If you are a regular reader of my blog, you saw last week that I will be moving to China at the end of this month! It is a scary and daunting thought, that I will be halfway around the world, away from everything I know (including the American-Chinese food that I love so much!) but I am also so excited for the experience!
In my excitement, and for preparation, I’ve been doing a little bit of research into the culture. Of course, what I find is going to only get me so far, and I know I will learn a lot more once I’m actually there, but it never hurts to be prepared, right? It’s especially more difficult, because of how large a country China is. I had to specifically look for the area I’ll be in; Jiaxing, which is right outside Shanghai.
The biggest thing I have learned about the Chinese culture in my research is the concept of ‘face.’ From my understanding, it’s a lot like the western idea of reputation. Being loud, disruptive, or rude is a way to lose face, while complementing someone, especially in front of the colleagues or friends, is a way to gain it. It is also a serious social faux pas to offer to pay for dinner hosted by a local, especially in their own home.
Related to the concept of ‘face’ is Public Behavior. Expansive gestures, emotional displays, public displays of affection (such as kissing), unusual face expressions, and sarcasm are… not looked down on, but are not fully accepted in public. The Chinese also don’t like being touched by strangers (I agree!), but do stand closer to talk to someone then we do in America or Europe.
Admittedly, this has been a big thing that I’ve looked into many times. I love food. And for me, food is one of the best ways to learn about the culture. When I first decided to take this job, I thought I would have to completely change my diet, especially since I know what we call Chinese food isn’t authentic. I did learn, however, that they do, obviously, eat chicken. In fact, a pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast costs about $2 in Jiaxing, as opposed to the $4-$12 you could spend on that here in America. They also have ham in China! So while tofu is big there, and something I will have to get used to, I know there are at least two meats that I will like.
Overall, while I feel slightly more prepared, I know when I land in Shanghai on January 1st (although it’ll be January 2nd at 4am), I will be battling both jet lag and culture shock. But I also know I will be learning so much during my stay there, and I can’t wait.