Life in China

Know that although Chinese is one of the more difficult languages to learn for native English speakers, Chinese people are very friendly and understanding when learning this language. William from NJ, Year Program
Try every kind of weird food at least once, it will impress your host family (and some of it is really good!). Lucy from MD, Year Program
Make sure your host family knows what your gifts are. My host family thought maple syrup was makeup.Lucy from PA, Summer Language Study Program
A lot of times it is just better to simply go along with Chinese culture than to try and understand and oppose it, because most Chinese people have a very stubborn mindset. It's not right or wrong; it's just different. Sanjay from MI, Semester Program
Many conversations topics that are taboo in America are okay in China, such as talking about one's finances, a person's weight, or asking people how old they are. In America, people are so easily offended when asked these questions. William from NJ, Year Program
Extended families are closer, teachers are actively involved in the students' personal lives, and the students' studies came before family time. Eden from NJ, Semester Program
Chinese culture stresses an immense amount of importance on food preparation and presentation. As a guest, my host family was always trying to open my "foreign" eyes to new tastes and experiences. Going out to dinner is especially fun because in China, multiple families always dine out together. Madeline from MN, Summer Language Study Program
Be prepared to be the center of attention when in public. People will stare at you and talk about you almost everywhere you go. Hayley from TN, Semester Program
If you don't think your host family is comfortable with you doing something, don't do it, even if they say it is okay. In China the culture is such that even if there is a problem you do not confront a person about it. Instead, you call either their teacher or other third party person to handle the problem. Caroline from UT, Semester Program
People are very generous and nice, but at the same time a hug is viewed as very "risqué." So you have people doing tons of nice things for you, but it's hard to thank them in ways other than just repeating "谢谢" very often. Dillon from MA, Summer Language Study Program
Be dedicated to your classes, even when you can't understand the subjects, and make an effort to reach out to your host family and classmates, even if it seems unreciprocated at first. Katherine from OR, Semester Program
It was hard to adjust to the different ways of life and concept of time. They did not like to waste time in China. Also seeing so many people in one area was a shock.Dana from WA, Summer Language Study Program

The Essentials

Digging Deeper

Language Resources
Cultural Resources
News and Media
Movies and Documentaries
  • The Last Emperor (1987)
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
  • Hero (2002)
  • To Live (1994)
  • In the Heat of the Sun (1994)
  • A Century of Revolution (2007)
  • Assignment: China (multipart series)
  • The Last Train Home (2009)
  • Waking the Green Tiger (2011)
  • Nanking (2007)
  • Wild China (2008)
Books
  • Soul Mountain
  • Decoded—Mai Jia
  • A Thousand Years of Good Prayers: Stories
  • The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen
  • Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking
  • The Little Red Guard: A Family Memoir
  • Tiananmen Moon: Inside the Chinese Student Uprising of 1989
  • The Penguin History of Modern China
  • China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power
LGBTQ Resources (Diversity) Heritage and Ethnicity Resources (Diversity)
Note: The links and resources listed in "Digging Deeper" have been provided to AFS by people involved with our organization, including alumni members, volunteers, etc. AFS has not reviewed the resources in their entirety and presents them "as is" for your own information. As such, the sites, publications, films, etc. do not necessarily reflect the approval of nor the views, opinions, and/or values of AFS.