Wow, I am unable to check in for a week and a lot has happened (appologies for that but internet is here not always that stable and officially Dhammawheel is,sadly enough, unaccessable in China).
I have to agree with Pannapetar that customs are already part of the society and that it is, definitely in cultures where that is not encouraged, difficult to break with them. Let me give some examples in different grades of seriousness:
---In the West, when in a restaurant, you behave quite and polite, as not to disrupt other people. In China it is no problem to be loud (really loud) and when there are some bones in the dish you spit them on a seperate plate, or, on the table.
---In the West it is more and more the "custom" to call parents, uncles and aunts, people one generation above you in general, just by their first names. In Asia people are much more strict, even for people you don't/hardly know, or older collegues, and therefore have specific respectful names for all of them.
---In the West, when someone died, you wear black to show that you are mourning. In many countries in Asia, white is the general mourning color.
My point is that for the first one you can just decide to not do so and be an individualist and indeed maybe over time the custom will change. But for the time being you'll have to cope with it. The second case is something you can decide not to do, but people will look at you a little strange, account it to you being a foreigner, will try to correct you. The third case would simply be disrespectful if you would, knowingly, wear black instead of the customary white. Many of these habits and customs are ingrained into the culture and you only in some cases have an opportunity to show your individual ideas.
As a side-point, yes, China's values are shifting, and possibly more than in all it's recent history, but still a lot of tradition,customs and education are alive and make or break the decisions of people.
I found myself i this situation and want to act wholesome. It has nothing to do with that I need to live up with the custom despite my feeling of privacy (and thus is not martyrdom), I am presented with this situation, have this feeling, try to understand their origin and want to learn from them in order to clean them up. It is going to be hard, but I want to focus on how I can grow instead how I can stay where I am. Probably practicing patience is the best. Like Ajahn Chah told Ajahn Brahm to see the annoying mosquitos as Ajahn mosquito, I'll have to see the "intruding" distant-family-member as Ajahn distant-family-member. The opinions in this tread have been very insightful to me in that respect so far. Thanks.