Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Chinese and Hugs

One of the culture shocks my wife had to undergo when she arrived in the US was our compulsion to hug each other as a form of greeting. I'm not sure if her experience is pervasive throughout China, but she has never seen people hug each other like they do here. In fact, she has never hugged either of her parents nor her brother. She remembers that there was a strong taboo against men touching their daughters when she was young to the point that she never remembers even touching her fathers hand!

We've all read numerous articles about how human contact is necessary but it certainly does not seem to be part of Chinese culture, so I wonder how true it really is. I've seen young Chinese girls hold hands when I've been in China and people in the city often spend a lot of time "touching" each other when trying to get onto mass transit systems. In the Chinese countryside, the likelihood of accidental touching is remote due to less crowded conditions.

So are Chinese mentally unhealthy because they do not hug? My wife is continually shocked (and scared for her daughter) when we get the annual update of sexual predators that live in our town. We have erased a lot of things that are taboo in China but from her standpoint we are the unhealthy society.

As I've learned since meeting my wife, there are many preconceived ideas that we have that we believe are true and right, but an opposite view seems to work just as well in China.


Anonymous said...

So are Chinese mentally unhealthy because they do not hug?

Yes, but only slightly.

On another note,
You must remember that child molestation , rape and incest are not talked about or reported in Chinese culture. Child kidnaps, serial killing and canabalism are rarely seen in the tightly controlled (government run) media Ask your wife, and her answer will be, "that sort of thing does not happen in China".

NotReally said...

No they aren't "mentally unhealthy".
It's cultural difference, east Asians cultures tend to be more shy and polite.
So they nod, smile or shake hands instead of hug, even with friends or relatives.