• Tag Archives Shenzhen
  • Adjusting – Politeness

    So I decided to update the blog, imagine that! Sorry everyone. I am terrible at time management. This blog will talk about the cultural differences in living in China (for this particular American couple at least). As with most blogs this is our experience and wont be the same for everyone. I will try to point out the differences or difficulties that seem to be ubiquitous for a foreigner living in China.


    Typically, most people are not surprised when they hear someone talk about culture shock. Culture shock is the term used to concisely describe the process, sometimes more difficult the expected, of adjusting to a new culture. However, much to most people’s chagrin you can have a bit of culture shock when moving home after a long period of living abroad—albeit it not as strong as culture going from one’s known culture to a new culture.


    Micah and I recently moved back to the United States after living in China for 3.5 years. While the adjustment to living in China was not easy, we have had a few hiccups in adjusting back to life in America (and similar hiccups in adjusting to the Chinese culture).



    Chinese characters for "thank you"
    Chinese characters for “thank you”

    After moving to China it was pretty common to run into the foreigner that was always angry because of the “rude” Chinese that they met all the time. Then you would run into others that just think that Chinese are the politest group of people. There is still the third group that is half-way between. The key difference here is how well you integrate into the culture and how deeply you try to understand the Chinese culture.


    A wonderful example comes from the time right after we moved to Shenzhen, China and developed friends who helped us out sometimes. We would often tell them “thank you” or try to compensate them if they had to buy something for us. Their responses were often confused or slightly annoyed. Though their reactions were never big enough to question, until later one of the women asked us why were always thanking them and tentatively asked if we didn’t like them. Of course I immediately said that we both liked them a great deal and have enjoyed their friendship. After an awkward conversation and mentally putting things together we figured out that the Chinese express gratefulness in a much different way, than the Western practice of verbal acknowledgement. Our friends explained that they would often not verbally acknowledge an action because it is a mark of being friends or family, but would look for opportunities to return the action or help. After they told us that than we were able to explain that in the West it is common practice to verbal express gratitude even to our spouses or parents. In fact, Micah explained that he and I say thank you to each other daily for one thing or another.


    In our conversations with our friends where we all asked various questions about politeness we discovered that the Chinese take actions or favors are acts of love and do not need verbal acknowledgement for friends. (Which made sense of a young woman in Guilin who would scrunch her brow and tell “We are friends, no need to say thank you.”) Further, in some social circles saying “thank you” and “please” can be received as putting up a distance between you and the Chinese person with the connotation of not being friends but only formal acquaintances.


    We could never get out of the habit of saying please and thank you, despite trying. However, we were able to continue reminding our Chinese friends that it was something we did even for people we are very close to.

    Other issues of politeness that one might often meet is about personal space and queuing up. Much of the cities in China are often crowded and as such there is not as much consideration for personal space as in the West, particularly Oklahoma. We will try to grant people a respectful distance in public (ie malls) or when queuing unless there is something preventing that. And when lining up for something, like at a checkout, we respect the order of the line with space between people. In China however, it is almost comical how this is different. I do not mean “comical” in a disrespectful way, but simply laughing at how we quickly learned to cut space between us and the person in front of us to prevent others from squeezing in and not minding when we are bumped into when on the subway or a busy stretch of sidewalk. At these times you don’t often hear anyone apologize or ask to step into the line because it is a part of the culture that these things happen. It is understood that you will be bumped into and unless it is a big bump or it causes you to drop something or stumble then it does not require acknowledgement. A Chinese friend who had traveled in America joked about how if it was part of the culture then they wouldn’t get anything done all day except apologizing. Of course she was joking but it still illustrates the point that bumps happen daily in cities and not to worry about it.


    So I hope this drives in my point that if we always interpret a person’s actions from our cultural filter than we might always perceive the lack of a ‘thank you’ or lack of acknowledging them bumping into us as rude. Where as in a more cultural informed filter we can see where a Chinese friend might see us as a friend.


    Now there are always going to be times when things are going to rub you the wrong way. One such example is when we would queue up to wait for the subway to arrive and someone pushes people aside roughly to get in first. That is rude of course.


    TO be honest my best advice, if you travel or move abroad, is to ask a lot of questions and really observe the people around you. How do people interact at your job? How do friends at a meal interact or react when someone hands them something they wanted? Knowledge can go a LONG way to soothing nerves and small social bumps.


    Please let me know if you have any questions about this or related topics and please let me know about things you are curious about. :)


    Maybe the road rise to meet you.



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  • Meeting Hong Kong, First Empressions

    Micah and I have to make trips to Hong Kong every couple of months. We have made a couple of trips this year so far and I would like to share my experience of Hong Kong with you.  Until the first trip I hadn’t actually gotten to “meet” Hong Kong as I’ve really just ridden through shuttles to and from the airport or to a hotel at night.

    Map of China with the borders marked in blue
    The blue marks the Chinese borders. (Credit: Google Maps App)
    Hong Kong and Shenzhen cities and the border
    This map shows Shenzhen and Hong Kong with blue showing the border between the two. (Credit: Google Maps App)








    There is much debate socially on whether Hong Kong is a part of China. Although, as agreements set forth, in the future Hong Kong will return to China’s control. As for now it is in a unique state of being in close relationship with China politically and yet still maintains its own government. I’ve even seen slogans about it being one country and two governing bodies. Hong Kong has wonderful and undeniable Chinese qualities from a common heritage; however, it has grown and developed in the last few decades that have given Hong Kong a unique flavor. And one of the things it is well-known is its cuisine (which I will hopefully be able to show you someday).

    Map of Hong Kong showing showing the 3 territories.
    The three Hong Kong territories: New Territories, Kowloon, Hong Kong Island. (Credit: Google maps app screen shot)


    Hong Kong consists of several regions. Its total land area is just slightly over 2,755 km2 (1,064 sq miles). The most northern region is called the New Territories which holds the land that shares the border at the southern edge of Shenzhen. Following south you have the Kowloon Peninsula, then the Hong Kong Island and dozens of other islands spread around the much larger Hong Kong Island. The largest of these minor islands is called Lantau Island. These three regions are subdivided up into 18 city districts.


    Our small hotel room.
    Our very small hotel room. Where the picture cuts off is the sliding door to the bathroom.



    Since we have made two trips so far let me start with the first one (nice enough place to start right? lol). We stayed in Kowloon in the heart of Kowloon actually. Kowloon is a fairly famous area and it was wonderful to get to stay there—even if the hotel was comically small.


    First let me describe how we arrived in Hong Kong. Of course you are crossing the border so you have to pass through security once on the China side and once again on the Hong Kong side. Though neither are that stressful when you travel via ferry. We took a bus down to the ferry and was able to board it about an hour later after we bought the tickets. We simply had to fill out the normal little forms when crossing the border and ran our baggage through an x-ray.

    Ferry waiting at port
    Our ferry waiting for passengers to board.

    The ferry itself was really interesting. It was basically just a simple boat if you boil it down, lol. I’d never been on a ferry so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was simple: the VIP’s sat upstairs and everyone sat downstairs in a seating arrangement very similar to that of an airplane. There were lots of windows made frosted by the ocean sprays. After getting off the ferry and through security, we headed straight to the subway so that we could get on to our hotel.

    The seats on the ferry are arranged similar to an airplane
    The seats on the ferry are arranged similar to an airplane

    The first big difference we found between China and Hong was here in the subway. Aside from various layout differences and minor aesthetics, there was a huge difference. Hong Kong subways have people–who speak very good English–stationed strategically throughout the subway to help guide people. Each person we came across through our trip was incredibly nice and courteous.

    The subway smoothly took us to a block from our hotel, where we were quickly able to check in and get a bit of rest before heading out. Next time I will share with you more of the Hong Kong aside from the mass transit.

    Let me know if you have questions or want to know more about something! We love getting comments and feedback. More about Hong Kong will soon follow! :)

    May the road rise to meet you.

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  • An Event to Discover Shenzhen

    Arriving with run-in
    There was an event in August set up for new people and old to meet new people and to discover more about the city we live in, Shenzhen. This event was called a “passport” event, because little booklets with places for stamps were made up for each participant. Each person was given the booklet and a map and sent out to discover these places. We, and many other expats, were very excited for this event. I love the idea of finding out more information about Shenzhen and discovering more places to eat, shop, visit, and enjoy.

    Micah and I had made plans to meet another expat from America at the subway stop closest to where the event was starting. Kara, our friend, and Micah navigated us to the Wanxia street. Thought the sidewalk got a little wonky (the technical term) and so we had to cross the street to the left side. We walked past some random stores and small family restaurants with the lives fish and aquatic animals happily swimming then we crossed back over Wanxia so could cross the bigger east-west road at the cross walk. While we were waiting for the green dancing cross walk man to appear a couple of expat bicyclists heard us debating where to go after crossing the road. The man asked if we were going to the international school for the event and directed us to the end of the second block. Really simple. The blinking man came on and off we went.

    One of the docks near in Shekou, Shenzhe.
    On the other side of these boats is the walkway that we used and where we could smell the wonderful ocean breeze. A beautiful view for sure.

    This road was right on the beach so we could smell the salt in the air mixing with fish and seaweed. It was the pleasant ocean smell that people like. At the end of the block we ran into the woman who was heading up the event, Rose. Rose waved at us with her usual wonderful smile and energy.

    Inside the lobby we got to pick up our starting “passports” and a map. There were a couple of tables already there in case we didn’t want to go all the way over to their locations. Most of the places were a few blocks away but these businesses were farther out then that. We gathered a few goodies, pamphlets and flyers from these businesses.

    Here is Dale (our Chinese friend for the day), posing for an impromptu picture with us.
    Here is Dale (our Chinese friend for the day), posing for an impromptu picture with us.

    Right before we were going to leave a Chinese man came over to each of our group members and asked to walk with us. Proffering he knew Chinese, had baidu maps (a Chinese digital map system) on his phone, and the map that we were all given, Dale stared at me with a bright smile waiting for my verdict. I couldn’t say no, so he joined us.

    Then were off like a heard of directionally challenged turtles
    Armed with Dale, Micah’s excellent directions and a map of the area we headed out into the bright sun. The stretch of bock that continued in the same direction held several of the points we needed to visit to receive a stamp. It was slow going at first.

    Nervously posing with a traditional tea set.
    I think I was suppose to be more stoic, but I am a nervous smiler and a lot of people just showed up as I was posing.

    We quickly went by a few shops and received more flyers, baked goods, and business cards. For instance at a German bakery called Backstube we were given delicious homemade soft pretzel. They were consumed before we could get pictures. At another place we were able to sample some traditional Chinese red tea called Hong Cha (红茶). It was delicious! They even let me pose with the tea set. As you can see its really a beautiful set. The reason I am smiling so big is because I was having a good time with everyone but a load of people showed up just as I sat down. Im a nervous smiler—I smile or scowl when I’m nervous.

    New crew

    We found the board game company, Hasboro. They had several fun statues; here is a duck and cube.

    At another shop down the line we ran into a woman who was alone who became a part of the pack.

    This woman named Alana was on business for a few months from Scotland! It was so much hearing her accent and talking to her about Scotland. I hope I get to go visit her someday as she told me she’d show me around her neck of the woods if we ever made it.

    Along the way we passed by a huge nursery that was going in soon. We had wonderful views of the beach and even passed an area that Alana explained was one of the very first areas built in Shenzhen about 20 years ago. This was a battery factory that had since then been renovated after moving to edge of the city. Presently the block was partly occupied by the Shenzhen branch (or maybe even the China branch if they only have one) of the Hasboro company. Look at all the signs and statues we encountered (The pictures are posted to the right and directly below.)

    Mr and Mrs Potato Head were there at Hasboro to wave at us.
    Mr and Mrs Potato Head were there at Hasbro to wave at us.
    We were also directed by the "Go" sign from Monopoly.
    We were also directed by the “Go” sign from Monopoly.










    Confused moments

    The map showing some other points besides the ones for the event.
    The map showing some other points besides the ones for the event.

    Ever since we left the starting point Dale has been trying to lead us. At first we were perfectly fine with that as we were having a very nice walk, however it became clear that he didn’t really understand how to read the map very well and kept wanting to take us out of the way—way out of the way. Micah started to insist on taking better routes. He even wanted us to take a “short cut” down an alley (don’t worry it wasn’t a dark alley and we didn’t take it). Micah pointed out that it was the opposite direction that we needed to go. This seemed to deflate Dale a little. He stayed quiet for a while until Micah walked right past one of the other places we needed to go. He lit up a little more because he had been of use, poor guy.


    Flying topiary out of the subway near the chiropractor.
    Flying topiary out of the subway near the chiropractor.

    There were several places that were quite nice and a couple of restaurants we visited or walked past that we want to try again. The Indian Palace, a restaurant, was amazingly beautiful! I will have to try going there with a friend sometime for lunch since Micah doesn’t like Indian food.

    The next place that we visited that was really interesting was The First Chiropractor of Shenzhen with Dr Steve. He was offering free posture checks to see how much strain was on your skeletal system from built up injuries or from other chronic things. Micah and I tried it along with one of our group. They took a picture of us forward and then to the side and measured our balance weight distribution (how much weight you put on each foot). Our friend had perfect balance and a posture grade of 12 on a scale of no problem being zero and a lot of strain at 30. My balance was by 3kg (more on my bad foot) and a posture scale of 22. Eeek! I didn’t know I was that bad! However, the real plot twist was Micah’s score. He had an imbalance of 5kg and a posture score of 31!!! The doctor looked at him and asked “You don’t have any symptoms, at all?” Micah said he didn’t really have anything other than mild irritation with his knees and sensitive muscles on his back. He does NOT like to have back massages because it throws him out of whack. The doctor just laughed.

    Now for me, I was told by a doc a few years back that I’d have to re-break my foot at some point. My foot has been getting worse and worse over the year, so we decided to ask the doc if he would do this. He told me he would not but would like to look at my feet. Long story short my arches have collapsed completely. He said really about 10% of people that have arch problems have arches as bad as me. When he just looked at me slightly concerned asking about my pain levels, I wanted to blush and tell him “Well I’ve always been a high achiever.” Hehe! Anyway, he told me I would need to get orthopedics if I ever wanted to reduce the pain and try to repair a bit of the damage. So we told him we couldn’t afford them now but would definitely come back to him when we could next year.
    New friends, gifts, new places, and fun

    The Hilton Hotel in Shenzhen has an endless pool over looking the bay with a piano on a marble island in the middle. I have to wonder how they get a piano player up there.
    The Hilton Hotel in Shenzhen has an endless pool over looking the bay with a piano on a marble island in the middle. I have to wonder how they get a piano player up there.

    We crossed paths with Rose again on our way out of the chiropractor’s place. We all waved wildly and shouted across the small plaza. Eventually we made it to the Hilton where we waited for a shuttle to take us to a new medical clinic and day surgery hospital made especially for foreigners but caters to everyone. While waiting we made the acquaintance of a couple. The wife is from Russia and the husband is from Brazil. They were quite fun to talk to! We made sure to exchange contacts.

    There are plenty of English speaking doctors who were trained in places like Australia, America, England and New Zealand. They gave us a tour of the wonderfully bright and beautiful clinic. The woman giving the tour spoke English quite well. However, Dale wanting to feel useful decided to translate her English to us. I have to say I was not very gracious in my annoyance. I never said anything but I should not have been annoyed at him. He must not feel important in his life very much. However, the Brazilian noticed this as well and kept laying the charm on Dale telling the tour guide and other clinic workers that he’s our boss and patted him on the shoulder a few times. The Brazilian earned a bit of respect. When I could not be gracious with this young man, this other man was. I am thankful that he was with us!

    After the tour they led us to a waiting room where we could rest or wait our turn for an optional health assessment. I already know I’m fat so I decided to forgo that particular information. So what did I do was refill my water bottle and eat a couple of bagels and cream cheese. Once again I am a deprived person but I think that was the first time I was able to have that particular food. I now understand why people like to eat this! It was delicious! This visit to Vista completed our necessary stamps required so they gave us our prize bag. It was filled with a few fun gifts and a huge stack of wonderful information about Shenzhen and China.

    Panorama shot of the gift bag goodies, flyers, cards, and booklets all about Shenzhen.
    Panorama shot of the gift bag goodies, flyers, cards, and booklets all about Shenzhen.

    One of the fun gifts was a bouncy ball. Our new friend, the Russian woman, was not at all sure what it was. She kept looking at it and rolling it around in her hand. We all kept telling her that she should throw it to the ground and she looked at us like we were crazy until someone took out their bouncy ball and showed her. She was quite fascinated with it. Its so funny to see the little things that are present in other countries or not.

    Walking home
    Most everyone took the metro (subway) to other locations. However, the clinic is only a half mile to a mile away from our apartment so we decided to walk. We ate lunch half way home and had a good walk. In the neighborhood where the clinic is, Coastal City, there are so many new buildings being built. We came across some very interesting and beautiful buildings. There was one that had some sort of connection between it and the adjacent building. Though, the connection looked like it had an angle but we weren’t sure if it was an optical illusion or not. Can you tell (see the picture below). Let me know what ya’ll think!

    Im not sure if the conjoining sections of the buildings behind me are horizontal or not.
    I’m not sure if the conjoining sections of the buildings behind me are horizontal or not.
    Here is a close up of the building. Do you think it is crooked or is it an illusion?
    Here is a close up of the building. Do you think it is crooked or is it an illusion?



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  • Linkin Park, Hunting Tour China 2015

    This weekend we were able to go the Linkin Park concert in the midst of their “The Hunting Party” tour. Who would have ever thought we’d have seen Linkin Park in China! I happened to see the concert advertised a few months ago on Facebook. I have loved Linkin Park for a very long time and so has Micah. So when I told him about the concert we chatted about the possibilities of ever seeing them in concert and decided to let this be our one big splurge.

    We told a couple of friends about it, they were just as excited about it. So we all agreed we’d go together. We wanted to try for the cheapest ticket but that quickly (very) sold out, luckily we were able to get the next price. The prices were 200, 600, 800, 1200, 1400 (all in RMB) so we knew there would be divisions in positions.

    The tickets took a while to get mailed, but even when they reached their destination we still had quite a wait before the concert. They sat on my table for a while and served as a source of motivation knowing that something awesome was waiting for us in the future.

    Busy Summer yields a quick arrival

    Our tickets to the concert
    Our tickets to the concert

    The day finally came. We were all so excited, but I was worried because I had been feeling off all day. We were worried I was going to have a seizure at the concert. I used to have seizures at the drop of a beat. The bass in music being a huge trigger, however I have gotten a lot healthier and it doesn’t cause seizures unless I’m very close to having a seizure anyway. I was planning on bringing my “concert tools” anyway but this made it a higher priority. My “tools” are a pair of dark blue, polarized, prescription sunglasses and a small box of pliable professional (or so I’m told) ear plugs.

    We all met at metro stop (subway station) halfway between our homes and ate at KFC. A short subway ride to another stop and a 3 block walk to the theater was what we thought lay between us and watching Linkin Park. We were a little off. The subway ride was fine except one of our friends bought a token (ticket) for the stop before the one we were supposed to get off, but we got that problem solved quickly. Though we discovered the short walk was not so easily remedied. There was some major construction that confused us. It looked like it had through traffic, but alas we had to turn around. We could see the theater but could not reach it. We found a path that led to the theater.

    Anachronistic Adventure in the Middle of a Bustling City

    First glimpse of the theater. Still a bit further to walk around the construction detour.
    First glimpse of the theater. Still a bit further to walk around the construction detour.
    Curiving atchitecture of the building
    Part of the theater at Shenzhen Bay Sports Center


    To be honest I felt like I was acting out a part in some RPG (role playing game) where the heroes have to trek through a valley populated by crazy people. As soon as we reached the mouth of the “canyon” pass we were accosted by bike taxis that almost drug us onto their bikes. They are usually aggressive but this was different. The “crazy locals” were the bike taxis blazing through the “pass” carrying charges back and forth. We kept criticizing the laziness of people because the theater was so close. We soon discovered why they chose to use the zealous bike taxis. The “pass” was flooded in about an inch or more of dirty water. On the right wall was short concrete wall that filled the span between the vertical building skeleton and the metal construction barrier. Grabbing a hold of the metal ribs we climbed upon the ledge to safely get past the water.

    Did I mention that I felt as if I was somehow transported into a game? To reach our destination we had to traverse the perilous canyon pass occupied by roving, zealous creatures; chance the unknown and certain illness by wading through the canyon water or precariously inch across the ledge along the whole length using the ribs of some ancient creature to steady oneself.

    Finally we made it through the pass to open streets and the inviting hulk of the stadium.

    Trying to wade through the crowd to the opening gates.
    Trying to wade through the crowd to the opening gates.


    One final task before our reward was to brave the masses of other travelers without losing one’s sanity or limb. Every good RPG has a boss towards the end right? I almost lost my sanity when I came toe to toe with a devilish creature. A woman decided she was much better than the common riffraff having to show their tickets the gate keepers, so she began to hit me. Stubborn and hot headed me, I decided to rebel against her sense of entitlement and made sure she could not pass. She hit me and pushed passed me only to be grabbed by the guard. I brushed passed her. Back in line to wait for approval of a second gate keeper, she caught up to me and continued her slapping and hitting. I held my ground and did not lose face to this creature nor did I yield to her. This was truly a test of my journey and my personal resolve in not being cruel. Then it was my turn to pass through the gates after my ticket was approved, the creature held one more tactic left. She threw her ticket at the keeper and shoved me one last time ending with her hand flitting around in my face. Let me tell you, that was when I about lost it. I told my companions that if she touched me one more time public scene or no scene we would have problems. With their support I was able to throw her a scathing look that I hope drove in fear and cleared my head of her negative miasma. We were completely through the gates and in the stadium. We were going to see Linkin Park!!!

    The concert started with a sudden drop in all lights but the stage and TVs
    The concert started with a sudden drop in all lights but the stage and TVs

    We found our seats easily and was able to enjoy the rest of the evening. I was flabbergasted that so many of the Chinese men and woman around us knew so many of the words!! Even the rap sequences!!

    Bright Blue lights lit up the audience for periods of time.
    Bright Blue lights lit up the audience for periods of time.

    All in all it was a fantastic evening and a wonderful concert. Luckily between Micah and Professor, who also met us there, I was able to stay calm, have fun, and with the help of my sunglasses was able to enjoy the concert without much problems from my seizures at all.

    Here we are pretty happy after the concert ended.
    Here we are pretty happy after the concert ended.

    There were moments that I got dizzy, but I would sit back, drink my water and take some deep breaths. Then I was ready to get back into the music and drown in it. They sang of their more iconic songs like “Faint“, “About to Break“, and  “From the Inside” along with some of the newer ones such as “Castle of Glass.” I took some videos a couple of the songs (above are the links), of the lights (here and here), and of the audience (here). Though, we had a great time while my friends figured out how to use my phone to take a picture of us. They accidentally took a video instead.



    Panorama of the concert area.
    Panorama of the concert area.
    The flyer they were passing out at the concert
    The flyer they were passing out at the concert
    Our friends who went with us
    Our friends who went with us. I was jostled as i took the pic so that is why its a bit blurry. It was extremely hot though
    A huge platoon of cops got to attend the concert. They pulled up some folding chairs onto the main floor and had a good time. Here they are leaving the concert together.
    A huge platoon of cops got to attend the concert. They pulled up some folding chairs onto the main floor and had a good time. Here they are leaving the concert together.
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  • Arriving in China Part 3, Shenzhen

    Arriving in China, My first glimpse, Part 3

    Note: This is part 3 in a series called Arriving in China.

    If you haven’t read the previous two then you can do so here (part 1 & part 2)

    Crossing the border

    I was soo nervous about going through customs because I’d heard and read all about how the guards and customs officers will go through every pocket to look for anything they don’t like. While this might not have sounded like a logical thing to happen when you have hundreds of people crossing the border daily, I was still not convinced that they wouldn’t “pick” on a Western couple. However, my experience was completely anti-climatic compared to the hype that the border crossing had been given. Once we approached the customs area the driver stopped and open up the trunk, then proceeded very slowly (hoping nothing falls out) to the next section where all the documents are meticulously examined while everyone patiently waits in the van. Once we were cleared at that section we went to the next section where they took all the bags out and ran them through an x-ray machine. Any questionable bag was set aside and opened. All the others were haphazardly placed back in the van trunk. We all waited in a line while another guy came and lined up all our documents with their owners. Then, the driver grunted and pointed to the car; we all piled back in. Finally, we passed through one more section and was home free. Welcome to mainland China.

    Expensive Hotel

    Our hotel room in Shenzhen
    Our hotel room in Shenzhen. Nice but a decent price.

    So the driver took us to this very beautiful hotel where a bell boy assisted us. An actual bell boy in an old fashioned uniform came out to get our luggage on some sort of trolley. They loaded up our luggage and gladly took it inside. Upon talking with the very nice people at the desk, we soon discovered our unsaid suspicions true: this was too expensive for our limited budget at $300 USD per night!

    Reluctantly, we told them about our budget dilemma. They understood and tried to find something cheaper, but finally gave us directions to walk along the curving street to where we would find cheaper places to stay. They said to be careful because the pickpocketing, price gouging, and scams were worse so we should carefully judge each person. The bell boys helped us back out to the street with a kind but sad smile and watched us walk around the bend.

    Angel’s Aid

    So many different types of buildings
    There are so many different building types. I think there is a train on that middle building roof.

    Of course, exhaustion and disappointment were weighing on us. We didn’t settle for the first yet scary looking place with sketchy feeling people. We walked on and were heading to a place that looked reputable when a couple of guys approached us. They asked if we needed a place to stay for the night and even helped us by grabbing a suitcase each. One of the guys spoke very good English and proceeded to tell use that he knows the hotel we were going to had a room for a decent price. We asked him how much, it was indeed a decent price. In reply to my curiosity, he explained that in certain areas it is very common for people to run small “businesses” in cooperation with hotels. These businesses rent out entire sections, floors, or blocks of room from the hotels at a discount and go about on the streets and tourist areas to drum up business. The hotel has the rooms filled, good references, word of mouth and the men of course make money by raising the price a bit. It is a very interesting symbiotic relationship.

    That long section has underground stores and stations.
    That long section has underground stores and stations.

    Anyway, Micah and I were able to communicate with each other about whether we had any bad feelings or reservations with them. Neither of us did; in fact, speaking later we both had good feelings about them. Our instincts were verified later that evening when we found out that they had been given a heads up from Professor. How we are not sure at all, but I learned years ago to stop asking “how” as much when it came to our friend.

    The men got us checked into a good room on their floor. During the check in process we chatted with them about what we were up to. They seemed really excited about us moving to China and wanted to see how they could help us further. We explained about the travel plan Micah’s boss created. However, they told us that a sleeper bus is what they prefer instead of the trains. After helping us to the room, Micah left with them to the ticket office (3-5 blocks down the way) to buy the tickets. Since the office was closing soon they ran. After successfully buying the tickets, the English speaking man promised to return in the morning to help us to the bus!!

    A eye full of soup, supper

    First meal in China was this weird soup
    A late night supper. This is the result of pointing at a picture. hehe. Do you see the eyes?

    Micah returned, so that the two of us could set out at 1030pm to find something proper to eat after two days of airline food. Our first meal in China!! Trepidation started itching at the back of my mind when I recalled videos and images of some of the more strange food people eat here. However, hunger won out and I prepared myself to eat anything that wouldn’t make me queesy. We passed parlors, clubs, and even a 7-eleven! We finally just chose a fast-food style place with a lot of soups and pictures (pictures being the more important part since we didn’t read Chinese).

    Now do you see the eyes?
    Now do you see the eyes? I don’t think I’ve ever had soup that looked back at me.

    We chose a less exotic looking soup and chowed down. You know you are hungry when you are half way through the bowl of soup when you suddenly realize with a mixture of horror and hilarity that I had to really look at my soup. To my chagrin what I saw was my very tasty and satisfying soup was looking back at me. Dozens of little shrimp were in my soup! Lesson well learned, in China taste and appearance are not always the same thing.

    Exhausted night

    SOO many taxis!
    SOO many taxis!

    On the way back to our hotel for some much needed rest, we picked up some drinks and chips at a 7-eleven to company the shrimp now in my belly.

    In the morning we woke up, cleaned up, grabbed some McDonalds nearby and waited for our friend. He picked us up and bustled us through an underground walkway, through some other strange rail stations, and then to the bus station terminal where he sat us down. Hey then explained, very thoroughly, that we didn’t speak Chinese, would need help along the bus ride and for the people to make sure that the bus driver and attendants knew to take care of us and make sure we made it back on the bus at each stop. He reported their conversation to us and chatted for a few more minutes telling us that they were very excited for all that we would experience in China and wished they could go along with us. They gave us their best wishes for a good life and safe travels and left in a hurry.

    Morning view of Shenzhen moutnains
    Mountain view in Shenzhen from our hotel. Beautiful view to wake up to.

    I very much felt overwhelmed by these “guardian angels” that clearly helped us tremendously. They are another set of people along our journey that I will always appreciate.

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  • Beggars & Hobos

    So China has beggars, not a surprise there, because that is true for pretty much every country. People become beggars for a plethora of reasons ranging from it being a direct personal choice, a consequence of choices, bad luck, natural disaster, problems within the economy, company going bankrupt, among problems hundreds or thousands of other reasons. It is the same here.

    Just to be candid where I lived previously—Oklahoma—I honestly didn’t come across beggars or homeless people that much so that was yet another thing to add to my list of cultural shock ammo. Now there exists rumors that surround the perception of hobos and beggars. One such group scrutinizes the validity of poor and homeless status by telling about instances of people panhandling all day then returning home to nice apartments or other higher tiered luxuries, but that is not my intended topic for this blog. I want to quickly tell you about my experiences with them and not any socio-political causations or frameworks facilitating begging.

    Armless beggar paints flowers
    A beggar with no arms paints really good paintings of flowers with his feet

    Micah and I were walking around running errands (actually we were trying to buy me a new phone) and came across a man that was clearly trying to earn money on the street. I could see that he had some photos or maybe some paintings. Some were framed and some were not. As we got closer, I could suddenly see that he had no arms and was in fact currently painting with pastels (colored chalk) using his toes! His toes!! Art is hard enough, but these were pretty good. I did not want to cause too much of a scene or draw attention away from him so we didn’t stop to take a picture (I get very anxious when I think about disturbing people). So I took a quick pic as we were walking by, which is why it is blurry–sorry about that.

    Unfortunately, you can’t see how good these pictures were. I was thoroughly impressed with his art ability in general but doubly so considering it was done with his feet.

    It is not uncommon for people to do things such as paint or sing or craft objects or even play instruments in public places to earn money. I especially like to hear the singers and musicians play. Sometimes I will give them money. Though I am much more likely to give money for musicians or singers because they are at least trying and I will feel like these people are a little less likely to be fraudulent. I absolutely hate that we live in a world where in almost every country we cannot trust that those in desperate need are actually being truthful. I am in some sense an idealist in hope but practical in daily thought and action.

    I sincerely hope he is able to support himself well.

    May the road rise to meet you

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  • Books, toys, and shopping

    Come hail or high water
    Saturday, another expat, Kaz, and I were supposed to meet several other expats to tour a popular and very large shopping area, Dongmen. Alas, monsoon season hit and it was rescheduled. However, she still wanted to have a day to herself as a day without kids was her mother’s day present from her husband, and since I was already on my way we decided to go shopping. I think she had a well-deserved day off; it was a very sweet gift.

    So we met at a place called Lao Jie. It was in the morning so we started with some costume shopping for the comic con this summer. We went around to several costume & clothing places but couldn’t find anything that matched what her and her family wanted. At one of the shops I asked in very broken Chinese if they had an item but in specific color; after the man and I went back and forth he told us they didn’t have the color we wanted. Kaz was a little impressed that I could use a combination of Chinese, the dictionary, and some miming to have conversations about costumes. To be honest I was quite impressed too!

    After, several costume shops we decided to stop the search and find the costumes online later. So we walked to an area a few blocks away that is full of wholesale stores. There were a couple of shops filled with toothbrushes, and another couple for light bulbs and several more for personal care items (such as shampoo, combs, toothpaste, soap, facial cleaners etc). So as you can imagine they don’t really get many foreigners around that area. We were quite the surprise.

    A Maze of Shops and Food

    Seafood street food
    We got to see a lot of interesting street foods. Here is a shell where the meat has been cooked and placed back in.

    We walked around the whole place a while and found a very nice area on the bottom floor of one building filled with various types of street food. There were noodles, soups, noodle soups, barbeque, breads, Chinese wraps, Chinese pancakes, and even tea eggs.

    Kaz hasn’t really experienced much street food, because she was weary about the children eating it (completely understandably). Though, I was able to share one of my favorites with her, tea eggs. Now tea eggs are very simple snacks. I first had them in Guilin and ate them all the time. Tea eggs are simply hard boiled eggs that are boiled in tea instead of plain water. Often they are cracked partway through or after they are done resulting in a different flavor and some very nice marbling on the egg under the shell. Usually they are quite cheap ranging from $0.15 to $0.30(1-3 RMB), so they make excellent cheap snacks!

    This party supply store is quite full.
    This party supply store is quite full.

    After we let them cool then we cracked them and took a bite. I think she quite liked the tea egg! Later I even showed her where she could buy them closer to her home. There were so many other foods that I both recognized and didn’t, but we didn’t try any because we wanted to eat at a café later.
    Walking through the buildings and their floors was a fun experience. We never knew what each turn, each floor and even the next shop would have or what we would encounter. We passed a store of stationary, next to a book store, then light fixtures, followed by a shop over flowing with fake plants and vines as if the Jolly Green Giant exploded or a very angry Druid was attacked (video game joke). There was a store dedicated to writing utensils providing several options for both the pens and brushes of calligraphy along with pens, pencils, and markers of every type and color. The type of stores we encountered seemed almost endless. We came across toy stores spilling out into the hallway with boxes stacked precariously on tables or chairs, clothing stores with avalanches of clothes on either side of the doors, and shoe stores with wracks and hooks that lined every inch of the 7 foot high walls. At an office supply store I was able to find scotch tape and a dispenser for less then a $1.

    While meandering the maze of stores and escalators to the next floor, there was always a store or two with twinkling lights, strobing lamps, or bright LED running lights and I was both amazed and joyful when Kaz took it upon herself to help me safely navigate these areas because of my seizures. (If you are curious about what it’s like to have seizures or epilepsy in China please check out an article I wrote about that.)

    An Open Book, a Candid Conversation in Chinese

    One of the book stores we encountered.
    One of the book stores we encountered. These books on the floor were mostly English books.

    We stopped at a random book store to find Kaz some more books to read to her children. We found several wonderful English books that we remembered from our own childhoods. We had a lot of fun spotting these precious books and comparing what we knew and didn’t know from our childhoods—I am an American and she is Irish. When we were checking out, the owner and his wife began to ask the usual questions such where we were from and how long we’ve been in China. I answered for the both of us. They continued the conversation by asking about why we were in China, how old her children were and if I had any children. After I responded, I told him about my love for reading, this only prompted him to try to tell me something about his shop but I couldn’t understand a specific word he kept using. So I looked it up in my dictionary on my phone. They both leaned over the counter to see what I was doing and were amazed to see Chinese characters.

    Overflowing toy store.
    Overflowing toy store.

    At once they asked me if I could read Chinese, so of course I told them I could read a little. I supplemented it by saying I think my reading and writing skills are much better than my speech production and most definitely better than my listening comprehension skills. They were amazed that I could read at all. Their amazement shown even more as the man and his wife grabbed my phone and through quiet chattering back and forth began to type out something on my phone. When they were done, I read them the sentence. They responded with smiles and cheers. Then they wrote another sentence with the same excited responses or some encouragement if I didn’t know a particular character. Soon enough clerks from a nearby shop came over to see what was going on.
    These two new arrivals were surprised to see foreigners and then even more so to see a bag full of books. Quickly one woman grabbed the bag and emptied all the books onto the counter to see what we had bought. Kaz and I both were amused and surprised with this woman’s curiosity. The man and his wife told the women that I could read and speak Chinese and prompted me to read a sentence again to show them. I couldn’t help but chuckle and share in their excitement. It was contagious!
    The wife pulled out a notepad and pen so that they could hand write characters to further test if I could read them. Again I felt like I was in grade school learning to read with my parents and grandparents who would cheer me on when I read a new sentence correctly.

    A shoe store next to a decoration store. I love the vines and flowers covering the hall walls.
    A shoe store next to a decoration store. I love the vines and flowers covering the hall walls.

    Eventually we had to leave the shop to continue on with our day, but before we left the man made sure to give us his cards and told us that to save money we should shop at his store and not the big city stores. I told him that it was true the big city stores were expensive and he and his wife just laughed with huge smiles. They told me many times to come back and see them.

    It was obvious we made their day coming in to chat with them and in return they made my day too. My Chinese is not very good so it’s difficult sometimes to find shop owners that will stop and listen to you, in their defense many small shop owners are very busy.

    We ended the day by eating a late lunch at a very nice tree themed café. I had some hot chocolate with some very tasty spaghetti Bolognese.

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  • Dragon Boat Festival 2015

    This year the Dragon Boat Festival (aka Duanwu Jie) fell on June 21. If you would like to know more about the holiday in general then please check out my previous blog. If you have any questions then please let me know and Ill do my best to answer any questions.

    Micah and I went out for lunch that day and while we were walking home we came across a Dragon Boat Festival event. How about that!? Well actually it wasn’t like we just turned a corner and there it was. We could actually here it from blocks away. So when we took a path across the street we could kind of see what was going on, it just drew us in.

    We crossed the road to the Rainbow mall’s plaza, we were greeted by dozens of people in beautiful costumes, loud music, and a sea of smiling happy faces. Walking over you could see that there were several areas that had different things going on. The first one we noticed was the stage where a man was singing in a rock style (which is not typical for the mainstream pop music of China). I might be wrong but to me it sounded like he was trying to imitate some Western types of singing. Though it was fun to listen to. What do you think?

    The next act was a duet from the two people that served also as hosts throughout the show. They did well. Its really interesting to hear the differences in Chinese singing compared with western singing.

    Third act actually comes in two parts. Partway through the performance the sound cut out. Micah had a hypothesis that it was because it kept overheating. Though we’ll never quite know for sure. After the sound cut out the dancers did a great job trying to continue, but ultimately stopped. I wont post that video in this blog, but I did upload it.


    One of my favorite events was a surprise, Gangnam Style (by Psy). The dance also was cut short by the sound but was still fun. It was preformed by a Dragon Boat Festival rice ball called a Zong zi (see blog for more information), a pink kitty, a tiger, and a ram/sheep. After the sound cut out the Zongzi decided she didnt want to wait it out and clumsily found a seat right there on stage while the others tried to look cute and happy to buy some time.

    The next two act were wonderful. There was a solo sung by the male host. he did a wonderful job. He had some sort of ribbon or something on his very red suit that makes him look like the first prize at a state fair showing.

    Then there was a fantastic Chinese umbrella dance. It was so beautiful. The costumes are marvelous.


    Last but least was a final solo from the female host. Out of all the songs this one was my favorite. I can understand a bit of the song and can hear a lot more of the individual syllables through beautiful vocals. I know these types of vocals are not every one’s cup of tea but I hope those that dont like it can experience this as a sample of China and appreciate her training and effort. This song is one I have heard before; it is named Yue Hao Yue Ling. It speaks of how things will get better and better, quite a nice sentiment for sure.


    In front of the stage was an area where I think  you could hang wishes and also an area (paid area) where you could make the Zongzi with family beside where kids could decorate canvas. Some artists painted beautiful water colors and while we watched a cameraman filming the event decided to film us watching. We both got nervous so I’m sure we weren’t that interesting. Below are those additional pictures.

    Till next time,

    May the road rise to meet you.

    Hanging wishes
    Its quite customary for people to write down prayers or wishes for a holiday or time period. I think that is what this is.
    Families making Zongzi together
    Making Zong zi is part of the holiday, but it is a family part so you can see a mixture of 3 generations making it together.
    Videographer filmed us watching the event.
    There were so many people surprised that we were there, even the camera man.
    Beautiful hand painted pictures.
    Beautiful hand painted pictures.
    Hand painting of a character
    This is a representation of a character, i believe from some ancient stories.






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  • Dragon Boat Festival, An Overview

    Today is the Dragon Boat Festival.

    Many schools and companies were off yesterday and will be off on Monday for the observance of the holiday. The holiday traffic has been pretty bad. My normal commute takes about 25 minutes but I finally got to my destination about 45-50 minutes later.

    A lot of Chinese travel back to their parent’s homes or back to home villages. Others stay home and fix meals and have their own special times. At midnight last night when Friday changed to Saturday my phone’s lock screen background changed to a special screen for the Festival. It confused me at first but my Galaxy S5 is a specific version for China (hence my trouble with not having Google Play). We aren’t doing too much for the holiday because tomorrow we are starting our vacation. Hopefully, we will be able to catch some of the river activities where we will be going.

    Festival based in Legend

    Dry Docked Dragon Boat
    This Hong Kong Dragon Boat is docked and ready to go out. (Photo by www.flickr.com/photos/istolethetv/4620371417)

    This festival is called Duanwu in Madarin falls on the fifth day or the fifth lunar month each year. The English name is derived from one of the typical activities of the festival rather than a translation.

    As a friend of mine, a Chinese woman, explained it to me, this holiday has an origin steeped in legend and history. She was not certain about how much of the story is mere legend and how much is based in historical fact. Around one of the periods where states warred with other states, there was a man that loved his country and loved his leader. He was an adviser to the leader of their state; however, other high up officials became jealous of him and made plans. They laid trumped up charges against resulting in his exile. He was forced to wander around the country. As he wondered he began to write epic poetry that is still revered today. Sometime later another state invaded his beloved capitol city. He wrote a final poem lamenting the fate of his country and then jumped into a river.

    Some locals spread the word of his death and immediately took to the water to find his body, because they all loved him despite his exile and despite technically being a traitor to the state. Some people took boats down the river to find him pounding paddles on the water to scare away the fish. Others stood by the shore pounding drums in hopes of scaring the fish and still other threw food such as rice wrapped in leaves as a last ditch effort to distract the fish so they could recover the body.
    Since he died on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month that is when they decided to honor his life and death and ultimately his love and pride in his country.


    Zongzi In Yokohama
    Here is some zongzi being sold in Yokohama, Japan. (Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/hisa)

    To be honest my friend didn’t tell me too much about how people celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival beyond the general sense. In many places there Dragon Boat races that have become a huge part of the holiday, despite It not really being a part of the holiday’s origin. Around the time the holiday really took hold the sport of Dragon boat races were very popular, so somehow the two things were connected through the years. Dragon boats are very long slender boats made of wood that have a dragon head and tail on either end and have intricately carved and painted details along its sides and parts. Of course this event is the name sake for the English name.


    Zongzi filled with sweat red bean paste
    A zongzi filled with red bean paste (usually a little sweet) and wrapped in leaves. (Photo by Allen Timothy Chang, 2011)




    Another special way to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival is by eating rice wrapped in bamboo leaves. You can, of course, see the direct connection to the story. These snacks are called Zongzi. Zongzi can have different fillings, often the chosen filling (ie dried fruit, meat, etc) is mixed in with the rice and then wrapped and tied up. The rice is often glutinous and thus very sticky. Ive eaten some and have liked some while I didn’t like others. I was also told that in the north part of China the zongzi tend to be more sweet while here in the south it tends to be more savory and have things like meats or even sautéed shitake mushrooms.

    There can be a lot more to the holiday and I hope to tell you more later. I know there is a part of the holiday that is supposed to help your health if you partake in it but I do not know any details. Hopefully, I will soon have more to tell you.

    So I hope you all have a wonderful Dragon Boat Festival. If you are around areas that have this festival, please tell me about your experiences by commenting or emailing me; I’d love to hear all about it.

    May the road rise to meet you.

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  • No qualms, no boundaries

    Culture shock is one thing but the slow adjustment to the idiosyncrasies of another culture over months and even years is another. One of the oddest parts of slowly adjusting was having stereotypes affirmed or denied; even with knowing a belief is a stereotype it’s still a little odd to see it contraindicated. For instance, in some stereotypes of Chinese people you often see that they are quiet, sometimes even shy, and polite. However, that isn’t completely the truth in a general sense—they can be quite loud.

    One of those deeper realizations you begin to learn after living abroad is that what constitutes being polite or rude is not always the same among different cultures. In my experience and limited knowledge into the inner workings of the Chinese culture some actions that are rude in the West are not rude here and vice versa. For a Western person some topics are matter of crossing boundaries between people, but these are often different in other countries. So in this context, I want to share with you my experience into what is culturally accepted with comments about others appearances particularly where it relates to their body.


    Thanks, I wasn’t Aware

    Funny how sometimes people dont think you are aware of your body and how much space you take up.
    Funny how sometimes people dont think you are aware of your body and how much space you take up.

    I am an American woman as so many of you know and as anyone who has seen me, you know I am also overweight. While I am overweight in the Western eyes, to the Chinese the extent of my overweight is even more extreme. So for a culture that believes pointing out one’s faults (to a certain extent) is actually helping that person, it is even more necessary for my weight to be pointed out or at least commented on. It is often viewed as a fact and thought that it shouldn’t sting or hurt because it is a simple fact.

    An example of this would be when I took a Chinese class at a university in Guilin the teacher—a very sweet and wonderful woman—was teaching us about how to describe people and items. So of course the easiest is to point things out in the classroom. So some of the classmates were tall, short, short hair, long hair, beautiful, nice and of course skinny and fat. The teacher pointed to me and said that I was fat like her followed by a huge smile of endearment towards me. She did not even think about how it might be hurtful or annoying to me, because it was a descriptor just like if she had said I was wearing a black coat or have blond hair. Although, I was slightly offended she was such a sweet and caring person I couldn’t be mad at her especially since it was obvious that she didn’t mean it to be mean or hurtful.

    A public service announcement

    Obvious that I am overweight but I have other traits that I LOVE. Like my blond hair and blue eyes.
    Obvious that I am overweight but I have other traits that I LOVE. Like my blond hair and blue eyes.

    Other times Chinese people (at least in my experience of where I’ve been) love to comment on appearances with both good and bad qualities. I have two examples for this. The first happened while I was walking with a Dutch friend of mine who is absolutely the quintessential Dutch woman: tall, slender, beautiful, big blue eyes, fair skin, and blond hair. So here we have 2 western women one short and fat, the other tall and skinny, and both fair skinned, blue eyed, and long blond hair. She was extremely fluent in Chinese and over heard some women following us talking about our different body shapes between the two of us and also in comparison to their own bodies. They also spoke a lot about my friend’s big, beautiful blue eyes. So she turned and responded to their comments, which freaked them out because most foreigners do not speak Chinese.

    A more recent example of this was the other day in the elevator at my apartment complex in Shenzhen. Micah and I were heading out to meet a friend for lunch. I was wearing a tank top since it has been unbelievably hot recently. Already in the elevator was a man and woman. The woman proceeds to talk to her male companion about how my skin is so white. Very white. She said this many times and I believe spoke about my freckles pondering about how I got them but this is where my Chinese is really bad. After she apparently exhausted those topics she turned to Micah and I still speaking to the man and said “Though they are both very fat”; just a simple statement of being for her. I almost said something about that being rude, but decided to hide under the assumed guise of ignorance she assumed I had.

    You would think this might be mostly because I am overweight and the impact of being overweight is felt more in China since the Chinese body tends to be so much leaner and more slender then a healthy fit western body. However, this is not the case always. A Chinese friend of mine was telling me about how during one of her trips to Korea she fell off a curb and broke her ankle. Her parents proceed to tell her that if she wasn’t so fat this would not have happened. After she returned home, she received many messages from other family (even cousins) telling her that she should lose a lot of weight. Although, it bothered my friend because she has more western thinking then eastern thinking, she understood culturally where it came from (but was still mad about it). To be honest, my friend could lose a few pounds but not more then 5-10 pounds at the very MOST. Obviously this is not enough weight to cause her big enough problems to result in her fall.

    Norms and mores are relative

    What cultures see as wrong or right or indifferent can be very confusing
    What cultures see as wrong or right or indifferent can be very confusing

    So the lesson is in how different cultures perceive things. The Western culture usually has more qualms about pointing out a person’s flaws (unless they are intentionally being cruel or are just oblivious), whereas Asia tends to point these out as a measure of care or from a desire to give a helping hand or even in a simple descriptor. It does make one think about how very sensitive America has gotten about terms. Is there value in walking around on egg shells when something is obvious? It is true that I am fat, no one can deny that, so should I get upset when it is used as a simple descriptor? I don’t know that this can really be answered, because there are so many factors in both cultures that would have to be considered.

    However, it is more in the heart of person where the intent of a statement matters. I do know that terms become wrong when they speak of someone being less valued as a human because of some trait. Being called fat would bother me more if I could understand if a person was merely describing me or wanting to help me by pointing out something I need to work on versus someone that was saying I was less valued than them because I am overweight. Is that what some of these people here mean to say? Do they really mean to judge me as less worthy or less of a human because I have extra body weight or are they merely being honest about describing me as overweight? Honestly, I have no clue sometimes but I do not think that in a general sense it is not meant to be rude or cutting.

    I have definitely learned to be more self-possessed and learned to take things in stride because 1)why sweat the small stuff, 2) why should I feel bad about myself because others don’t like it, and 3) it has never been a secret that I was overweight, its not like I can hide that! So my best advice if you travel or even face comments or thoughts in your country, take pride in what you do and do your best in all areas including taking care of yourself; but don’t stop truly living for another’s description or criticism after all they are not responsible for your happiness and should have less impact on your life to affect it negatively

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