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Difference between China and West in calling relatives

By Ma Baofeng (People's Daily Overseas Edition)

15:08, May 02, 2012

Edited and translated by People's Daily Online

China and the West's relative appellations are very different. China's are complex and the West's are simple. Many relative appellations in Chinese do not have counterparts in English. The relative appellations of Chinese and English that are completely equal to each other include father, mother, husband, wife, son and daughter. Due to the huge difference between China and the West in calling relatives, many people are usually puzzled in communicating with Chinese or Westerners.

Relative appellations are complex in China and simple in the West

Chinese relative appellations are many, specific and strict, and relatives of different branches, ages, generations, genders and relations have different appellations. But in the West, relative appellations are much simpler. Western families are usually small families, children will establish their own families after growing up, and the situation of several generations living in a big family is rarely seen. Therefore, they do not have special appellations for relatives older than the grandfather or younger than the grandson, do not have specific appellations for collateral relatives, and do not care much about appellations of marriage relatives.

In the West, the mother's father ( or mother) and father's father (or mother) share the single appellation of grandfather (grandmother), there are no specific appellations to distinguish elder brothers (sisters) and younger brothers (sisters), and there are only two appellations (uncle and aunt) for relatives of the generation of the parents, representing "Bo (father's elder brother), Shu (father's younger brother), Gu (father's sister), Jiu (mother's brother), Yi (mother's sister)and their spouses in Chinese."

For relatives of the same generation, there are eight specific appellations in Chinese, but there is only one (cousin) in English. The appellation "cousin" not only does not distinguish ages but also does not distinguish genders.

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Canada at 2012-05-0470.36.49.*
In Canada & U.S. Mister [Mr.], Mrs. Miss or Ms. is most common. Many women, both married and unmarried, especially feminists, now prefer Ms., however amongst religious women, Mrs. is often preferred. The old saying when used here is "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."

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