For many Chinese, their local community is more than a place to shop for familiar foods or visit a temple. A strong culture of respect and face shapes how Chinese people interact with one another.
That culture includes religion, food, style, language and marriage. It also emphasizes family and friends.
Chinatowns are ethnic enclaves within cities where the Chinese community has established themselves. These neighborhoods have a rich history, and have been the subject of popular films such as The Joy Luck Club, Big Trouble in Little China, and The Lady from Shanghai.
In the United States, New York City has one of the oldest and largest Chinatowns. Located in Lower Manhattan, it has the highest concentration of Chinese people in the Western hemisphere.
Today, many Chinese communities are struggling to survive. As gentrification continues to threaten the existence of Chinatowns, residents are organizing to stop it. These efforts include creating new social service organizations, forming coalitions with other communities, and advocating for affordable housing. These strategies are important for sustaining the cultural and social independence of Chinatowns. However, these efforts also require the Chinese to recognize that their communities must be part of a larger, inclusive society. This can be difficult for some Chinese, as they prefer to live in proximity with their fellow countrymen.
Due to restrictive immigration laws that prevented families from reuniting, Chinese communities in the United States developed family associations and huiguan (residential community associations). These organizations provided social services, facilitated reunification of families, and defended the rights of members.
Most huiguan and family societies were run by men, since many Chinese women were not allowed to immigrate. The huiguan functioned as a quasi government, providing social and economic support to their members, arbitrating disputes, maintaining order in the community, and guarding treaty rights.
Immigration legislation from the 19th century to 1943 restricted the number of Chinese allowed into the United States. The push factors of economic opportunity, hopes for a better life, and political persecution drove individuals to leave China in large numbers. After the end of Chinese exclusion, new waves of immigrants were admitted through broader and more diverse immigrant policies. Immigration and naturalization records, including petitions for citizenship, certificates of naturalization, and Section 6 certificates from Chinese consulates, document the history of Chinese Americans in the United States.
In the Chinese community, teenagers are a group of diverse individuals who are optimistic, aspiring and active. They are educated, technologically savvy and politically engaged. This generation of teenagers is a powerful force that should not be overlooked.
They are growing up during the one-child policy and have been spoiled with unlimited attention and resources from their parents. Many feel they deserve to have a voice in their own lives and will not let the government dictate their choices.
They are also a generation that is addicted to Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, and other video games. They are often encouraged to spend large amounts of money on games by their parents as a way to boost their social status and impress their friends. This trend has prompted the Chinese government to impose new restrictions on gaming for teenagers. These new measures include limiting screen time and imposing content restrictions on the app. It is also attempting to curb fan culture and prevent the worship of online celebrities.
One of the main aspects of Chinese culture is family. They believe that family is everything and that your actions will impact the rest of the family. This is a strong belief and can be seen through their strict rules on respecting authority, their value of filial piety, and their importance of family unity.
Unlike Western families, Chinese families are very close-knit and extended. This is reflected in the specialized vocabulary words used to refer to relatives such as Da (great/senior/elder) for a parent’s eldest sister, Er (second) for a sister’s second eldest daughter and San (third) for a sister’s third eldest daughter.
China is also home to many regional dialects so it’s possible that you will encounter different terms for addressing family members. However, as most people in the country speak Mandarin, knowing this language will help you communicate with your new Chinese family. Whether you are living with a host family or staying in a student housing community, it’s good to have an understanding of how the Chinese view their family so that you can get along with your Chinese peers.