Living in China

3 Bad Habits I’ve Unfortunately Picked Up While Living In China


While living in China you will unconsciously pick up some of their habits and customs. Some of them might be really good, like giving your seat to the elderly and kids, but unfortunately you might acquire some bad habits as well. This is my top 3 sins while living in China.

Thank you Benny, I got the idea for this post after reading yours: The 23 strangest habits you’ll pick up after living in 23 different countries

1. Stop saying thank you

Chinese people often don’t say thank you to waiters, shop assistants or other people in customer service. Money is being thrown to the counter for you or the cashier to pick it up. When buying something the only thing that might come out of the cashiers mouth is the price.

In Finland we don’t say nearly as many thank yous as in America for example, but China seems to be lacking even more. On the other hand, if someone is being super nice and polite to you, you might be getting ripped off. When there is next to no words exchanged, then you are being treated like a local, with a local price.

2. Rush to the bus

Even though I keep on queuing for metros, but when it’s time to hop on to the minibus that takes me home from the metro station, it’s like a 100 metre running race out there! After a few times I quickly learned where the bus is approximately going to stop and wait there patiently while Chinese students are running back and forth.

When the bus stops then comes the elbows, I feel like being pushed left and right, just trying to balance my self and get into the bus. As no one is standing in the line, I’m not letting anyone to rush before me from my back.

3. Ignore others around you

In Finland anyone greeting you on the street is your relative, friend or a neighbour. Here in China total strangers might greet me, stare at me or even take photos of me.

If it’s a small kid, then I usually play along and greet back smiling. But if it’s a grownup shouting “halou, halou” or “missy, missy” at me, then I just ignore them.

Chinese people don’t often care about strangers, as they have nothing to do with them. One time I saw a guy with an open backpack in the metro and though about telling him about it for a few minutes before he vanished inside the metro. I hope nothing was stolen from him.

What bad habits have you (unfortunately) picked up when living in China?


  • Alva

    I only see 3… hahaha
    Anyway I will do a post with mine…following your idea!

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Haha, my 4th bad habit is not to check the headline when clicking the publish button! :D Good call Alva, changed it now.

    If you write you’re own list, remember to share the link with us!

    Alva Reply:

    hahahah I will I am thinking about my bad habits, btw, I did realize when I was living in Finland about meeting strangers…meaning..takes longer but once you bound thats a long term relationship! (friendship..or whatever)

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I’m sure you also noticed some odd habits we Finns have when living over there? Anything we should pay attention to? :)

    Alva Reply:

    Got it!

    – Short answers. Example:

    Do we see each other after lunch? No.

    ( First time I got an answer like that…my face was…white…then I saw it was pretty common among Finnish colleagues /friends / boyfriends of friends…and realized that is mainly cause there is no need of explaining ones actions or plans, if someone answers no is cause he is busy or whatever. For some reason in Spain we tend to give an explanation… No, I have to study, No, I go to the gym..) :)

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    This is actually quite funny. I thought that in China it was strange that people can just say “我有事” “I have things to do” when they are busy and can’t meet with you.

    Perhaps it depends on the person. I could never imagine just saying “no” if someone asks me to have lunch. I would figure out something bit more polite :)

    xun Reply:

    I never use that item. It depends on situation. My friends will not believe I am really “有事”, because they know what I am doing these days, I am just a student, what serious thing I will have in lunch time….no one will believe. I just say, It is too hot outside, I don’t want to go outside, or “not in the mood” or “change to another day, tell me in advance” .

    xun Reply:

    And I hated to be called to have lunch just one or two hours before lunch time, because my family would have to prepare meat and vegetables in advance, I don’t want to see all the cooking becoming leftover, wasting is a sin, many people in this world have no food to eat.

  • Chris_Waugh

    I drive here in Beijing. I’m certain I have picked up habits that will either leave a trail of road rage kilometres long in my wake or get me arrested or both when I next drive in New Zealand.
    At the very least I’ll have to get used to driving Commonwealth-style, on the left again.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Oh , I can imagine!

    I think I’m too afraid to ever drive in China. I have my licence in Finland, but due to not enough pratice, I’m not a good driver at all. I can drive in my small home town, but that’s it.

    xun Reply:

    I have only drove in driving school, never in real road. The traffic is horrible in China, I don’t want to sacrifice my mom’s car for my useless practicing, and I hate cars, I love bike.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Biking is great, if you mean bicycles!

  • Hugh Grigg (葛修远)

    Sorry, but did you not give up your seat to the elderly and kids on buses before? I’ve never thought that was peculiar to China. People always do that in the UK as well…

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    As a Finn I’m embarrased to say that giving ones seat to an elderly or kid works much much better in China than in Finland.

  • msittig

    Here’s one that stares me in the face all the time: leaving fishbones/shells/bits of food I don’t want to eat in a neat little pile *on the table*.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Oh yes, I have this bad habit too! Well, in Finland it certainly would be seen as a very bad habit to spit anything when around a dinner table.

  • thenakedlistener

    Assuming that we know consider Hong Kong to be part of China, it’s pushing and shoving at people in the underground (subway/metro). I’m embarrassed to say I’ve learnt to do this.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Do they fight for the very last spot in the underground in HK too? I haven’t seen it there my self, but perhaps I haven’t been on the MTR during rush hour.

    thenakedlistener Reply:

    Local Hongkongers don’t scramble for the last spot on the MTR, but they shove, elbow and dig their way into and out of the train carriages.

    xun Reply:

    In human’s civilization, moral principle does not work if there is a shortage of resource, everyone wants to survive, want to live, want to own. Different educational level, different financial status of people will exert huge influence on any society(I mean normal society, not sth like North K). If we don’t talk about moral things or cultural things, sometimes, I still think we need give seat to old people, because most of of old people in China didn’t have enough nutrient when they were young, in their generation, they could barely get full in their belly, let alone going to some gyms, sports, health and so on. Some of them looks very weak in their 60+, and Chinese’ public transport vehicles are very crowd, some old people may get injured among bunch of people with the bus bumping or sudden braking. If they can have a seat, things will get better, accident which we don’t want to see will not happen easily. I don’t think I really NEED a seat if I don’t have a heavy schoolbag or sth with me, as a young guy. What’s more, cities in china are very large, bus journey sometimes is tantamount to a long journey, None of the old people will feel comfortable and don’t need a seat, even though they may not want others think they are old and weak, but they really need a seat.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Based on numerous history books I’ve read, the life of elderly people really haven’t been easy in China. I can’t even imagine how they survived during those times.

    But sometimes, what my boyfriend also points out, the elder folk are like supermen when they rush to the bus, but in a second become very weak when they need a seat.

    xun Reply:

    I see, I know what you mean, I never give seat to the people like that, yeah sure they HAVE some white hair, but some looks very spirited, I only give my seat to those who looks like hard to stand steadily or with a heavy bags in their hand. Why did they become people like that? I have to admit, in their generation, people’s morality has been serious destroyed by total-blabla-nism(I spell like this to prevent sb from getting angry), people struggle to survive, to obtain, not to give(although, officially, people were taught to be a dedicator but only a little ones did) Due to the social environment, parents taught their children to do the same thing—-to be selfish, to tell lie, because if not so, they will not have enough resource to live their live. We can’t expect those elders to be graceful, we younger generation have to rebuild our traditional good morality-polite, tolerant, loyalty, decency(sound like stupid in reality, haha, I’m just saying) I don’t want someone patriot think I’m badmouthing my own country, but we really have to admit our problems, arrogance has no good effect to a country, only by learning can we improve. You can ignore all the strange things some people do, they are inevitable due to some historical reasons.

  • xun

    About “thank you”, don’t expect most people say that, our country is full of uneducated or stupid-brainwashed-educated grownups or rebelled and spoiled adolescent, some people, no matter poor or rich, when you give them service, they think they have PAID to you, so thank you is useless. They think money can buy anything. Some other people who do not say thank you, largely because they are introvert, and feel embarrassed to express appreciation to others.