Went home over the winter came back here for the start of the semester. It seems that winter has been on strike this year, It hasn’t been very cold and so there has been a lot more snow than normal. It even rained in February -I think the summer is going to be a long one.
Being away from things and travelling back makes you re-evaluate what you’ve never even thought about before. I found myself on more than one occasion saying to myself ‘it never gets light’ ‘where are the people?’ ‘everyone is so fat!’ ‘carpet!’.
Some call it reverse culture shock, however, it’s not like culture shock when you go to a new place.
I was told it would feel like being a tourist in your own country, however, It’s more complicated than that. Things are familiar but as if there has been a rift in the space time continuum, so that some things are different but nobody notices except you. Moreover if you tell people that this is different from how it used to be, you are looked at as if you should be committed!
From this I think you can start to understand where people from foreign countries get the ideas of social stereotypes, as from their perspective that’s how things appear.
The Tube from Heathrow presented a microcosm of sorts. Quiet, everyone reading pretending to be asleep or inspecting their shoes – just as you’d expect. Then at a stop a group of Mandarin speakers got on. (I couldn’t quite work out where they were from though accents suggested they weren’t from the north of china) They talked enthusiastically (and loudly) with each other, I could register looks of disdain and near contempt from some of the other passengers as if to say ‘be quiet!’, ‘don’t you know we don’t talk on trains’.
One of my students asked me about strangers starting up conversations in public places (i.e. on public transport) and I told him that you often think (wrongly or rightly) the person wants something will stab you or is a nutcase.
Every so often I would have a quite laugh when someone would use language that I had forgotten about, slang or some new words that I haven’t heard.
Overall though, not much about home has changed beyond the obvious and I doubt anything substantial really changes in the UK. I can imagine going back in ten years (bar technological progressions) things being pretty much the same as always.
And there are so many similarities between the UK and China – there are some things done better in China than the UK and vice-versa.
Of course It’s probably me that has changed the most. Obviously that is because I have been in Changchun for over 2 years and I have had many different experiences from others.
I’ve been asking myself is this a good thing, afterall having to re- adapt to different surroundings isn’t easy – is it worth it.
I believe so, experiences change opinions, broaden minds and I believe make you more tolerant of others. It certainly has opened my mind up to all sorts of other ideas and ways of thinking.
Indeed, I couldn’t help noticing how insular looking and narrow minded (to me anyway) many people sounded when I was at home.
Many foreigner teachers complain about how ‘brainwashed’ the Chinese students are, but infact they have much greater understanding about the UK than someone from the UK does about China and that speaks volumes about peoples general knowledge about other countries and cultures.
Sometimes I have written about a situation that has happened to me that I have said wouldn’t happen in the West. This situation would never happen in China. The single biggest problem I encountered whilst in the UK was communication. In China sometimes there are communication problems, which is what you expect from trying to speak a second language. At least in China you can always find a human being to speak with if you have a problem with something and if they don’t want to help another human being etc. e.g at the train station.
At the bank, If I have a problem I can sort things out. Sometimes the process is infuriating and cumbersome but it can be achieved because of the human involvement! In the UK I went into the bank no human beings were available, but i could talk to a machine. There is only so much a machine can do.
I read that both China’s greatest asset and its greatest problem is its population, I think not having enough people is almost as bad.
The langauge barrier is nothing – you can do things. Without a human – even though english is my first language – you can’t.