Teaching EFL in China: Classroom Culture in China

Teaching English as a foreign language is part of China’s international communication and cooperation program launched in 1978. This program aims to exchange experiences, including in terms of learning foreign languages and teaching culture (Chinese culture, 2021). Before going on a journey to the distant Celestial Empire, it is necessary to familiarize oneself with its culture. This paper aims to explain Chinese everyday customs, religion, celebrations, values, attitudes, and classroom and educational cultures.

Even though China has changed much during the last few decades and integrated plenty of western attributes, it sustains many surface-level customs. For example, everyone knows the rich Chinese cuisine, including Peking duck, noodles, dumplings, and the tradition of eating with chopsticks. For a representative of Western culture, it may also seem unexpected that the Americans and Europeans inherited the Chinese tradition of celebrating birthdays and making gifts. The Chinese invented paper, gunpowder, silk, ink, abacus, wheelbarrow, chess, tea, paper money, the magnetic compass, seismograph, umbrellas, and kites (Chinese values, customs, and beliefs, 2019). Celebrating the Chinese New Year is one of the most important festivities, and according to older traditions, some Chinese celebrated birthdays during 15 New Year holiday days. On New Year, the Chinese often light red paper lanterns, as red symbolizes good luck, while yellow and pink represent wealth and prosperity, and white, gray and black represent death.

More profound cultural differences feature values and attitudes derived from Confucianism, which originated in ancient times. The main virtues, according to Confucianism, are loyalty, respect for parents and elders, benevolence, and righteousness. Buddism, Taoism, and Muslim’ religions are also practiced in the country; the official language is Mandarin, and there are four main dialects – Cantonese, Shanghainese, Fukinese, and Hakka. Fifty-six ethnic groups live in China, the largest is Han, and fifty-five others are considered minorities. The basic literacy level assumes knowledge of at least 1500 characters, which became easier after the Chinese government simplified 2000 most wide-used characters to promote literacy in 1950 (Chinese values, customs, and beliefs, 2019). Back then, a Romanized alphabetical system was also created to translate Chinese characters, named pinyin.

Some educational systems demand a dress-code from teachers and students; others do not. In general, the Chinese educational system is similar to the Western one in terms of student-teacher and student-student relationships. There are primary education, occupational education, formal higher education, and adult education systems. Confucianism presupposes an extremely respectful attitude towards education; therefore, educational institutions are numerous and continue to grow.

Educational culture is mainly based on the collective individualism model. Collective individual learning means that students learn through purposeful class discussions. This approach allows students to develop intellectually and emotionally, acquire the skills necessary for communication, be part of a group, and understand collective consciousness and values (Zhu & Li, 2019). Education, including primary schooling, utilizes nine-one systems that define personal, public, uniform, and authoritative spaces and materials. Personal material space includes students’ writing materials, books, and notebooks. Public learning space is defined by a class interior that may feature some cross-cultural objects intended for public use. Uniform learning space includes unified chairs and desks, which symbolize equal opportunities and treatment for all students. Authoritative learning space refers to the teacher and his authority associated with interpreting the material being studied.

The educational culture is essential for the teacher and the students, and the teacher must do everything possible to ensure that the students get the most out of their lessons. Therefore, an understanding of the Chinese modern day-to-day relationships and educational culture is essential for a successful EFL teacher. For example, respect for Chinese innovation and technology may stem from respect for earlier inventions such as paper or ink. It is also important for the teacher to understand informal relationships in the group to navigate everyday situations and make the right decisions. Therefore, the recognition that the Chinese are even more enthusiastic about the New Year and birthdays than the people of the United States and Europe is very important.

Equally important is realizing how widespread such values as respect for elders, politeness, and benevolence are in China. For example, it would be extreme disrespect for a student to forbid him to attend an older relative’s birthday. Starting from the age of 60, the Chinese traditionally celebrate birthdays only once every ten years, and this event is significant and solemn for every family. It is also essential to know that there is a very developed gift-giving culture in China, and if you are invited to a party, it would be impolite to come without a gift or treat.

Thus, the paper explains Chinese everyday customs, religion, celebrations, values, and educational culture. It is vital to understand the country’s symbols, customs, and traditions to be a good teacher. In general, modern China is not too different from the United States, but understanding the nuances and details of communication will help to correctly understand students and establish trusting and respectful relationships with them. Chinese culture and traditions are an integral part of the Chinese people’s daily lives, despite the innovations of modern life.


Chinese culture. (2021). Web.

Chinese values, customs, and beliefs. (2019). Web.

Zhu, X., & Li, J. (2019). Classroom culture in China: Collective individualism learning model. Springer Nature.

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"Teaching EFL in China: Classroom Culture in China." ChalkyPapers, 12 Oct. 2023, chalkypapers.com/teaching-efl-in-china-classroom-culture-in-china/.


ChalkyPapers. (2023) 'Teaching EFL in China: Classroom Culture in China'. 12 October.


ChalkyPapers. 2023. "Teaching EFL in China: Classroom Culture in China." October 12, 2023. https://chalkypapers.com/teaching-efl-in-china-classroom-culture-in-china/.

1. ChalkyPapers. "Teaching EFL in China: Classroom Culture in China." October 12, 2023. https://chalkypapers.com/teaching-efl-in-china-classroom-culture-in-china/.


ChalkyPapers. "Teaching EFL in China: Classroom Culture in China." October 12, 2023. https://chalkypapers.com/teaching-efl-in-china-classroom-culture-in-china/.