I feel as if living in China has changed me a lot, and most of it is in a good way. Anybody living or traveling abroad will develop habits when they slowly begin adapting to a different culture. You don’t really have a choice. January 22, 2017 will mark my one-year living in China, and all I can say is that it’s been an awesome and interesting year. so I thought I’d list the habits I’ve gained. They’re mostly good.
Passing Red lights While Driving
So let’s start off with the bad habit. This scares the hell out of people, especially my family when I tell them about this one. China has extremely lax driving laws, so things can seem pretty much hectic here. Just refer to the video above. There are a ton of electric scooters, which so far is my favorite mode of transportation here. Rules for scooters are basically the rules we have for bicycles in the states. There aren’t really any. And so everybody does what they have to do to get to their destination. I’ve embraced the Chinese way of driving and swerve my way through traffic without stopping at the lights. Unless a car is coming, of course.
Being More Social with Strangers
Sometimes, the only way to get something done when you don’t speak the language is to just walk up to somebody and play a game of charades until you get what you need. Most of the time, it’s getting something simple like the location of a street. It’s a great way to meet new people, and to me, interacting with the locals is required if you really want to immerse yourself in a culture. Not that I wasn’t a confidence person before China, but I’m a lot more so now because of this.
Not Judging Based on Appearance
Things look a lot different here, and when compared to more modern countries, it just doesn’t look as nice at times. But that doesn’t mean these places aren’t good or even better! A good example of this is restaurants. I’ve eaten at some pretty sketchy places that would give my parents and grandparents a heart attack. In America, I wouldn’t even dare enter some of the places I’ve dined at frequently, all because of the appearance. I’ve learned to disregard looks, and I think that’s a good thing. I’m not going to miss out on something amazing based on looks. They really are deceiving.
When visiting or living in China, the simple things become extremely difficult. Ordering food can be frustrating when the server has no earthly idea what you’re saying. Trying to get somewhere in a taxi can sometimes be impossible if the driver doesn’t understand. And trying to explain an issue to your landlord can easily ruin the entire day. After a while, you learn to expect it, stay calm, not let it ruin your day, and try and try again until you succeed. It’s always good to learn key phrases in the new language, but even then, you’re not going to completely break the barrier.
Shoving Into An Elevator or Subway
This is another bad one, though it’s not in China. When those doors open, you better believe everybody will push their way until they’re inside. It’s normal here and not seen as rude. I’m afraid, however, that I may accidentally take this habit home where it isn’t okay.
Trying New Foods
At some point, you’re just going to get tired of rice and noodles. You’re going to end up hating KFC, McDonalds, Burger King, and Pizza Hut (which, BTW, is fancy in China) because in Wuhan, these are the main Western choices that are quick. They get old quick. So soon, you start trying new things you never thought you’d try, such as pig brain. It wasn’t good, but I tried it. And I never will again.
You can bargain with a lot in China, even rent! It’s definitely an up-side to living in China. It’s so intimidating at first, especially if you’re in a place like Beijing’s Pearl Market where there’s a ton of people shouting at you to buy something. But once you get used to it, it becomes kind of fun. And you save money! You can read about my experience in Beijing and the Pearl Market here
Your Feet in the Locals’ Shoes
When you’re surrounded by a completely different culture, it’s easy to say something like “That’s a stupid way of doing it” or “that doesn’t make sense”. It may be different, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. I thought this at first, even if I didn’t want to. After a while of traveling, you quickly quit thinking like that and instead try to figure out why something is the way it is. And in the end, if you still don’t understand, you realize it’s okay. I used to not understand the concept of people always drinking hot water in China (even in the summer!) until I finally asked. Turns out hot water can act as a medicine and a detox. It’s something the Chinese have done forever too. I may not want hot water to drink, but I now understand where it came from.
Not Being Consumed By Depressing News
Don’t get me wrong, it’s very important to know what’s going on around the world. Staying informed is one thing, consuming so much that you’re obsessed or always depressed is another. I’ve met several people who can’t understand why I visited or am planning to visit a country that has been in the news a lot. Living in China where news in English is near impossible to come by makes it easy to lessen your grip on media. Every morning, I get on Facebook and Twitter (thanks to ExpressVPN) to see what’s going on. If something big happened, I read into it. And then I’m done for the day.
Keeping an Open Mind
This one ties in with placing your feet in the locals’ shoes. It’s so easy to judge when traveling and living in China, or any country where things are so different. In the beginning, you’re going to judge a lot and do even more comparing to your home country. You eventually grow accustomed to it and start looking at people, places, and things with a more open mind.
This past year, I didn’t notice I was developing these habits. They just happened. Only when I returned to America for Christmas did I truly realize and actually give it some deeper thought. Everybody seemed so different, and at first, I thought they had changed. But it was me. For once, the classic “it’s not you, it’s me” line was true.
What kind of habits have you developed while traveling or living abroad? Don’t travel? What if you did?