I came to China on a whim; I didn’t think I would be selected. I had a steady job that I loved, people I cared about, and a life I thought had the perfect amount of excitement. China, this was the question I had to ask myself. I applied 3 days after the deadline. I called to see if my application would still be received well and without any penalties, and apparently, someone was looking out for me. The chancellor was out of the office for the rest of the week and he would look at the applications the next week. Luck? I hadn’t had much of this mysterious force before. My life will be forever changed by this “whim” I decided to face head on. The culture in China is wonderful and constantly changing. I came here with my own thoughts and opinions, but China is more than that. It is a collective of thousands of years of rich history and countless turmoils that shapes me, and all those encapsulated by this mysterious place. I will be taking much of the Chinese attitude back with me to America. My life is strange and different to many people. I never expected such love and care from people here in China. Prior to arrival, I read a little information about Chinese society. From what I read, it was an inside and outside thinking mentality. This was only reenforced by class. However, it turns out, it is so much more. It might start out as a little small talk here and there, but internal connections are what matter here in China. China is a high context society. This means situational content matters more than the words said in conversation. Being from a low context society, words matter to me. I am beginning to understand beyond words, and see actions and how there is a give and take. I am glad to say that, from the intellectual talks with my friend Eva, to the life pondering questions with Ocean (Because his English name is hard to pronounce I call him ocean because of his love for the ocean), the care and depth of the friendships are everlasting.
Of course, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Tutoring can be amazing, or a Herculean task. There are those students, my peers, who don’t care. These are the ones who turn my hair gray. But, there is an overwhelming positive attitude from the students who care. It is hard for me to tutor those who are my own age, I tend to go into teaching mode (apparently my voice raises and I turn into an elementary teacher). Being conscious of this and still trying to help is my biggest internal challenge. The biggest external challenge wasn’t the students needing tutoring… but their breath. Honestly, this was by far the hardest thing to overcome, and I still haven’t. In America, smelling nice is important, China, not so much.
It is interesting how culture is different but yet you are the same. We are all humans, but humanity manifests in different ways. China believes in the power of innate: the power that made the body, heals the body. What a refreshing concept compared to the western style of the human body is broken and must be fixed. I grew up with a much more Chinese style of thinking but, my childhood of “Cut the mold off or eat it! It has penicillin!” didn’t prepare me for such an awakening of the senses that I had here in China. Here, Street food is everywhere. Back home, this is not a thing you can do for health reasons. China has a “Have common sense or the gene pool gets smaller” approach in life. You use your brain as compared to businesses using their collective brain to remove all dangers in life so you do not have to. I honestly, after getting used to this idea, enjoy this so much more. This is more than a job for many who work as a food service provider. This is their career for most of their adult life! There is a sense of pride that is incorporated in the dishes that you just don’t see in America.
I am a person with my own personal space, and I like having my own bubble. In China, this is a topic I had to overcome quickly. From the busses to your friendships, everything touches. In America many of us have bubbles of personal space. China, there is a much smaller bubble in which your friends carry needles. Another important part of Chinese society is the concept of saving face. This means to avoid personal embarrassment and to avoid embarrassing others. This is engrained in to many Chinese and it shows as a society. Sports are played less aggressively, you are polite even when extremely frustrated, and peer pressure runs rampant. Again, China is a high context society, it makes sense to save people from embarrassment.
Put simply, China has been a life changing experience. There are things I love and things I find mildly irritating. But, a country is only as good as its people, and they are what make this country a place I would call home. I have been researching teaching English in countries and China has popped up as number one many times. Though I am ready to leave, few things are sadder than leaving. I have about two weeks left and the water tastes fresher, the fruit is sweeter, and the food is delicious. China, I’ll be back.