China is the fourth largest country in the world by land mass after Russia and it’s varying differences from province to province are as vast and far reaching as the country itself.
Naturally, this means there are some noticeable cultural differences between areas and none are more obvious than between the north and the south. Most people estimate that the geographical divide is made with the Yangzte River, starting east in the Qinghai province and running across the country until it opens up into East China Sea in the coastal city of Shanghai.
Whether you’re travelling to China for a short stay or planning to relocate, read ahead so you can know the distinct variations in this expansive country.
Generally speaking, the people in northern China are considered to be much more direct with a thicker accent. They are deemed as less traditional, more free spirited, friendlier and animated, placing a higher value on education. The women are also considered tougher and more straight talking. They are regarded as a more individualist people due to what is called ‘The Rice Theory’. This theory states that because of the harsher weather in the north, it was much more common for people to produce wheat. The methods of wheat production predominantly meant that the labour wasn’t as shared and as a result of this, people grew to become more independent as a whole.
Physically, true Northern Chinese are stereotypically taller, broader and paler with smaller eyes.
According to the Rice Theory, growing rice was traditionally the main source of income for people in the South. Farmers had to share labour and irrigation systems which made them more interdependent and able to navigate social relationships. Some people believe this is the reason that southerners are more socially conscious, cultured, shrewd and cunning. The women are considered some of the most beautiful in the country and whilst the men are traditionally seen as businessmen who treat their partners well. The coastal areas are usually wealthier and the people tend to care more about their appearance and status.
There are also a wider variations of accents dialects in the South with Mandarin, Cantonese and Hakka influences.
Who has the best dishes? This is an age old argument that you will hear many Chinese people discussing – and of course the opinion depends on where you come from!
Due to the colder temperatures in the north, much of the food is hearty, spicy and salty with strong flavours. Typically, it includes a lot meat and potatoes and due the high wheat production, lots of buns, dumplings, noodles. Typical produce grown in the north are apples, melons, peaches, corn, root based vegetables and cabbage.
The food in the south tends to be fresher with more emphasis on seafood. Flavours are delicate but complex and of course, lots of rice! As the climate is more tropical with plenty of rain, the fruits grown here are more exotic such as mangos, bananas, coconuts and lychees. Local vegetables include aubergine, tomatoes and leafy greens.
Weather and geography
The climate in the north is cold and dry with vast, flat plains, deserts and grasslands. In the winter, temperatures can get as low as -25 degrees, particularly as far north as Harbin. The summers are usually hot and humid.
Southern weather is usually hot and tropical. Depending on where you are, there is typically a monsoon season in June or July. For example Guangzhou can have up to 237mm of rainfall a month during this time – Hong Kong can have even more! Generally, July and August are the hottest months with temperatures reaching to 40 degrees.
So there you have it! Now that you know the basics between the north and the south of the country, you’re a little better equipped to decide on where you want to go. Of course, we would fully recommend that you spend a little time in as many places as you can so you can experience all the diverse and wonderful experiences that China has to offer.