I believe we are about 3 months in on this blog and here I am making my first appearance! I suppose I don’t have an excuse other than I don’t have much to talk about. But in the last few weeks I’ve had experiences that I would like to share. For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been in China since the beginning of July studying abroad at Southwestern University of Finance and Economics (SWUFE) in Chengdu. To say it’s been an experience would be an understatement. Each day as I walk through the foreign student dorm and smell aromas from around the world, not all great mind you, I am reminded of the different world I am currently living in. I came to China with tons of stereotypes and as I’ve been here, I’ve debunked a few of those myths, but mostly I’ve proven many of them true. I’ve made a list of some of the stereotypes that I had coming into this experience and will share my verdict as to which ones hold true.
Asians don’t have a personal space bubble.
While trying to get places might already be a tight squeeze because of the huge population, it is made worse by people who don’t mind entering your personal bubble in order to get places a bit quicker. This kind of attitude also translates to the road, as drivers don’t believe in traffic laws.. or even lanes for that matter. All free space is fair game and the person that comes upon it first lays their claim. As someone with a laid-back personality, this has been quite the adjustment for me.
All Asian people look alike.
I’m going to be honest: I’ve thought this all my life. Now I see how silly I was to think that. And honestly, they think most white people look alike as well. We are constantly surrounded by people that are similar to us and we think nothing of it until we are submerged into a whole new place. Now I see the differences I was too ignorant to see before.
They will eat anything that moves.
The first weekend I was here a few local Chengdu students took me to famous shopping alleys in downtown. Along the street were food carts with all sorts of food on them. I saw the likes of intestines, hearts, livers, heads, and even whole bodies of animals that I am used to being domesticated. No I didn’t see cat or dog on the carts, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t tried dog. The most memorable quote from that little trip came from Doris (the English name she chose for some odd reason) after she saw my reactions to some of the food we saw. “I guess we’ll eat anything. Won’t we?” Yeah. I guess you’re right, Doris.
Asian people are geniuses.
While the students I’ve had classes with are all very smart and have earned their way into university, it isn’t because they were born as baby geniuses. If I would have a nickel for every time a person here has told me how hard their parents were on them about school, I would have about 5 yuan. Their parents would lock them in their room with nothing but their school books and force them to study as soon as they got home from school. The work ethic of the students here is unparalleled. Compared to them, American students look lazy and pathetic. Their livelihood depends on the education and degree they are earning, and they don’t take that matter lightly. So while they get almost all straight A’s, it isn’t for a lack of effort on their part.
The country is dirty.
The campus is beautiful and looks new compared to many universities I’ve driven past while in China. Many of the buildings in downtown are very well-kept and look elegant from the outside. The beautiful mountain scenery is majestic and surreal. But as soon as you put over 14 million people in the city limits, the area is sure to become unclean. The country can only do so much maintenance of an entire city with that many people, and it shows in the areas most heavily trafficked. One of those areas: the bathrooms. But because of the lack of maintenance on those areas, they can’t call them bathrooms. They are simply known as toilets. The toilets can’t handle toilet paper, so a little trash can is placed in the corner of the stall for all the used TP. As you could imagine, this leads the area to smell to high heaven. But possibly the most unusual part, and that’s putting it nicely, is the way these toilets look. Their defense is that it is more sanitary. Well I’ve got a rebuttal to that: put sinks and soap in the restrooms and make things more sanitary. That usually helps.
I have many many more that I could have talked about, but I think I’ll leave my post at this. While China is totally different from what I’m used to, it has been nothing short of an amazing experience. So while I spent my Fourth of July looking at fireworks from a wedding just off-campus and was reminded of the pride I have in my country, I was also reminded of how lucky I am to be experiencing a whole new culture so different from my own. After my time in Chengdu is over, I will be flying to Beijing to meet my mom to start an 8 day tour of the biggest cities that China has to offer. I don’t know what is on the agenda because I let my mom choose the itinerary, but if it will be anything like my last three weeks, then I’m in for a real adventure.
Until next time,