It’s All Chinese to Me was published in 2009 as a general introduction to Chinese culture and etiquette. It’s meant to be a quick, funny read, not an in-depth study. Overall, I think it’s a great place to start for first time travelers and adoptive parents who have never visited China. It’s a decent “survival guide” and gives a fair account in many instances. I do feel that some of the comments in the book were condescending and painted the Chinese in a bad light. I am also typically very defensive of China’s people and culture though. It’s a land and people I’ve fallen in love with, and is the birthplace of two of my children. But having said that, I have personally experienced or seen several of the “peculiarities” that were addressed. I generally accept that they are part of Chinese culture, just as I do the same for American culture. I’ve visited China three times and will hopefully go back many, many times in the future. Each time, it becomes more of a comfortable second home to me, despite (or even because of) the differences.
For those who haven’t experienced China yet, this book offers many worthwhile nuggets of information. It begins with a (very) brief over-overview of Chinese history, political issues, and their impacts on society. While doing so, I’ll admit that it doesn’t offer the most positive interpretation of the government, and even discusses the one-child policy in some depth. I’m glad the authors choose to write about these issues, but wonder if the wording could have been different in some instances. The book also discusses China’s rich culture, traditions, and symbols. I loved this part, but do wish they had shared the Chinese hanzi and pinyin so I could learn them.
Additionally, the authors lightly share about the three major influences in Chinese thought: Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. They touch on the widespread impact all three philosophies have had on society in history and present day. Also, the social concepts of guānxì and miànzi are discussed. I did not know there were terms for these ideas, but I certainly recognized the descriptions and identified with them. The book also addresses many “peculiarities” of Chinese society that were familiar to me. I won’t share which ones I recognized, but just know that a lot of them are right on the money. Business etiquette is also mentioned at the end of the book, but I admit I only skimmed that section.
The book is a very quick read, which makes it pretty attractive to a busy mom of 4. I finished it over two days only reading a little bit here and there. I would definitely recommend reading through it if you will be traveling to China soon and don’t know anything about the cultural differences or nuances of their society. I think it’s always wise to learn at least a little about the country you will be visiting. If you’ve already been to China, you can probably skip this book because most of the concepts will be familiar to you.
If you are looking for more information about Chinese traditions and holidays, check out my blog post about Good Luck Life.