The Biggest Differences Between North and South China

Article by Lost Plate Food Tours

Published on November 8, 2018

China has a long history grounded in strong traditions that date back thousands of years. Perhaps more than any other country, these are still seen clearly today and make China a very interesting place to explore! The best way to see what you never knew about China is by taking a look at the traditions in the north and south of China, roughly defined by the Yangtze River.

We have food tours in the north and south of China, which gives you the opportunity to see how different the cuisine and culture really is as you travel through China!

The North: Food Tours in Xian & Beijing
The South: Food Tours in ChengduShanghai, & Suzhou

So here are the biggest differences between North and South China…

1. Is Tofu Sweet or Salty?

North: Salty, without a doubt!

South: Must be sweet.

2. Plate or Bowl?

North: Plate to eat, push unwanted food to the corner of the plate or on the table.
South: Use bowl (filled with rice) to eat, put unwanted food on the plate.

3. Rice or Noodles?

North: Noodles can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are more flour dishes in the north comparably. Although rice is also common seen on the dining table.

South: Rice is widely grown in many regions, and commonly loved by everyone, it is served preferably at the end of the meal.

4. Giving Directions

North: “Head north then go east and it will be on the south side of the street.”
South: “Go straight, turn right and it will be on your right.”

This is because cities in the north are built in a grid-like system with straight roads and city blocks. Cities in the South are circular like a spider web. It affects the way residents think about space and orient themselves in it.

5. Clothing Style

North: As long as it’s clean, it’s enough. People will stare if someone is all dressed up. It’s not rare seeing people wearing slippers on the streets and even pajamas out and about in residential communities.

South: Most people are pretty dressed up in terms of their own beauty standards. You can discover many versions of the current fashion trends just by walking on the street.

6. Weather

North: “South of China is not cold, because it’s the South!”

South: “Northerners are strong and tough because the north is so cold.”

Cities in the North have government-enforced central heating in all residents and buildings stepping into the winter. Different cities and regions have different central heated months. But the South gets nothing! Winter in the south can also feel colder due to humid summers, especially if you don’t have access to proper heating.

Northerners are also not necessarily tougher due to the cold weather as they are generally protected by the central heating system. However, the coldness in the North can be unbearable once stepping outside.

7. Language

North: “Tell me about the dialect from your province.”

South: “Do you know how many dialects we have in just one city?!”

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