The main difference between North and South of China

Those people who have lived in China, will have experienced some of the most interesting differences between Chinese people. Chinese people are easy to divide according to different criteria – their religious believes, their provinces or cities or by the food they eat. But what are the actual differences and where are they coming from?

China is very often divided into North and South China – this division came into being already in the neolithic times. The border runs along the Qingling Mountains from Sichuan through the southern Shaanxi Province eastwards along the Huai River ending in the Pacific, making Shanghai for instance to a Southern Chinese city.

Generally speaking, the South is warmer and wetter in climate than the North of China. This is mainly because of the summer monsoons which move from southeast to northwest. Most of their moisture they leave behind before they can reach the above mentioned line.

This is the reason why there is no heating in the South of China – only the AC can be turned on to warm up the rooms. The winters can become quiet cold as in the northern part of the South degrees can still fall to 0.

This is probably also the reason why the South of China is known to produce and consume more rice than the North. Northern Chinese people are known to eat Mantou rather than rice (although rice is very common in the North too). The North rather produces millet or maize.

Maize plantation in China

Steamed Bread also known as Mantou


This division is cause to a lot of stereotypes between the North and the South. Let’s see what “Northeners” and “Southenerns” are said to be!

Generally, northern Chinese are said to be taller than their southern counterparts, though compared to Europeans they are still quite short. Me, as a woman of 167cm made the experience that I am quite average male height in the northern parts of China – sometimes shorter. But in the South I was always taller than most of the Chinese – having quite a few on their heads in the Metro. The average height of men in Beijing is about 173.4 cm and 171.6cm in Zhejiang province (South).

Although there are dialects and different languages than Mandarin in the whole of China,  the South has more variety in other languages – the most known one Cantonese in Guangdong and Hong Kong. Also, in the North of China, the pronunciation is rhotic – for example a person from Beijing would call a restaurant “fanguanr” whereas Southerns would say “fanguan”. Another quite good example is the Chinese word for here: “zher” in the North and “zheli” in the South. Many expats who lived in the South and then come to the North have difficulties in getting used to the rhotic pronunciation.

Chinese handmade noodles

The last stereotype is about food, and was mentioned before. The fact that Northern Chinese prefer to eat noddles, dumplings and wheat-based food whereas Southern Chinese eat more rice-based food.

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