Before travelling to China, I really had no idea what to expect from Beijing and the Chinese people. I have to be honest, I was really quite uninformed and uneducated about the culture within a communist country. I knew only what I’d seen in the movies (so realistic…) and what I’d heard in the news (also not always very helpful).
But as per usual, immersing yourself in the culture and meeting the locals is really the only way to learn what’s really going on.
I’ve been here 16 days now and I have to say my eyes have been opened already. Not that I expected people to be cold towards us, but I certainly did not expect people to be so warm towards us! Everyone we’ve met has been so incredibly welcoming and friendly to us. Restaurant owners, retail workers and even taxi drivers offer us their help however we may need it and introduce us to their friends and family.
Just last night, we struggled to get a taxi (help me I’m white!) so we went to see our friend William who owns a fantastic restaurant around the corner, and he called a driver for us and arranged a pick up and price on our behalf. It was so helpful and so generous.
This week at work was a bit slow so we strolled through some different departments and met some more of our co-workers. People were so excited to talk to us; they asked us questions about our homes, our families, our jobs, everything and anything. Similarly, they shared the same info with us. It was really quite amazing how despite the distance globally, and the cultural difference, we’re not really so different.
Women still feel self-conscious even though they’re beautiful, they gossip about men, and love pigging out with their girlfriends.
Last night we were invited our for dinner with a friend we’d met last weekend, he introduced us to some friends of his – a Canadian, a Kiwi, and a Beijinger – who have all lived in China for years. After many discussions about the culture, they explained to me that China is actually the land of relationship building. They continued that it’s all about being adventurous, meeting new people, and leaving your mark on the world.
Strangely enough, this is exactly what I’m trying to do right now. Hard to believe a series of random events in my life can lead me to a place where discovery and relationship building are the fundamentals of cultural survival.
I’ve only been here 2.5 weeks and I already feel like a new person. I can’t wait to see what else I learn about Chinese culture and also about myself.
Ashton Says: Travel is everything. Meeting new people, sharing stories, and learning about others is the most valuable information you can ever receive. Never turn it down. And always keep your mind open.