We're lazy but Chinese want to be just like us

We're lazy, scruffy and rude and we speak an incomprehensible brand of English says a new survey of intending Chinese immigrants to Australia.

But they also want to be one of us. They aspire to a more relaxed lifestyle in a country they see as free, tolerant, multicultural and democratic.

"Gone are the days when most Chinese immigrants to Australia were driven solely by the desire to make money," says Karin Maeder, a UNSW masters student who will reveal her research findings at the International Geographical Union conference in Brisbane today.

The findings are based on 117 questionnaires and further discussions with Chinese nationals from Nanjing and Shanghai who have applied to immigrate to Australia.

They said their perceptions of Australians were most informed by television, the Internet, books and friends. The Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, beaches, coral reefs and farmland were among their most common perceptions of the Australian landscape.

"Historically, Chinese immigrants to Australia were explicitly driven by economic motives but today they have more social and environmental interests," says Maeder. "This contradicts the idea that Chinese immigrants are uniformly hard working, thrifty people whose goals are incompatible with an Australian way of life."

"Their perception that Australia has a warm climate heightened the impression that it is a comfortable place to live, making it attractive as a retirement destination," says Ms Maeder. "When they spoke about their motives for migration to Australia they indicated that the perceived laziness of Australians was desirable.

"Rather than being a negative quality, the opportunity to be lazy, or more relaxed about life, is precisely what they wanted. They felt that there were too many pressures in China and life was too focused on survival in the over-crowded and polluted cities."

In case anyone is offended by these perceptions, Chinese immigrants also view Australians as a frank, open, hospitable, tolerant, sporty, healthy, egalitarian people who know how to balance work with the pursuit of happiness and enjoyment. "Australians are more approachable (and) usually have brighter smiles," one study participant said.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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It is never too late to give up your prejudices.
-- Henry David Thoreau