A lot of differences. Some Chinese people say that Koreans “stole” Chinese culture but in some ways Korea is more Chinese than modern day China is.
-Koreans follow strict Confucian principles more than modern day Chinese do. This was true even back in the old times when Qing China and Joseon Korea existed. Koreans more than any other race stick together. They have this sense of ‘togetherness’ that does not exist to the same extent in modern day China. For example, somebody fall down in the street in China. Does anyone care? If it happened in Korea many people will help them. Do Chinese people really care about how other people act behave or look like? Maybe, but not to the same degree Koreans care.
-Loyalty and politeness. Korea takes a lot of cultural cues from Japan. This is one of them.. Korean companies value loyalty and expect the workers to stay at their company their whole life, just like in Japan. Its considered disloyal to quit the company or change companies. This does not happen in China. Also social cues like ‘nun-chi’ 눈치 in Korea its kind of like mannerisms towards older status people doesn’t really exist in China. Koreans bow when greeting each other. Chinese shake hands much like Westerners.
-During new years or Thanksgiving Koreans (particularly the women) will dress in their traditional outfits the hanbok 한복 and traditionally prepare food for their ancestors. A lot of Korean couples also wear hanbok just for taking pictures. You will not see Chinese wear their traditional outfits for things like this. The only times I see Chinese wear qipao or traditional Chinese outfits are for stage plays, Chinese opera or for traditional type weddings, thats it.
-Language. Korean language although they used to use Chinese characters, is very different now. They use honorifics in their language just like Japanese. So talking to older or younger person is different. Not so in Mandarin chinese.
-Work culture as I mentioned is pretty different. And its more competitive. Koreans have to learn either Chinese or Japanese in high school, and because appearance is valued so much in Korea, lots of girls get plastic surgery just to have a higher chance of getting a job there. Most students study English late into the night. You’ll find that the average Korean’s English is better than the averaged Chinese’s English skill. In China its not quite as competitive due to the following fact:
-Chinese are more ambitious and bigger risk takers than Koreans are. Koreans are very socially conservative more so than Chinese. They are risk averse and would rather suicide because they couldn’t get into Samsung or a famous university than start their own company. Chinese will find another way to get a job or start their own companies. They don’t give up quite as easily.
-Koreans care about appearance a lot like I mentioned. So almost all Korean girls wear makeup, dress up, and don’t wear glasses. Their fashion styles are totally different. In China its not quite as important, BUT they focus a lot more of showing off their wealth which means buying brand name items and owning homes is more important over there.
-Koreans are a more ‘traditional’ society… the women usually stay at home to take care of children, and do cooking and cleaning, while in China these duties are shared between the husband and wife. Gender equality is slightly better in China due to communism..
-China is a very diverse country full of different races. Korea is 99% Korean. This means if you look different or act different, you are probably more likely to be noticed in Korea than in China. Korea is a very conformist society and people like to act and look the same. You will find less ‘crazy’ people in Korea than in other countries.
-Religion. 40% of Koreans are Christians and another 30% are Buddhist. Since Communism eliminated religion, very few Chinese are actually religious.
-Koreans like to export their culture to other countries like kpop or kdramas. They somewhat have to do this because their country is small and they have a limited market, so their global marketing skills are very developed. China has a big domestic market so not much need to export their music or fashion or entertainment, thats why you never about hear any Chinese pop conventions…
-Korean food is really just a subset of Chinese food. Chinese people eat almost anything. spicy things, fried things, insects, herbs, parts of frog or duck or dog or horse, etc almost ANYTHING. The cuisine really depends on part of China, but Korean food tends to be spicy, and their cuisine really is a subset of Chinese cuisine. I can say almost anything you eat in Korea can be found *somewhere* in China, but not the other way around. Very few Koreans eat actual Chinese food and instead eat “Koreanized’ Chinese food. Jajeongmyeon is actually Korean food but they think its Chinese.
-Both countries are relatively safe compared to gun crazy America, but Korea is more safe. In China there is always risk of food poisoning, people stealing stuff, getting scammed etc. In Korea you can leave your phone on a table for hours and no one will take it.
Thats just a few differences.. there are indeed MANY since I lived in both countries. Even tiny minor things, for example Koreans like to drink when they are together and Chinese play card games (Koreans dont play card games very often). Games like Mahjong are non-existent in Korea but everywhere in China.
China vs Japan vs Korea vs Taiwan
I guess I come from the unique perspective of having been to all the East Asian countries (China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea) and my feelings about China has changed because of this. Roughly 30% of my friends are Chinese and 40% Korean.
Before I lived in Korea, I was in China for a few months, visiting such places as Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Suzhou, Hangzhou.
My impressions are that North China has really bad air.. and although Beijing has lots of history, it just wasn’t as interesting to me as Central and South China were. In contrast, Shanghai was probably the most modern city in China, and Suzhou and Hangzhou had some of the most beautiful natural scenery I’ve experienced.
I had lots of (mainland) Chinese friends in university, and also met Chinese people in China of course.
I feel that my feelings for Chinese people changed a lot after I met Japanese, Koreans and Taiwanese after I graduated university and started working and traveling to other Asian countries.
After having visited Japan and Taiwan and living in Korea for 2 years, here’s my observations:
-China is a great place for traveling and still has some of the most naturally beautiful places in the world.
-China is a massively diverse country full of different races and cultures
-Chinese food is very different from American Chinese food
-Chinese people are very blunt; For example they do not hesitate to mince words on anything really. Korea/Taiwan/Japan tend to soften their words in order not to offend people too much, but Chinese just straight up say whatever is on their mind. This is often taken as ‘harshness’ or ‘rude’ by other countries but I think this is just their culture.
-China has way better gender equality than any of its surrounding countries. And the women act very different from Korean/Japanese/Taiwanese women. They are less traditionally feminine, more assertive, more ambitious, and in a lot of cases can actually be more dominant than the men. It’s almost a role reversal compared to other countries, lol. It’s better in China to be a girl. Everything is paid for by the guys. The guys are pretty subservient to their gfs. The groom’s family pays for the wedding, not the bride. And because of the skewed gender ratio, girls have the pick of the litter. Pretty big contrast to Korea/Japan where its pretty much the opposite. Heres a nice graphic that is based on the stereotypes:
-Chinese people are very prideful about their country, and more uniquely is how prideful they are about the specific region where they are from. A lot of times I would hear not’ Chinese ___ is the best’ but rather ‘Sichuan ___ is the best’ or ‘Beijing ___ is the best’ or ‘Shanghai __ is the best’. They like to boast a lot, and its not hard to see that they are biased in favor of China and their region on a lot of issues. It’s not so different from USA where Americans boast about their country too, but it is different from Taiwan/Japan/Korea where I don’t really hear them boasting about their country that often. Chinese people are not really aware of the culture differences between their country and Japan/Korea/Taiwan either, but that’s a forgivable point I suppose considering most Chinese have not been outside their country before.
-Japan is Tang Chinese culture, Korea is Ming Chinese culture, Taiwan is ROC culture, and China is its own culture. I find China the most westernized in culture out of all of them. For example, China is the least traditionally Confucist out of those countries, they have mostly done away with traditional ceremonies, religion, outfits (Chinese rarely wear Qipao compared to Japan’s Kimono or Korea’s Hanbok), and their fashion style is more similar to Westerners (i.e casual style) than to Koreans or Japanese. Perhaps this isn’t surprising since China underwent massive revolutions compared to those other countries.
-Most Chinese are clean, nice and polite, but perhaps not to the same extent as Taiwan, Korea or Japan. My ranking of cleanliness / politeness in general is Japanese (TOO polite to a fault) > Taiwan > Korea > China.
-Censorship. This is more of a problem for foreigners than native residents, but just be aware that unlike Japan/Korea/Taiwan, you need to use a VPN to use most sites in China, and they censor violent/sexual content. Too much so, IMO.
-Cost of living. Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo are in the top tier of expensive cities to live in the world. In smaller Chinese cities, it is much cheaper. Seoul is a tier cheaper than those cities, and Taipei has the lowest cost of living amongst all the major capitals.
-China has the most job opportunities, and the best place to start a company, by far. Shenzhen and Beijing are economic powerhouses for IT. Korea’s job market is too competitive (there’s a reason why they have #1 suicide rate), Japan’s economy is stagnant and Taiwan’s economy is also stagnant. If you are looking for work as a foreigner, China is the best.
– Safety wise, all East Asian countries are safer than America. No comparison really. Very few mass shootings and gun murders if at all. In China you do have to be more careful of scams and thieves but its still relatively safe. In terms of safety I rank like this: Japan (zero gun deaths a year. seriously.) > Korea/Taiwan > China
-Technology. Again, ALL of these countries have great technology. Japan is famous for its tech companies, robots and micro electronics (Sony, Canon, Fujitsu, Toshiba, Panasonic, Nintendo, etc too many to list). Taiwan is the #1 maker of computer hardware with such names as Asus, Acer, HTC, Gigabyte, MSI etc. Korea is home to electronic giants Samsung and LG. China doesn’t have the brand cache of those other companies but they are improving! Huawei, Lenovo, Xiaomi, ZTE are some of the companies that are rapidly catching up to Japan and Korea!
-Religion wise, because of China’s communist past, religion is pretty much banned, most Chinese are atheist. Taiwan and Japan are mostly Buddhist. Korea is uniquely a Christian country, perhaps relating to how socially conservative they are.
In general I think it really depends what you want but China has its pros and cons. I did a comparison between China and other East Asian countries because I feel that this is a unique perspective I can contribute to, if others are interested. I would say work opportunity, diversity and natural beauty China is #1. Japan for the super polite / clean culture with a unique flavor. Korea is a mix of Japan and China but is also the most socially conservative and traditionally Confucist out of all them. Taiwan is much smaller than any of those countries but is a mix of Japanese and Chinese culture. I almost want to say they are Chinese people but with the manners of Japanese people.