22 Jul Favorite Part Of The Chinese Culture
When I was contemplating where in the world I wished to study abroad, I knew my priority was to experience a culture as far from my comfort zone as possible while still being able to make it on my own. Thus, China was the winner. Without knowing an iota of the native language and being of European descent, I saw the opportunity as a challenge of courage and independence. Looking back, I could not be more pleased with my decision.
The most challenging aspects of the Chinese culture for me to adjust to are the differences in social norms from those of the United States. I now realize just how many silent rules exist in the American culture that are simply non-existant here in Shanghai. For instance, forming lines for any form of entrance, particularly the metro, are merely for show for once the doors open, it is a mad dash to the finish. Just as in any major metropolis, crossing the street is another case of “every woman for herself” as the cars come cruising by; however, in China, it’s the vehicles who have the right of way, not the pedestrians. I am now more aware of my surroundings than ever before.
My absolute favorite part of the Chinese culture, as I am sure many of my colleagues will agree, is the food, specifically the street food. A particular alley of street vendors has become a necessary stop along my daily commute to and from work to pick up a few plump, juicy dumplings or sink my teeth into a fried dough stick which, as the true American I am, I dip into copious amounts of sugar. I find it too difficult to resist the vast variety of carbs and succumb easily to the temptations. My wallet does not mind either as the prices are so low they are practically giving the treats away for free.
One lesson America could take away from the Chinese culture is their emphasis on relaxation and celebration which is reflected in their one to two hour lunch breaks and their week-long holiday festivities. Taking the time to take care and enjoy oneself is often overlooked in the stressful work environments in the United States with many employees staying after hours to work even harder. The Chinese understand how this sort of stress leads to poor health overall and thus put comfort as well as family matters above work.
Even at four weeks into this trip, Shanghai never ceases to surprise me. The culture is so vastly different than that of my hometown in the most delightful and the most challenging ways that it really keeps me on my toes. But at the end of the day, there always seems to be something a little lost in translation that makes me smile.