Why do Chinese not like our food?

Been out to eat lately? Been out to your local pizzeria on a Friday  night?  Long line, eh?  How abt the well established diner in your neighborhood?  The place that has everything?  What do these all have in common? 

None of them have Chinese customers.  As Chinese flood my country, along with Indians, filling up every IT and computer related job in the economy, they are everywhere, and yet nowhere.  Buying up property, basically saving the housing mkt where I live, which is upscale, one never sees them in a restaurant.    Nor in a movie theater.

I bring this up of course to my wife.  What does she say?  Chinese like to cook inside.  They don’t like to go to restaurants.   Why, I ask? If that’s the case why do I see them in Chinese restaurants?  Well, of course, that would be because Western food isn’t very good.  All of us that spend most of our time in China are probably tired of answering the question:  What is American food?

Well, if you got your cheap ass off the couch, you’d know by now.   When I am in China, I have no problem eating Chinese food.  Thus, dare I use this cultural example as an instrument for saying I think Westerners are by and large much better at assimilation?

I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit offended that Chinese have no cultural curiosity towards my nation’s food.   I’m not saying our food is the best,  but let’s not pretend it’s the worst either.   I used to think they had no or little intellectual curiosity about my country, period.  I’ve since seen that’s not always the case, so I won’t dwell on it.  Still, if one wants to be successful in the country he or she lives in, they must whether they like it or not make an attempt to verse oneself in their host country’s cuisine.

Aren’t these the same people that whine about how hard it is to get promoted within an American company?   Yet to my surprise a good portion of the people I encountered on the ski slopes recently were speaking Mandarin.   Once I got my butt off the ground on the bunny slope, I realized that this refusal to indulge themselves in American food must therefore be deliberate.    A conscious decision.  

So I asked the question.   You see, as my wife is Chinese, I have plenty of opportunities to do just that.   And they just came out and say “we don’t like your food”.    I take the fact that they are comfortable with me as a sign of their willingness to admit such. 

“American food is unhealthy”.    My reply: 

“Duck tongue?  Cow tongue?  Chicken feet? Pig’s feet?  Cow stomach?. “

Am I poking fun at the Chinese?  Of  course.  Is there truth to what I say?  Absolutely.    The Chinese have brought a lot of change to my country.  Mostly  good.  They’ve saved real estate where I live.  Their kids have wiped out the local population of mediocre students in our local high school.   Sure the moms have a quiet superiority about them.  Their kids play piano better than ours, and have higher grades.   Good universities I thought were a sure thing for my children to get into, I’m now getting a little nervous about. 

 But if their cognizant refusal to indulge in our cuisine smacks as a side effect of their refusal to assimilate more, than in my view it is reflective of their society as a whole as well.  Societies that cannot adapt to change, ie social mores that are different from their own, will simply not be competitive in the future.

How will your kids be able to effectively participate(and succeed) within my culture if they've never had pink lemonade?   

Biggest economy be damned.

On a micro level, the pressure as always falls on poor old Chinese Dad.    You see, the ability to assimilate in the office place falls more on this poor isolated creature.

How’s that promotion gonna come when your boss has to order for you during lunch? 
My suggestion?  Go get a chili dog.  Have a  glass of lemonade.    Learn how to carry on a conversation about country fried steak.

Take your kids to Krispy Kreme.    Try some barbecue. 
Go to IHOP!   I promise the wait at the local pizzeria will also be worth it.
Because I have to admit.  I am somewhat offended by your deliberate aloofness. If you are not willing to leave your bubble and at least feign a cultural interest in the food my country has to offer, than you are definitely leaving the impression that you are better than me.    And maybe I just don’t want you here.   


  1. Good Points. The Chinese immigrant profile has changed though. 100 years ago, everybody was poor and had no desire to go back to China. They assimilated and that is why many old Chinatowns have been dying. The new wave are more well-off and may want to go back to China in the future. So in their mind why bother eating American food or learning about America. It is similar to some in the Laowai community. Those on "expat" packages don't need to assimilate and can happily live in their laowai ghettos eating McDs & KFC.

  2. I recently went back to the states on a business trip with one of my many Chinese bosses. At first he was dragging me around to awful Chinese restaurants one after another. Finally one day I said I'm going to have dinner alone. I want American food. The boss gave me the most incredulous look and said, "But American food is awful! Why would you want that?". I asked if he had ever tried it. He said he had KFC in China before. Yeah. I stopped talking to him at that point. There is no cure for purposeful ignorance. And yes, Westerners are better at assimilating. Unfortunately, Chinese always take this as "proof" that their food/culture is better than ours because we take to it without complaint.

  3. I love Chinese food! But I prefer to eat it in China. I took my assistant to a Mexican restaurant in Shenzhen once. He thought it nothing but a side plate of veggies. Your perceptive "purposeful ignorance" comment is right on.


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