Coming to China has been an eye opener in many ways. It’s so vastly different from the west that, looking back, I’m not at all sure how I could have prepared myself even if I’d tried.
In the UK we view Chinese people as unendingly polite with a ready smile. Perhaps due to stereotyping and other forms of conditioning the women are seen as compliant, while the men are thought to be ‘naturally good’ at IT and maths. And yes, I’m aware of how awful that sounds.
Before I came here I had no idea of the many huge and beautiful cities which criss-cross the northern, eastern and southern landscape of the country in sharp contrast to the poorer eastern and central areas. Neither did I know of the vast plains of inner Mongolia and Xinjiang region, home to many China’s numerious ethnic communities.
It wasn’t for want of trying, it just seems that for so many years, even after the reform and opening of China, so much of the country was still kept secret. So, I arrived in ignorance and learnt many unexpected things on a first-hand, need to know basis! It’s been an interesting ride and I’ll blog more about it on this and other sites.
It’s also worth remembering that for many Chinese people travelling abroad is a far-distant dream or something which they hope their children or grandchildren will be able to accomplish. Consequently my first few months in China were filled with queries about the weird habits of westerners whilst listening to the impressions Chinese people have of us.
Their interests covered everything from food to dating to lifestyle choices. I’ve listed some below, but I have to admit that it was the one about potatoes which left me completely flummoxed.
- Why don’t MacDonalds and KFC deliver in the UK?
- Why do we have so much divorce?
- Why do we have so many children born out of wedlock?
- Why do we go out on casual dates with so many people, instead of only dating our future husband or wife?
- Why do we kiss and/or hold hands before the third or fourth date?
- Why do we eat whole potatoes instead of chopping them up and sharing with several other people? They’re just so big!
- Why are there so many vegetarians when you need meat to grow up big and strong?
- How can I (Ava) be a vegetarian for 10 years when I don’t look sick and I am not thin?
- Why don’t vegetarians don’t eat chicken, or animal blood, or food with ‘just a little meat’ in it?
- Why don’t westerners eat donkey, dog or monkey meat? Why don’t they eat all of the animal, ie ears, toes, toenails, eyelids, inner organs?
- Why don’t we eat insects?
- Why are so many westerners left-handed?
- Why don’t we eat rice, cooked veg or hot noodles for breakfast?
- How can you tell if a western person likes you or just wants to be friends? (this from the girls)
- What should I do if a western girl wants to be my girlfriend when I go abroad? (this from the boys)
- Why does England have so many English people who are not English?
- Why do you have Karaoke instead of KTV? Who wants to sing in front of strangers?
- Why don’t you hang your bed quilts out of the windows on the first sunny days of spring?
I did my best to give simple but detailed responses hoping to shine a light on these areas, but honestly, I may have just made things worse, I mean, I have no idea why so many westerners are left-handed! How would you have handled these comments and questions?