Thursday, June 04, 2020

It's All Chinese To Me: An Overview of Chinese Culture, Travel & Etiquette

It's All Chinese To Me: An Overview of Chinese Culture, Travel & Etiquette (Fully Revised and Expanded)

ISBN: 978-0-8048-4917-3
By Pierre Ostrowski and Gwen Penner
Tuttle Publishing, 2018
192 pp, paperback

It's All Chinese To Me: An Overview of Chinese Culture, Travel & Etiquette


It won't be all Chinese to you after you finish this quick, light-hearted "overview of culture and etiquette" about China.
Using cartoon drawings mixed with occasional very short chapters, authors Ostrowski and Penner touch on a number of subjects about China including history, politics and society, rituals and superstitions and doing business in China.
There are also lighter topics including do's and don'ts, culture shock, transportation and guanxi (loosely translated as connections) and mianzi (basically translated as saving face).
The book can be read in less than two hours because most of the pages consist of one or two one-panel cartoon-like drawings.

It's All Chinese To Me: An Overview of Chinese Culture, Travel & Etiquette



Scattered throughout the book are Chinese proverbs, usually well-matched with what each particular chapter is talking about. For example, on the page on gift-giving, the proverb included is, "A bit of fragrance clings to the hand that gives flowers."
Readers familiar with Asian cultures will find it interesting how many Chinese things have similarities with other Asian cultures, particularly Japan; for example, how to pour drinks, avoiding the number 4, giving and receiving presents with two hands, slurping noodles, never leaving chopsticks in rice etc.
Perhaps the most thorough section, and that is a relative term, concerns the influences of Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism on the country.
While the book is written to be fun and not to be an all-inclusive look at China's 1.4 billion people, there are more serious things discussed, albeit briefly. Readers will learn that:
# Fake drugs account for up to 25% of the total prescription drug market.
# Traditional Chinese medicines continue to lead to the barbaric treatment of many animals, most specifically bears but also including dogs, cats, rhinos, tigers, leopards, etc.
# Chinese media often refers to foreigners as foreign devils, barbarians, big noses, and red beards.
The book is by no means a deep analysis of China, but that's fine. It is amusing and breezy, and if that is what you are looking for then is a good book for you.

Marshall Hughes

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A Geek in China Book Review