Asians are everywhere. Sometimes it seems like we’re taking over the world.
But just because we’re Asian doesn’t make us all alike. Lots of us are descendants of immigrants who came to Western countries to start a new life. And so our culture is often vastly different from that of our parents or our grandparents.
Planning on traveling or living abroad? Then get your calculator out (or start reviewing your third grade math homework), because it’s time to use foreign currency!
Using the local currency is one of my favorite things about visiting other countries. Maybe it’s because I don’t handle cash a lot in my home country, or maybe it’s simply because I enjoy getting to see the country’s culture reflected in their currency. When I was a kid, I also enjoyed collecting stamps from foreign countries, so maybe I just have a weird fascination with foreign things in general!
Now that summer is officially over, I find myself back in the same place as university students all over the world – the classroom.
The two textbooks I’m going through this semester.
Five years ago, I officially graduated from university with a bachelor’s degree. At that point, I figured my academic career was over. I could check “attend university” off my list of Things Every Normal Person Should Do.
Convenience is something we all enjoy.
Instant noodles. High-speed wireless internet. Short commuting distances. We like all of these things because they make our lives a little bit easier.
Though we might not realize it, this pursuit of convenience is deeply engrained in all of us. So much, in fact, that we will often base our decisions on whether or not it is “convenient” for us. Why do we love convenience so much?
Nobody really likes getting sick. You lose your physical energy, your motivation to do anything, and it’s just downright uncomfortable.
But what’s even worse is when you get sick while you’re away from your home country.
There’s a saying that goes, “You don’t really learn to appreciate something until it’s gone.” This is especially true of our health! But it can also be said of the peace of mind that comes with our access to Western medical care.
In our day-to-day lives, we all have places to go and people to see. Many of us drive our own car, while some of us take public transportation, such as the subway or the bus. Those who are especially motivated (or have no other choice) will bike or walk.
But very few of us will actually hire a taxi to take us to our desired destination.
However, in China, taking a taxi isn’t simply one of many options. Sometimes t’s actually the best option. Sometimes it’s the only option.
Staring. One of the best ways to make a person feel a little uncomfortable, especially if they are a complete stranger.
When I was growing up, I was taught that it’s rude to stare at someone else.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.com/StevenDepolo
But come to China and try telling someone on the street not to stare. You might as well tell them not to breathe! It’s one of those phenomenons that has its roots planted deep within the culture and it shows little signs of stopping.
As a foreigner living in mainland China, it’s really easy for me to pick up on all the obvious cultural differences between my culture and the one I currently live in. The spitting, the staring, the squat toilets…these are just a few of the many things that go against what I think should be “normal.”
What’s much more difficult to discern is why the Chinese do certain things.
Today, I want to focus on their style of communication. As a general rule of thumb, Chinese mainlanders are more indirect than Westerners. We tend to be more black-and-white in our communication, while the Chinese tend to beat around the bush a little more.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.com/FutUndBeidl
You know those white medical masks that you see nurses and doctors wear in hospitals? Back when I lived in Canada, I never saw anyone wear one in public. But here in Asia, they are pretty common. In Hong Kong, it’s generally an indication of people who are sick – doctors usually instruct their patients to wear one until they get better. But in mainland China, these masks are commonly used to combat air pollution, China’s biggest environmental problem.
Though China’s bigger cities (like Beijing and Shanghai) typically have the worst pollution, smaller cities can also experience days where the pollution is pretty bad. I’ve become far more appreciate of days where I can look up to a blue sky, as we only get to see this a few times per month.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.com/lylo0u
Though there is little that we can do to control the air quality outside our home, there are ways to improve the air quality inside our home. Perhaps the most common method is by obtaining some sort of air purifier.
Picture this. You’re sitting at a Starbucks with your best friend, enjoying your drink and conversation, when suddenly a little kid who you’ve never seen before walks up and starts talking with you. You think it’s cute and engage with the kid for a little while.
What happens next?
Presuming you’re living in a Western country, you’ll probably hear the kid’s parent start calling their child. Either that or they’ll come get their child and give you a quick apology. Why? First, because you’re never supposed to talk to strangers, and second, because it’s considered impolite to interrupt someone else’s private conversation.
It’s a little different in China.