The article “How Chinese and Americans Understand Culture,” by Brent Crane, illustrates the differences between Chinese and American culture. In fact, according to the article, some Chinese people do not even consider America to have a culture, as they believe culture is rooted in thousands of years of civilization. Additionally, the claim is made that while China’s culture is specifically based on Chinese history, America’s culture is simply a combination of different Western cultures. Despite the varying viewpoints of what qualifies as culture, there are similarities as well as differences that do exist between the two countries.
One large difference between the two cultures is the theme of individualism versus community in society. In Chinese culture, people are generally more focused on their community rather than themselves. One of the most telling examples of the importance of community in Chinese culture that I learned this past week was found when examining the Chinese familial structure. In China, when children (specifically males) become adults, they are tasked with not only taking care of their parents, but also both sets of grandparents. In America, an adult may see their parents once every few weeks, and call their grandparents every so often. Another example of the focus on community in Chinese culture is evidenced in the realm of business. When a Chinese business person is determining how their business can be successful, they think about what they can do to make their country more successful. In America, business people generally focus on what they can do to make themselves successful.
There are some similarities between American and Chinese culture. The theme of hard work is pervasive in both cultures. In Chinese culture, students are taught to work hard from the moment they are old enough to understand what that means. This is based on the Confucian ideal of the importance of an education. In America, people are also taught to work hard, partially because of the ideal of the American Dream, an idea where any achievement is possible if one works hard enough.