The past six weeks in China have gone by in a flash. It only felt like yesterday that I had to say goodbye to my family for the longest period of my life so far. I have come to be pretty homesick and I miss so many people back at home. I miss the suburbs, school, swimming, and the fast Wi-Fi. But during these six weeks I have learned so much about Chinese culture and the people that live here. My time here opened my eyes to the many cultural differences between American and Chinese lifestyle. From my view, I may see some things that the Chinese people do as "strange" but from their view it can be totally acceptable.
One of the big reasons I decided to come on this trip in the first place was to try the food. As most of my exchange classmates know by now, is that I am an exotic eater. I am willing to eat anything that is given to me. During my time here I have noticed and tasted so many different foods that I wouldn't be able to find in America. For one thing, Beijing food is different than American Chinatown. Our Chinatown is based off southern Chinese food, like the Guangdong Province. In America you can't have delicacies like Beijing roast duck or 驴打滚, a platter with assorted traditional Beijing snacks. I also bet that in America there wouldn't be live scorpions on a stick or fried seahorse and starfish. This difference of food was a fun and tasty experience for me.
Another topic of note is the transportation in China. Like in America there are similar ways of transport like walking, driving your car, or public transportation like buses or trains. Since Beijing is a highly populated area of China, it is similar to New York in that many more people choose public transportation over driving because of the constant traffic. Luckily for me, I lived close by to the school, malls, and plazas so I primarily walked to all my destinations from home. Unfortunately some of my classmates have to take long drives or ride the train just to get to school! Back at home mostly everyone just drove to school, so being able to walk ten minutes to and from school was a luxury. Basically the transportation in China is extremely similar to our big cities, but one downfall of the large population that leads to all the traffic and cars is the pollution.
In China pollution is a big problem that we fortunately don't have to face back at home. During my time here I have seen many days of clear blue skies with the sun shining bright. It reminds of a perfect day for a barbeque in America. But somedays the haze in the air is almost palpable. It was harder for me to see on hazy days and I feel that I wasn't getting the good quality of air that I was used to. My host sibling Pengxiao even told me that somedays when the pollution is at it's worst schools can get canceled, almost like China's version of a snow day. Because of all the pollution I always saw a large amount people wearing masks on the streets or in the subway. I have never seen the sheer number of people wearing masks in America.
Overall I have enjoyed my stay here in China. I have eaten so much food and observed so many things different than at home. My best experiences was going to see the historical sites. Because China is such an old country there were trips like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City that made this whole trip a once in a lifetime experience. Though I am eager to explore more of China I still believe that I have made the best of this trip and have loved my time here.
As my 6 week exchange experience is coming to an end, I can safely say that I have observed many differences in the 2 places I've lived. I know what Beijing is like and I know what America is like; so I'm going to explain the differences between the two
1. The most dangerous things are the drivers. In America, drivers and traffic can be kind of bad at certain times in the day, but in China it is constant. In, China a twenty minute drive can turn into a two hour drive and this is not an exaggeration. This literally happened to me one time. When I was going to a museum one day, my host mother showed me the distance on the map. It should have taken 20 minutes, but because of traffic, it took us two full hours. Driving in a car at anytime is Beijing means traffic.
2. When crossing streets it's very important to remember to look and stop for cars even if the cross walk light is green. Turning cars don't stop for pedestrians, which has ended us up in some, not so fun situations.. For example, I've almost gotten hit by a car several time. Just be careful if you cross the street in Beijing.
3. The difference between American kids and Chinese kids at least in regard to respect is Confucianism. In China, kids observe Confucian values in respecting their parents and other superiors and in return their parents support their kids in almost every aspect of life. They are very much more nurturing than average American parents and the kids are more respectful
4. Another difference between American students and Chinese students is the absurd amount of studying that they do. The students also get a ton of homework and spend almost all day after class doing homework. My host sibling spends a lot of time on homework, every day after school and every weekend.
5.The schools in China do exercises every morning. It is nothing extreme mostly just stretches and small movements. They find it a good way to start each day. Even on hot day, students do exercises in their school uniforms. They wear uniforms everyday. During the hot weather, there are shorter pants and short sleeved shirts.
6.The next difference is the food, specifically the lack of cold things. People don’t drink cold drinks or eat cold foods. That’s not to say its not sold but its just no one eats or dinks it. The reasoning behind this is that if its hot or warm, its fresh and its good. This
philosophy can be carried to extremes so much so that people who eat too many cold things getting burning rocks put on them to draw out the cold.
7.But what you'll be happy to know is that soda and drinks are still available to Americans and others. I've recently formed a minor addiction to green apple soda. So that’s going to be the first thing I find when I get back to America. Which is a problem because I've never seen this in any American market. But to be fair I haven't tried to look in a Chinese market.
8.A difference is pollution. It isn't even visible all the time. There are just days you have to watch out for. This is why it's common for people to wear masks. Some of said masks are super heavy and have respirators on it. So far I've seen some pretty bad days, but I haven't used a mask this whole trip and I'm still fine, so it's not bad enough to really affect me.
9.In American restaurants you order meals individually and the waitress brings everyone their own meal. Sometimes there can be sharing, at certain restaurants and homes, but in general everyone gets their own meal. In China, on the other hand, every meal has shared food. Whether at a home or a restaurant, all the meals are shared and people just take what they want.
10.I've noticed that no one really drinks the tap water. In the school, we have cooled or hot boiled water. The boiling is to get the water clean. In my host home we all drink bottled water. In America, the tap water is clean and drinkable, for the most part. The only thing I use China's tap water is for is to brush my teeth, but I don't swallow it.
During our time in China, we've had the opportunity to experience
many different aspects of Chinese life. We've learned about Chinese
family, city, school, and social culture, and noticed differences
between Chinese and American lifestyles. However, our cultures do have
some things in common.
One of the largest discrepancies I've
noticed has been dinnertime with my host family. In my family in the US,
dinner is group affair. Most of the time, my mom or dad will cook a
main dish with a few side dishes, and my whole family will sit down
together to eat (unless something like a school event means we have to
eat early). One of my chores is setting the table – plates, napkins,
utensils – and getting drinks for everyone. However, with my host family
in China, dinner is much more informal. My host mom usually makes a few
simple medium-sized dishes, which are cooked in succession and put out
on the table whenever they're done. My host dad isn't home a lot, so
it's often just me and my host mom eating. Cici often doesn't eat dinner
with us, but she does bring her homework into the living room so she
can talk with us while we eat. While the discrepancy between this kind
of dinner and the kind I'm used to in America was unsettling at first,
it's become almost habit now.
One similarity between Beijing and
Boston is their morning traffic jams. One morning, Cici and I got off
our morning bus a stop early, because the traffic was so slow that it
was faster to walk. I don't live in the city in America, but even in
Wayland the road to the high school gets almost completely backed up on
school mornings. A five minute difference in when you leave can result
in a ten minute difference in when you get to school. Also, crossing the
street in the city is just as, if not more, treacherous in Beijing as
it is in Boston. Jaywalking is fairly common, although it's less so on
larger roads. Even when the crossing light is green, turning cars are
unlikely to be very tolerant of pedestrians in their way.
life at JSYY is very different from life at WHS. One of the most
obvious differences is morning exercises. WHS doesn't have morning
exercises: the first organized activity of the day is the first block
class. In contrast, students at JSYY gather on the back field almost
every morning to run through two recordings of exercises. I like the
morning exercises: I think their basic movements are fun and
fairly easy to pick up, and I consider them a good way to wake up a bit
in the morning.
Besides morning exercises, another major
discrepancy is lunchtime. At WHS, some students buy the school lunch,
while others bring food from home. Still others, among those with senior
privileges, leave campus to go buy food at nearby restaurants.
Conversely, all the students at JSYY eat school-provided lunches. The
school has two cafeterias – a larger one and a smaller one – but the
procedure for getting food is basically the same at both. Students are
usually given portions of four or five dishes, plus rice and optional
bread, noodles, and yogurt. The school doesn't provide utensils.
Instead, students bring a pair of chopsticks, a spoon, or a utensil set
to school to eat lunch with. The larger cafeteria has two banks of sinks
where students can wash their used utensils after eating. This system
of lunch makes the school a little bit more home-like, in my opinion,
which reflects the large amount of time the students spend at school.
happy to say that I've made new friends here during my trip. Spending
time with them has let me experience more of Chinese social culture. One
of the most obvious differences between Chinese and American social
culture is the abundance or lack of skinship. In China, Korea, and some
other Asian countries, physical contact between people has different
connotations from the ones it carries in most Western countries. For
example, if two girls are really good friends, it's normal for them to
hold hands while they walk. For guys, slinging an arm over your friend's
shoulder or around his neck is the equivalent sign of friendship. This
casual contact is called skinship.
It could even be said that
Chinese people have less of a concept of personal space in general.
Taking hold of someone's hand or arm to lead them somewhere is common,
as is hugging friends for no reason, linking arms, and generally being
more touchy-feely than Western cultures usually are. I'm a fairly
tactile person, so this aspect of Chinese culture has both positive and
negative consequences for me. On one hand, I'm perfectly comfortable
with hugging friends and holding hands. On the other, it really bothers
me when that kind of contact is initiated by people who I haven't
reached that level of friendship with yet. Fortunately, this isn't a
problem that I've come up against much.
I've really enjoyed all
the opportunities I've had to learn more about Chinese culture. It's
really fascinating to learn about how people live in a different
country, especially since I'm learning the language at the same time.
Some aspects of Chinese culture are confusing (I still do not understand
Mahjong), but others seem natural once you get used to them (wearing
your backpack over your front instead of your back may look stupid, but
it's actually a really good idea). And despite the noticeable
differences between Chinese culture and American culture, they still
share numerous similarities, especially the characteristic of respecting
all people regardless of who they are.
Over my six-week adventure in China, I have seen, heard, smelled and tasted many different things. I've met many people and made many new friends. I've also been able to spend six weeks with a wonderful host family who has deeply cared for me. I've noticed a lot of customs around China that aren't necessarily the same as American customs.
At home, I've been lucky enough to be with a host family that delivers a delicious meal every time we gather around the table. In America, I normally eat until I can't eat any more, then I carry on with my day. In China, it is socially unacceptable to leave any food on a dish that has been served to you. I noticed the uneasiness on my host mom's face as I told her I was full, without finishing my food, my first week here. I asked my host sibling about it and he said they eat all that they get served because they don’t want to waste food. It never really made complete sense to me until I was in Xi'an. In Xi'an our tour guide named Charlie taught us a lot about China's Great Famine. We learned that a horrible famine hit China in 1959-61. Almost no one had enough food and the people would eat anything they could get their hands on. That's where they get the stereotype of eating dogs. During Charlie's lesson on the Great Famine I was able to connect the horrible struggle for food to Chinese customs today. The people here don't want to waste any food because they know what it's like to not have any. I have also noticed that although each meal is different, they all share one component: rice. Every meal I have eaten in China has included rice of some sort. In America, at least in my family, we don’t have any food that we consistently eat with every meal. I love rice and haven’t gotten tired of having it with every meal. The rice perfectly complements our delicious meals.
I’ve also noticed several differences with the Chinese view on foreigners. In America, we expect anyone traveling to our country to learn English. When we don’t understand someone, we sometimes use the saying, “In English please.” The Chinese don’t expect foreigners to learn Chinese. A lot of Chinese people know and speak English well. At the shops I’ve been to, very few times has a salesman/saleswoman tried to sell me a product while speaking Chinese. On they contrary, I constantly get bombarded with a salesperson trying to sell their product while speaking English at these shops. They have either figured out that most foreigners aren’t going to try and learn their language, or they want to practice the language their English that they learned. They are more understanding of foreigners and how difficult it is to learn a language than we Americans are.
Although we have these differences in culture, we have many similarities. During my 15 years in America, I have noticed many people use different modes of transportation. Normally, public transportation is filled with young adults and elderly people. Most middle aged adults prefer to drive their car. The same is true in China. When I asked my host sibling which form of transportation was the most popular in China, he told me; “It depends. I think the younger and older people like to use the public transportation and the [adults] like to drive the car.” I myself like using the public transport in Beijing. It is very cheap and quicker than driving a car in Beijing with the horrible traffic. We all like to go places quickly and have different preferences of how we might get there.
This trip has taught me a lot. I've learned more about Chinese language from my class at school and talking with my host family. I've learned more about Chinese history from our excursions and classes at school. I've learned how to bargain with salespeople trying to sell me a product. I've expanded my horizons of the world more than I could have imagined, but most importantly it has taught me is although we come from different cultures, deep down inside we are all the same. I will never forget this trip.
Although there are many more similarities between American and Chinese culture, the one that has really touched me the most is families’ love for each other and wanting to be with each other. Although my extended family lives far away and we can’t see them very often, I know that almost every American family loves each other dearly and wants to spend time with one another as frequently as possible. The same is true in Chinese culture. Almost every week, either Yuan Lu’s extended family would come to our house for dinner or we would go to their house. I can see the strong family bond between each one of Yuan Lu’s family members. I was able to compare the love between Yuan Lu’s family members and the love my family members have for each other and realized the amazing similarities between them.
I've been lucky enough to be living and going to school in Beijing for the last 6 weeks on my student exchange. During this time, I've observed many similarities and differences between Chinese and American culture. When I first arrived in China, I was nervous..... I didn’t know what to expect. I had the usual questions, like would I get along with my family? How far do I live from the school? What if there were problems? and many more. As the weeks went on, I realized that we are very different and we are very similar!
My family in China is ,of course, different than my other in America, but not too different. My family here still looks out for me, helps me, and cares for me, and that the important part. The only difference is in culture. My family here in China only has one child (in America my family has 4 children). So when I arrived I think my family had to adapt as well. Buying more food, planning for two people instead of one, more laundry, etc...From the first day I arrived up to now, meals with my family have been filled with new foods, and the style is different. We use our own chopsticks to just take what we want off the many plates filled with different food on the table. We also almost all the time have an individual bowl of rice that acts as our plate. If not rice, noodles in a soup. The style of filling your plate is different, but I got used to it quickly.
Everywhere in Beijing, people live in apartments. You can just look around in any area and see building after building after building. For the first few weeks of my stay, I lived on the 3rd floor of a 5 story building. After awhile, I moved and now I live on the 14th floor of a 14 story building. The bathrooms were also something I had to get used to. The shower doesn't have a separate door, so when I take a shower, the water goes everywhere. There's a little mop, in the corner, to push the water to the drain after showering.. Thankfully, there were no squat toilets in my house. Although, they are in the school and were kind of easy to get used to.
Even with our language barrier, my family and I are still able to have fun, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company. We spend time at dinner talking about things and asking each other questions. My host parents ask about my day and are interested in the things I have to say. They help me with my Chinese and they are very patient. Family time is family time, no matter what country you live in. Because of this trip, I now have a second family half-way around the world that I feel very close to.
There are many cultural things that are different too. Like how people don’t say “bless you” when you sneeze, and how it’s sort of every man for himself when boarding/exiting the train, despite the clearly marked lines on the track and the unique driving methods employed in China. There are many other tiny differences, most of them I’ve already become so accustomed to that I’ve forgotten them.
School is also quite different. In China the school we go to, The Jingshan School, Yuanyang Branch. This school contains all grades, K-12, which is over 2200 students. The school is 5 floors, with no elevators, so the students walk up and down the stairs all day. So whenever the Wayland kids go to a different classroom/floor. We almost always see kids half our height in the halls, and most of them say a cute “hi” in English as we walk by. Some even high five us. I like having all the different ages in one school.
A normal day in this school has 8 blocks total, with 10 minute breaks in between, along with one and a half hours for lunch. Five 45 minute classes in the morning, then lunch, then three 45 minute classes in the afternoon. The students stay together in the same classroom and the teachers go in and out of the rooms, according to the subject they teach. Additionally, senior kids (our siblings) stay an additional one and a half hours or more, on extra classes. School in China is really important to families. I think that for most kids, school is the center of their world. Everything revolves around doing well in school and preparing for the GaoKao. In America school is important, just not on the same level as it is in China. I originally thought I would have a hard time wearing a uniform each day, but in reality it was no problem because I never have to worry about what to wear and I don’t go through clothes as fast. It’s quite nice.
This past Tuesday we went to the Lama Temple and it was a great experience. After we toured the shops surrounding the temple, and I was shocked when I saw a swastika symbol on some of the statues. Nathan quickly explained that before the Nazi’s stole the symbol, it was a symbol used by Buddhism for longevity and prosperity. Now, while that case may be a bit extreme, it sort-of applies to all differences I've encountered. There is a moment of shock, or something like shock, then after it’s explained to me, I understand the reason and Chinese culture a little more. Over time, while encountering these differences, I began to feel at home in China,
Now that the end of my stay has come, and as I reflect back, I realize that any problem, major or minor, resolved itself in the end. And I know, now that whenever I travel in the future, I will travel with the belief that any problem can be solved. This will allow me to enjoy my experience more. My time here in China has been very precious to me. My horizons are forever expanded because of it.
China has always seemed about as far away from the US as you can get. They're similar in latitude, but beyond that, I had always
heard about how different China is. Different race, different language,
different culture, different government, different food. After six weeks of living with a regular Chinese family and exploring Beijing, I can safely say that, yes, these things are all different from the way they are in the US, but some aspects of both cultures are still similar.
Race is one of the very first differences that became apparent. Everyone
in China is Chinese. This seems obvious enough, but it becomes quite
glaring when you're the only non-Chinese people at a supermarket, a
movie theater, walking around the city, or even just at school. In
America, we're used to many different cultures because the US was built
China, however, is virtually completely uniform. As a result, we were
greeted with stares almost everywhere we went, and one elderly man even
told us we were the only foreigners he'd ever seen. This really widened my perspective by showing me what those who are in the minority experience every day. I'm used to being in the majority, so I found this experience to be very eye-opening, even though it was uncomfortable at times.
thing I noticed in school and in the city in general is the much more
relaxed attitude around safety. In the US, it's almost like every
situation that has even the tiniest possibility for danger is a lawsuit
waiting to happen. In China, it seems that they assume that everyone can
take care of themselves and use their judgement. For example, when we
took a field trip to a decommissioned steel factory, the students were let loose to explore the rooms with the sculptures.
There were multiple parts of the floor with a hole or a loose piece of
concrete, and in America I know that we would have been clearly warned
about these areas. In China, however, the students just used common
sense and were careful. On a different note, roads are much more
dangerous here. Even when there is a green light indicating for the
pedestrians to walk, turning cars still speed around corners,
disregarding anyone in the crosswalk. Cars are also more likely to weave
into tight spaces here or take more risks when switching lanes. I've also noticed that some people don't wear seatbelts in China.
When I asked my host sister about this, she said that because there is
so much traffic in Beijing, the cars are usually driving slowly, not
speeding down roads like they often are in America. As a result, many
people think they don't need a seatbelt, which is encouraged by the fact
that China's seatbelt law is not strictly enforced.
Attending school in China has shown me the many differences between American schools and Chinese schools. First,
most of the schools I’ve seen in China have uniforms, at least in
Beijing. All the uniforms I’ve seen have consisted of loose-fitting
pants and a zippered jacket, with the option of a school polo shirt to
wear on warmer days. Second, school here starts at 8:00 and ends at 3:55
for the middle and elementary students, while high school students,
like our host siblings, stay until 5:30. This is much longer than in
America, where most schools are out by 3:00. Third, students stay in the
same classroom all day, but have 10 minute breaks between classes.
During this time, we often saw kids running through the hallways,
talking and laughing loudly. For the most part, all the students, even
the youngest kids, are very well-behaved in class, so it is like these
10 minutes is their time to let all their energy out. Fourth, all of the
teachers at the school are very young. In addition, my host sister,
Zoey, and one of the other exchange students, Jessica, both told me that they’d never had a teacher who they didn’t like.
day after school, I would ask Zoey and Jessica how their days were.
Every day, they would say “good.” One day, I asked them if they’d ever
had a bad day. I expected a “yeah, of course” because in America, almost
everyone has a bad day once in awhile. However, they both thought about
it for a moment and simply said “no.” This contrasting attitude really surprised me because it isn't what I'm used to. I doubt they gave me this answer because they've never experienced anything bad or disappointing, but rather
I think they're more upbeat and optimistic, so for them to have a bad
day, something more significant would have had to occurred.
Another difference I noticed both at school and in Chinese society
in general is the separation of genders, and how the stereotypes we
often try so hard to step away from in America can sometimes be the norm
here. For example, the boys and girls are separated for PE class. The
boys play sports such as basketball and volleyball and do workouts. On
the other hand, the girls have done a high jump unit and traditional Chinese dancing. In America, we do similar activities and more, but everyone is combined, so we all learn the same skills. In addition, I've heard other
small comments that show me the difference in attitude. For example, my
host sister enjoys playing a particular computer game. One day, I heard
one of her friends say, "I don't know why she likes it, only boys play
it." Another day, one teacher was talking about our choices for a
self-selective class. She said that one of the choices was handicrafts such as sewing, which, she said, "the girls will like." I thought this was a very interesting and noticeable societal difference between China and America that made me step beyond just this difference and consider other ways the two cultures are not the same.
all the differences that I’ve seen in China, the basic Chinese family
is in many ways similar to my American family. In the morning my host
mom makes us breakfast and calls me when it’s ready. I usually get ready faster than Zoey, so I start eating first, which is the same thing that happens at my house in the US.
After school, we mostly do our own thing, and then gather together for
dinner. This simple family routine is very familiar to me. Not all
families in China are necessarily like this, but it showed me that apart
from most families only having one child, Chinese family life is not
necessarily all that different from American family life.
Over the course of my stay in China, I've learned a lot about the culture and the language,
which has given me a chance to compare it to what I'm accustomed to in
the US. In many ways they are unalike. Some things I found easy to adjust to, while others were more difficult.
Even though I had to adapt to the differences, I found learning about
Chinese culture to be fascinating. I loved expanding my view of the
world, and I hope in the future I can learn more about other countries,
as well as come back to visit China again.
This Journal Entry is on the topic of religion. Some topics will refer to Chinese religion. I have only visited China for 5 week and have done only little research on the topic. Most parts are observations, some may be just a coincidence and not be true.
One thing I'd like to point out is there are many degrees of religious practice within any religion. Just as Christianity has Catholics, Methodists, Protestants, etc. There are some who follow the suggestions of their religion closely and others of more loosely follow their religion. In Islam those who are strict pray five times every day, and where head scarves most of the time. Today our exchange group visited the Lama Temple. The Lama Temple is a Buddhist monastery where people come from all over China to worship. There were monks there that wore wool robes and had shaved heads. One thing I noticed is that there were people from every social class visiting. There were elderly people wearing old clothes and praying just like every other person and there were younger and middle aged, people, too. I think that in China it is harder to tell who is religious and who isn’t, unless visiting a place of worship.
Buddhism has a prayer routine similar to that of a Muslim. People bow and reach across the ground towards a statue. The person turns 90 degrees every time he/she finished a cycle of the routine. A Muslim, on the other hand, would only face Mecca. Buddhism is a polytheistic religion; there are many Gods in Buddhism. Each God/Goddess becomes more important when someone with more authority starts to worship it. Guanyin is a perfect example of this. Guanyin was a Buddhist goddess. She was the Goddess of mercy. She started off as a man. Eventually an emperor started to worship and pray to him, and he became the modern Guanyin. It’s interesting how in Buddhism you can choose which god to worship. In other polytheistic religions you worship all Gods, maybe at different times of the year. In America most religions are monotheistic.
Unlike in China, people who worship are supposed to be well dressed. Even old people dress up. If you don’t dress nicely you might be looked at like you need money. Also, in most religions in the U.S. most people go to worship on a specific dates. Christians go on a Sunday, Jewish people go on a Saturday, and Muslims worship on Fridays. Sometimes Muslims pray every day. They still do it on a regular basis.
In most religions in America such as Christianity and Islam, everybody in the place of worship, pray and listen to sermons in the same place. At the Lama Temple everybody was scattered. There would be one person at one statue and then six others near a building on the other side of the palace. In Christianity, Judaism, and Islam you are taught that there is only one God, and you should never believe in more than one God. In Buddhism you can believe in as many gods as you want, as long as they are a Buddhist God.
Personally, I believe in the ways of a Christian. I don’t think that Buddhism is the right religion for me. There are some philosophies of Buddhism that make sense that don’t relate to God that I can follow. Such as karma, I believe in karma, but not as the God. I think that I have felt karma in the sense that I have done something bad and in return something bad has happened to me. Usually, it is just a coincidence. I find it interesting how Buddhism has grown and changed China.
ABC's, also known as an American born Chinese, are extremely common across America. I see people like myself everywhere, ranging from the streets of Boston to the beaches of California to my own classroom in Wayland. ABC's are everywhere, yet we often forget how diverse of a country America is.
I am part Chinese and part Vietnamese. My mother, born a Chinese, grew up in Honduras which makes me culturally Hispanic. My father was born in Vietnam speaking the southern Chinese language of Cantonese. Both moved to America where I grew up in. On the outside I look Asian, but on the inside I am a wide variety of cultures and ethnicities.
I have never left the country before, so this trip was an opportunity I wasn't going to pass up. The trip was a chance to experience my Chinese rootes and expand on my knowledge of Chinese culture.. My Chinese routes have made me invisible to the people here and makes me reflect on how being an ABC in China is different from being white or black in the eyes of the Chinese people I see everyday.
As an exchange student in China, for 6 weeks, I have noticed that this country has very little diversity. The streets are filled with people of Asian ethnicity. The subway, schools, supermarkets, neighborhoods, banks...you name it .. there are Asians everywhere.
But what most Chinese do, that I've experienced, is use the term foreigner. A foreigner, in their eyes, is anyone who doesn’t have yellow skin and black hair. But how about people like me? In this country I am one of them, I don't stand out. I am dangerously assumed as a Chinese citizen. I am eyed at and judged for speaking perfect English and hanging out with the "foreigners". My classmates get asked to be in pictures with others just because they look different, not how they are different on the inside. A woman came up to me one day and asked me, in Chinese, to take a picture of her with my friend Myle. Looking back now, how could that woman know that I, too, am an American? I am masked by the image of my parents, but under the mask I am a multicultural person.
These stories happen to me everyday on the streets of Beijing...so I'll share a few.
KFC: After classes my friends, John, Julia, Nathan, Myle and I were craving the flavors of American cuisine. So without a doubt in our minds, of the distance, we trekked to KFC. When we arrived Nathan decided to order first. When he ordered the waitress had a difficult time understanding our broken Mandarin. With one glance at me who was talking in English to Julia, I noticed a gleam of relief in the waitress's eyes. That one look told me "Yes! There is a Chinese boy here who can translate and make my life easier." But she was soon disappointed when I wasn't able to answer her back.
Pearl Market: As Nathan and I were browsing the fake filled market we were having a normal conversation. At the time there was a large group of British students around our age. At one point I exclaimed something out loud. One of the British turned around and looked at me in confusion. He had a surprised face because my English was so good... Jokes on him.
Art Class: This story came from Julia during our art class with middle school students. She told me that the girl sitting next to her asked, "Is that boy Chinese?" She said that I was American. The girl didn't believe her, at first, but after Julia went out of her way to explain American diversity, she finally believed that I was Chinese.
In conclusion, I've experienced a lot of situations in China that made me feel invisible because of my outward appearance. I know, as I said before that even though I'm Asian on the outside, I'm multicultural myself on the inside. I identify more as an American and I'm proud of that.
This last weekend, I was lucky enough to be able to spend time with my Grandfather and Aunt. They came to Beijing, for a few days, due to my Aunt's business.
They asked me if I could take them to the Great Wall on Saturday, so my aunt hired a driver to drive us to the wall. We climbed the wall, walked around and hiked back. I had already been to the wall but we went to a different section, so it was a new experience. After a long hike, some bargaining and lots of jokes, our driver drove us back. When we got back to their hotel, we were all really tired and wanted to go right to sleep.
Unfortunately, we couldn't go to sleep on an empty stomach, so my aunt and I grabbed our wallets and went to find some grub. We started walking down the sidewalk, hoping to find some restaurants. After walking for a while, we saw a big red trapezoid with the Chinese characters for Pizza Hut written under it written outside of a mall. My aunt and I were really desperate for food, so we decided to walk into the mall and find the Pizza Hut. When we got there, we saw a completely full restaurant with a huge line outside the door. It would have been a solid hour until we could order our food. After taking a look at the quirky pizza options, like avocado and egg pizza and the crazy line, we decided to eat at a sandwich shop across the hallway.
During my stay here, I have noticed many American restaurants that have tried to make more money and sell their products in China. I have seen a lot of McDonald's, KFC, Subway and Pizza Huts here. These four companies have done a very good job advertising their products to the Chinese people. I think that there are more of these restaurants in China than there are in America.
I've also noticed that a lot of people here in China love American restaurants. Only the really famous Chinese restaurants, like Old Beijing Noodle Shop, will get lines similar to the one we witnessed at Pizza Hut. Even though the price for American food is a lot higher than the price of most Chinese food, people still come flooding into the restaurants. It's not just Pizza Hut. All of the KFCs and McDonald's at the airport and train stations have a large line behind their register as well. I have also noticed lots of American music playing in stores and lots of people wearing Nike products and other American clothing. Although, most of Chinese products and food are definitely better and cheaper than the American products, the American products sell.
Although, I didn't stop at Pizza Hut with my aunt, my friends and I sometimes walk to KFC after school. Although, there are some small differences in the product, it is mostly the same chicken. On the rare occasion that I go to KFC in America, the KFC is normally empty. In China, you never walk into an empty KFC. Though the line isn't quite as long as the one we found at Pizza Hut, there is always a line to order. It can sometimes be frustrating, but I still go.
In closing, I had wonderful visit with my family, while they were here. My kind host family treated my family to a delicious dinner including the infamous Beijing Roast Duck. It felt great to be able to enjoy a meal with both families, at the same time. The down time of the visit, really gave me a chance to reflect on all the good times I've had in Beijing, so far, especially, the food!
Although I may not be 100% correct, I think that Americans might set what is fashionable or cool for the rest of the world, at least for China. Here in China, it is more fashionable to wear foreign clothing than it is to wear Chinese clothing. The NBA is more popular than the CBA. I have learned while I've been in China that the Chinese are more accepting of foreigners and foreign items than Americans, might be of other cultures.
On Sunday, six of the exchange students (Julia, Andrew, Nathan, Edmond, John, and I) and Ms. Rossi went to the Beijing Pearl Market (红桥市场 hongqiao shichang) with two of the exchange students from the Newton program – Ying Ying, Ms. Rossi's daughter, and her friend Michael. The Wayland kids met at 八宝山 babaoshan subway station at ten Sunday morning. I rode bus 979 by myself from my house to the subway, where I found three of the other students waiting with Ms. Rossi. It was exciting to ride the bus myself, since I've never done that before. Andrew, the fourth student, was waiting inside the station with his host mom, since he'd ridden the subway from his house. Nathan arrived soon after, and we joined Andrew in the station.
From there, we rode the subway on Line 1 to 东单 dongdan station, where we changed to Line 5. Line 5 took us three stops south to 天坛东门 tiantan dongmen, the station near Beijing's Temple of Heaven. At the station we met up with Ying Ying and Michael, who showed us how to get to the Pearl Market and gave us an overview of the things on sale on each floor.
We spent a good two hours on the third floor, browsing the area of small shops that were selling various trinkets and Chinese souvenirs. The amount of stuff we could choose from was overwhelming. There were tables of jade and red-lacquer statues, walls hung with silk paintings, and huge racks hung with Chinese knots. It took me a while just to figure out what to buy first. We had many opportunities to practice our bargaining skills: despite its original given price of 700 yuan, Nathan purchased a large silk scroll with a painting of a tiger for 50 yuan. Among all the things I saw, I finally found a utensil set like the ones Nathan and Julia had, although theirs are solid colors while the one I bought is white with green bamboo stalks. I've been looking for a set, because we bring our own utensils to school for lunch. We also bought bunches of presents to bring back for friends and family in the States. I had so many presents that I had to ask Julia and Andrew to carry them back in their backpacks. In a moment of foresight, Ms. Rossi had brought several extra bags for purchases, and all of them ended up packed full.
At one in the afternoon, we regrouped in the building's basement level for lunch. There were many food stores, including a Subway and a McDonalds. I got a large plate of delicious fried rice with carrots, egg, chicken, and some green sweet peppers, and Nathan and I pooled our money to get a cup of cherry cranberry fruit juice. Edmond, sitting next to me, kept commenting on how good my fried rice smelled. Nostalgic for American food, Andrew and Julia got sandwiches from Subway, and John, Ying Ying, and Michael all got food from McDonalds.
After lunch we bought our last few gifts and then walked back to the subway station. Ying Ying and Michael said goodbye at the stop for the Wangfujing market, but we rode back to babaoshan. Lydia's mom, John's host mother, drove me a few blocks over to a bus stop for bus 979, and I rode the bus back home. After a long, fun day of shopping, I showed Cici and my host mom my purchases and then spent the rest of the day relaxing and doing work. We all enjoyed our time at the Pearl Market, and some of the students are going back for more shopping this weekend.