In China, coffee shop habits show cultural differences tied to farming | Science News

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In China, coffee shop habits show cultural differences tied to farming

Even among longtime city folk, legacy of rice versus wheat agriculture affects behavior

By
2:22pm, April 25, 2018
rice and wheat farmers

GROWING CULTURES  China’s southern rice farmers (left) and northern wheat farmers (right) have cultivated different cultural approaches to social behavior over thousands of years. These approaches manifest today among southern and northern Chinese city folk patronizing Starbucks, scientists say.

Deeply ingrained cultural differences in everyday behavior between natives of northern and southern China bubble up while sipping coffee in Starbucks and other cafés.

How close people sit and whether they dodge or move chairs blocking aisles reveals whether their cultural roots go back to rice farming in southern China or wheat farming in northern China, researchers report April 25 in Science Advances.

As many as 9,000 years of neighboring families working together to cultivate rice paddies in southern China has encouraged a lasting focus on others over self, even among that region’s city folk today, say psychologist Thomas Talhelm and colleagues. Social interdependence remains a cultural value of the region, the investigators note.  

That dynamic plays out in coffee shops. Middle-class city dwellers in southern China who have never farmed rice often sit with others and show

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