I want to apologize for such a long gap between the last post and this post. For personal reasons I had to take a break from writing in the fall. Then we visited family back home for the winter. We have been back for a few weeks and have been very busy. And sadly I usually have a long adjustment period where I don’t socialize as much as I would otherwise. Anyway, we are back and are hopefully able to post more often about our lives and experiences here in China.
We have lived in China over 2.5 years and each transition to America or to China on each trip we have taken requires some time and adjustment. Each time, for us at least, is different. I’m not exactly sure how or why it is different, though I have some thoughts on it. While, some adjustments are easier than others depending on whats been or is going on—for example, on a return trip last year I was pretty sick—in general it has been getting easier.
The first trip to China was awful. The traveling was horrendous (read about it here) and I was so overwhelmed. It did take me a long time to get into the swing of things. The first trip back to America was an eye opener. It’s the little things that you get used that are most obvious. Things like how Chinese people don’t queue up, people in Oklahoma usually always tell you “have a good day”, people in China tend to be generous or at least helpful when ordering food, and another minor difference that sticks out is that in China stores have several employees stationed just to be of help to the customers.
There are of course the major differences like language and population. There is also the amount of attention I receive that is different. In Oklahoma, and especially America I can go relatively unnoticed. Its something that I got very used to and very much liked. For whatever reason, I tend to go under most people’s radar. I was usually not missed or seen except by a very few close friends. However, here I am noticed where ever I go without exception. Here I stick out like a sore thumb.
There is one difference that doesn’t at all take an adjustment period, because it is quite delightful. Here, vegetables and most fruit range from being dirt cheap to fairly cheap to on par with back home. I LOVE all the fresh fruit and veggies that I can cook with and eat. Its pretty expensive in most places in America.
However, the thing I have the most trouble with is the size of this city and the amount of people here. I am always a hermit for the first couple weeks (if I can help it). I like to stay close to home and not venture out very far. I sometimes feel trapped. Back home at my parents house (and my childhood homes) I can go outside and watch the horizon. I can walk for miles without seeing more than one or two living souls. I could get lost in the isolation and the beauty of home. Its slow and peaceful and serene. However, here in the cities of China things go fast, always changing, rivers or streams of people flow throughout the city at every hour of the day and night. I can’t even go outside my apartment complex without meeting at least 2-3 other people. However, this world has beauty too. There is something beautiful about watching the ebb and flow of the crowds or catching the perfect scenes of joy or happy family moments.
While I do have culture shock to some degree each time i transition from one culture to another, I think it helps significantly to see the inherent beauty and value in each culture. I think it helps us step into the shoes and streets of others and see how they live, what they like, what they hate and how they are. The good and bad are all wrapped up in so many factors in every culture that it would take years if not a life time to truly sort out a culture. There will always be aspects I don’t like about living in China (urban or rural), but that is true for any body of humans. And that, my fellow humans, is part of what makes us beautiful and wonderful creatures. We have a vast about differences that are bound tightly together in a tapestry woven in with the commonalities that we, as humans, all share.
May the road rise to meet you.