Yesterday was a great day. I went shopping and I was the only Westerner around for miles. The thing that I have found about living in China is that it is very easy to stay in a bubble.
The language is the main culprit. Communication is difficult at best when both languages sound nothing like the other. It’s challenging to get to know people outside of the bubble. Culturally, it’s like we each think the other is weird… it’s two worlds. I still get stares, especially on the bus yesterday. This one girl could not take her eyes off of me; you should have seen her face when I was speaking English. It was actually quite funny.
The shopping district is located in Shenzhen proper and I went with my friend Holly. She is originally from Beijing, but now lives here with her husband and works at my school. Her English is fantastic and on top of that, we like a lot of the same things – plus, she thinks I am funny – bonus! Hanging out with her is fun and easy. After shopping, (I am trying to prepare for the family visit approaching soon) we had a delicious dinner at her house… mmm good. I am still thinking of the sliced potatoes.
At dinner, we started talking about American politics (don’t get me started), and then we started talking about the bubble. Her impression of many of the Westerners is that they don’t want to leave the bubble. She wasn’t taking a slag (New Zealand term) at Westerners. It was simply an observation from her point of view and I could see her point. I think it’s very easy to get comfortable in what we know, what is familiar. I’ve noticed as well though, this comfort zone with the Westerners here.
For me, I am not only here to work. I want to experience a different way of life. I can’t do this if I stay in the bubble. Learning the language, or as much as I can, will be a good first step to this end.
Holly also recommended a yoga instructor – apparently he is from India but speaks English… thank goodness. So now I am going to prepare Holly and her husband an American dinner – which can mean many things… I was thinking chips and guacamole to start (if I can find avocados), some Mac and Cheese (because that is good in any culture), and probably something with chicken. Poor things, they will never want to visit the US now! But I will do my best. My mom is reading this, cringing at the Mac and Cheese because she is an infinitely better cook/hostess than I will ever be… she’s the Martha Stewart on how to throw a lovely dinner party.
But seriously, what’s more American than Mac and Cheese? Sometimes bubbles are nice.