The paper provides a thorough observation of the fundamentals of the Chinese culture that require careful attention from the participants of the study abroad program. Emphasis on family ties, respect to the elders, transitions from democracy to the republic, and rich historical heritage play a significant role in China. The brief description of Chinese history, Confucianism influence, and economy provide a foundation for further knowledge and skills development.
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The paper also analyzes the non-verbal and social media communication patterns in China, which is also crucial for international students. The fundamental objectives of the program are to raise awareness about Chinese culture, increase cultural competence, and enhance cross-cultural communication. Besides, the program details and planned events aim to make the cultural adaptation process smoother. Through specific activities that offer exclusive experiences of various subcultures valuable in China, the participants of the program will have a more natural cultural adaptation and immerse themselves in a unique atmosphere.
Experiencing new cultures, learning unique traditions, and practicing cross-cultural communication is essential for the global nature of the current work practices and relationships. China, as one of the fast-developing countries, represents an exclusive culture that is worth exploring. Today, numerous organizations conduct businesses with Chinese partners and manufacturers. According to Zang (2016), “interaction between Chinese people and people outside China has become more frequent and important” (p. 1).
Cross-cultural communication lays out the foundation for further individual development, which implies that the study abroad program carries critical elements for one education and skills improvement. The purpose of this work is to observe the key features of Chinese culture and its communication characteristics, which are significant in the context of the study abroad program for a group of students.
Overview of the Culture
The first step in outlining the critical factors of the cross-cultural experience is an in-depth analysis of the characteristics of the Chinese culture. The contemporary state of things in China can be characterized as the transition period from traditional values and customs to industrial civilization and modern culture (Kang, 2015). Today, Chinese society adapts new traditions, integrates technological advancements, and represents an influential culture that values historical background but, at the same time, is open for further development.
Despite the active adoption of new traditions, China is still highly influenced by Confucianism. Confucian values highlight “an insistence on the importance of the family, of education, of the public services” (Dryburgh, 2016, p. 14). Keeping in mind the focus on personal ties and respect to the hierarchy and the system is a crucial element in maintaining proper behaviors and attitudes.
Another essential characteristic of Chinese society is its collectivist approach. The influence of Confucianism adds to the collectivistic attitude towards various social activities in the country (Wang & Lu, 2017). For instance, the family occupies an essential place in the life of each individual. Likewise, people in China have a focus on bonding within families and social relationships (Wang & Lu, 2017). Understanding the collectivistic nature of the culture and the place that parents and grandparents have in all of the new acquaintances’ lives will assist in building a more considerable study abroad experience.
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The historical background is also fundamental to understand while planning a study abroad program. One of the essential events in Chinese history is the revolution of 1911 that led to the collapse of the Qing Dynasty and established a new republic (Dryburgh, 2016). The period of the Qing dynasty’s governance represented “self-imposed isolation,” which implies that the country did not have tight relationships with the external world (Van Norden, 2015, par. 3).
Therefore, one can claim that the transformation of the country’s state from isolated and becoming open to the other countries significantly influenced the perception of foreigners by Chinese. Another crucial historical aspect is the creation of the People’s Republic of China. It was established in 1949 and symbolized a standing up of the citizens after years of oppression and bureaucracy (Dryburgh, 2016). Hence, history has shaped the current position of China, which emphasizes that study abroad students should be open to exploring ancient history in more detail during the trip.
The paragraphs above discussed the views on the family, and it would be beneficial to look at another subcultural aspect that has an essential value in China, which is food. In Chinese culture, food is used with different aims, including the establishment of interpersonal relationships, maintaining those relationships, representing a specific social status, and celebrating the events (Ma, 2015). Food holds symbolic meaning and can be used to make new friends, portray respect, or reward an individual.
In such a way, different meals have different values and are consumed on different occasions. For instance, in the US, Turkey is a symbol of Thanksgiving, while in China, dumplings represent the traditional food for the Spring Festival (Ma, 2015). Besides, in most situations, the Chinese use “a grouped dining system,” which implies that the members of the family or friends sit together, place the meals in the center of the table, and share (Ma, 2015, p. 198).
Thus, in Chinese society, gathering in big groups and sharing food serves as a means of showing respect and getting to know each other. It is crucial for foreigners in China to treat the invitations to share a meal with respect and not to express negative attitudes towards specific foods.
The next critical point required to be observed for the study abroad program in China is the use of social media. One should understand that the social media that the Americans are used to does not have the same popularity and is blocked in China. However, cyberspace in Asian land offers other services that constitute a significant part of social life. According to the International Journalists’ Network, the most popular social media platforms are WeChat, QQ, and Weibo, which offer the same features as Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram do (Radcliffe, 2017). Consequently, it is crucial for the foreigners in China to remember that they might not be able to use the social media that they stick to in daily life back home. Moreover, downloading the applications that are popular in China can be a beneficial tool to make new friends and to keep in touch with them.
It is also beneficial to take a look at the Chinese economy to understand the current situation in the country. China is characterized by rapid economic growth, which led to the creation of millions of jobs and increased incomes (Taylor, 2016). The World Bank statistics reveal that in 1979 China represented around 2% of the world’s GDP, while by the year 2016, that number increased to more than 10% (Taylor, 2016).
The results speak for themselves and portray the country’s fast development due to the minimization of the restrictions for the economy. According to Taylor (2016), the reforms towards the free market economy removed millions of Chinese citizens from poverty. For the students participating in the study abroad program, it is crucial to consider the economic factors to gain a better understanding of the people’s jobs and consumerism.
Creating awareness and providing knowledge to the participants of the study abroad program is critical for a successful and useful experience. Understanding the behavior and traditions of the representatives of Chinese culture will provide a foundation for the students’ attitudes and skills during the trip. One should note that being aware of the preferences, historical and economic background, and other related cultural differences will increase the cultural competence of the participants.
The participants of the study abroad program will closely collaborate with the representatives of Chinese culture for a specific period, which implies the necessity of minimizing cultural shock and adapting. The scholars have proven that cultural adaptation “is a significant factor that affects international students’ temporary stay in the host culture” (An & Chiang, 2015, p. 662). Moving to the unfamiliar conditions, unfamiliar traditions, and to the country, whose language an individual does not speak, is a stressful event.
The next essential point is the observation of the communication tendencies in Chinese culture. A significant role in communication patterns in China is given to non-verbal communication, including body language, proxemics, and movements. According to Sun (2017), body language implies “a series of body movements, which means to express intention and convey cultural information” (p. 707).
Consequently, possessing knowledge about non-verbal communication is crucial to understand the attitudes and non-spoken messages of the individuals. Like in other cultures, in China, body language expresses feelings and emotions, including happiness or frustration, and most of the gestures, facial expressions, and tactile movements are similar to the American way (Sun, 2017). Thus, the use of eyes, hands or other body parts and emotions on the face can outline the further course of conversation to the interlocutor.
However, in terms of the physical space between strangers, Chinese culture holds specific differences. Since China is a highly collectivistic country and due to the historical development as an agricultural civilization, people there feel comfortable walking side by side with unfamiliar individuals (Sun, 2017). Hence, the Chinese do not tend to keep space with other people in various public places. It is essential to be aware of that to avoid cultural shock.
Reflecting on the information provided above, including the cultural features, economy, history, non-verbal communication differences, and social media, one should say that the knowledge within those spheres can help the students to adapt to the new environment.
Firstly, it is crucial to have positive attitudes towards the culture that one is about to experience. Showing respect and trying to find out things in cases of hesitation can also be beneficial. Cultural adaptation can be a challenging process, which is stressed by being away from home and in unfamiliar conditions. However, with the proper preparations and with the program directed at raising cultural awareness and enhancing cross-cultural communication, students can gain great experiences, expand their knowledge, make life-long relations, and discover new possibilities.
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The program will include several activities in which the students will participate together. One of the first activities for the students upon their arrival to China will be a traditional Chinese dinner with their education group and mentors. According to An and Chiang (2015), in most cases, international students live in separate premises and have a different curriculum due to language barriers and adaptation. However, it is necessary to let the foreigners feel welcomed and make new acquaintances throughout their first days in the host country. The observation of the Chinese food tradition shows that it is a good way to establish social relationships.
Therefore, the program’s organizers, in collaboration with Chinese hosts, will make a dinner that will include the Americans and their fellow Chinese students. The dinner will be an effective way of introducing traditional foods, food sharing principles, and give advice. Besides, during the gathering, the representatives of Chinese culture can share useful tips on the participants’ future stay.
Another activity for the exploration of Chinese culture will be a couple of days of traveling to significant places accompanied by the students from the host country. For instance, the trip will include the day at the Great Wall of China, where the students can dive into ancient history. Also, the excursion to the Forbidden City will give a representation of Chinese palaces and Chinese architecture. It will be easier to understand and imagine how China used to be before the urbanization period by looking at the ancient buildings and plunging them into a unique atmosphere. Exploring the architecture, learning more about history during the travel, and listening to the interesting stories of the new Chinese friends is an authentic experience for the students.
After the students have already learned some things about Chinese culture, have observed traditional architecture, and have experienced food rituals, the program will offer participation in the exclusive event. One of the essential places during the program will be given to the visit to Peking Opera. Peking Opera is a unique performance in which the foreigners can dive into the ancient Chinese culture, observe tremendous clothing and masks, watch impressive acting, and listen to exceptional music (Rolston, 2018).
Throughout the last decades, Peking Opera became a top-rated entertainment for tourists in China (Rolston, 2018). The participants of the study abroad program will have a chance to experience this exclusive performance, which will provide new insight into the cultural heritage of the country.
Another exciting activity will be attending the tea ceremony with international students. Tea occupies a separate space in Chinese culture, which implies that it is essential for foreigners to experience the tradition that is not common within their culture. Besides the events described above, students will be encouraged to maintain continuous communication with Chinese students. Some of the Chinese students will be asked to invite the study abroad program participants to their homes so that the visitors can get a perspective of a Chinese family and their lifestyle. The program also supports students’ initiatives to explore the areas of their interest by themselves, whether it is the visits to art exhibitions, the libraries, or the food markets.
In conclusion, China represents land with a rich history, unique traditions, a strong economy, and exclusive customs. Besides the rapid development of the country, its emphasis on hi-tech and technological advancements, China represents a place worth exploring for general cultural knowledge and future career. The goals of this program include increasing cultural competence, raising awareness about a new culture, enhance tolerance, teach the students to express proper attitudes and adapt to the challenging environment, and gain unforgettable experiences. Besides, the program aims to show the significance of cross-cultural communication to the participants. The proposal for the study program covers the fundamental areas that it will cover and offers a unique possibility to explore one of the most exceptional and influential cultures.
An, R., & Chiang, S. Y. (2015). International students’ culture learning and cultural adaptation in China. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 36(7), 661-676.
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