as I ate. A little while later, my grandma asked me if the hat was mine and I said that it was, and she started laughing. I didn’t understand, so I asked what was so funny, and she says this: Green hats mean that your wife is unfaithful to you. I was like, “What?!” and I started laughing. Apparently, some age old Chinese beliefs die hard. […]

  6. |

    The old generation tends to be more traditional and conservative. The new generation tries to be more open and follow their American counterparts.

  7. |

    I think the things about Chinese viewing Americans as, were fed to this guy by his wife on what she thinks about him.this is NOT how the Chinese think!

  8. |

    My husband works in China. When I visited I met some lovely Chinese people. One young man went out of his way to show us China. Wonderful shopping experiences & friendship. My husband is bringing him home for Christmas. When I left China he gave me a beautiful book , Scenic Splender of China. I enjoyed it on my flight back & it now is on my coffee table. What would be an appropiate gift to give him when he leaves Orlando? I have already bought a 3 park pass to Disney for him.