Article by Luana Borges
Do you remember your childhood dreams? The things you visualized when you were still playing with your toys? There was a lot of fantasy and magic, but also lots of wishes on what you would be when you grow up. There were also some discrepancies (like being too old at 30) but overall, all of us had some sort of visualization that being here, in China, made it possible to reach.
Let’s say, for example, that you had a difficult childhood and wanted some things your family couldn’t afford. You came to China and all of a sudden you had this amazingly crazy lifestyle where you can simply buy those videogames, cameras, gadgets or toys you always wanted.
Or let’s say you saw yourself as an accomplished businessman/ woman. You just came here and found out that, since foreigners don’t stay for long the chances of getting promoted or finding foreign community needs to attend can be your thing. As simple as that, you have achieved another of your goals.
If you come from a third world country you will understand what I’m talking about: there were many things that weren’t even possible to dream of and once you moved to this complete opposite-of-the-planet country they magically became attainable.
With our lifestyle in mind, I have already talked and exchanged information with people from around 15 different countries and for a moment, everyone tries to find similarities by pointing out things that are absurd in Chinese culture- myself included. Everything that classify as “them”, automatically classify us as “us”, therefore the feeling of belonging that we are looking for, especially so far from home… Especially if locked in the country for so long. There is little to any thought about how the differences contribute not only to redefine ourselves as individuals, but also redefine how deeply we are connected to our own culture( and how both sometimes are the same thing). The fact that more foreigners agree with you simply show how limited they are in their own culture. And that becomes a problem.
It becomes a problem because little by little it poisons us from experiencing a context that could contribute for a personal growth of everyone involved. The “not understanding” or simply by an action, sense of moral, hygiene, posture at work or failed expectation that we dare to define as bad, worse, inferior even, it shows more about one’s arrogance and feeling of superiority. Have you ever thought about how a simple invitation for lunch can be misinterpreted depending on the country you’re from? In my country, people are expected to pay for their own food at all times, and if someone wishes to pay, this invitation needs to be verbalized. This implies that, if I get an invitation to go to a restaurant from a friend, I can invite other friends as well because- in my culture- it is implied that each one will pay for their own food. In other countries, the person who invites is the one to pays, and if not, then the need to verbalize it. So who is right here? And who is wrong? What is “weird” for me might be “standard” for you. This fine line between trying to find things in common (struggles, we’re all in here trying to adjust to the culture and this unites us at first)and simply pointing people’s habits as bad… let’s make a clear boundary between sharing our problems and just being judgmental and arrogant.
Let’s focus less on the problem and more on the opportunities. Think about everything good you have in your life here anytime something is annoyingly different from you social convention – it’s just that, a difference. If you want to have more money, you do. If you want to help your family, you can. If you want to travel more – well, that will be on a hold for a while, but- you can. If you want to buy pink pans, microwave and printer- you can. If you want to buy Pokémon bed sheets, please don’t restrain yourself. You might have come from a life that was unimaginably painful and this brought some bitterness and distress, but you are here, now, safe from the biggest pandemic this world has seen. So just give your inner child full glow, all the silliness, instead of focusing in finding more problems for your mind and heart. Be yourself!