I wrote about culture shock when I arrived in Japan. I must admit that though I felt that it was subsiding at the time when I wrote about it, it lasted for a long time after. Feeling confused and sometimes frustrated was exhausting and I often wanted to hide in my apartment until those feelings went away. In some ways I feel like I’m preparing for Culture Shock: Take Two here in China, yet being aware of what it consists of makes me more calm about it. I have no idea when it will hit, but I don’t have the naïve belief that the current honeymoon phase (being excited about everything) will last forever. I am therefore allowing myself to enjoy it while it’s here.
Not everything has gone completely smoothly (as I mentioned in the last post), but everything is OK. The worst thing that has happened so far has been that my bike was stolen, but I have no one to blame but myself for that incident (well, alright, I could blame the thief just a little), since I left it locked to nothing but itself outside the metro station over night after getting a taxi home with my friends.
I see “stage 2” (the disillusionment/frustration/hostility stage) setting in on some of my classmates already. One or two of my friends have been on occasion overwhelmed by a build-up of negative feelings: fury when cars don’t stop for pedestrians, disgust when people spit in the street, frustration when staff at the university don’t answer questions directly or instead give convoluted answers, shock when older people don’t hesitate to push them out of the way or to shout at them for no apparent reason… Naturally, these are not things that fill me with joy when they occur, but from experience I am trying my best to balance any frustration with fascination. I find myself admiring the elderly people here who are filled with the confidence required to put themselves before young people, while in my country they often feel intimidated by the latter. I try to enjoy the chaos of the roads, where cars, buses, e-bikes and push-bikes make their own rules (although sometimes I find myself flinching at near collisions*). I also keep drawing comparisons between the Chinese and the Japanese way of doing things when trying to get answers from people: rather than being too forward or pushy, I’m enjoying getting back into the Asian practice of carefully respecting others’ authority, avoiding possible humiliation and keeping the peace.
I’m sure that I, too, will become frustrated in time, but for now I’m really loving being back in Asia and learning about Chinese culture.
*No one wears helmets! It’s scary!