It has been 2 and half years since I came to Finland. I went back China last spring festival for one week with my girlfriend, since it was a very short time and I was with her, a Finn, with English speaking, my mind and attention was not on the issues of China then, and it was in a very strong new year festival atmosphere, anyway, I didn’t feel my mind touched much of China that time. However, this China visit would last for 70 days, I feel this is a completely new experience in China and in my hometown.
I was very scared and anxious when arrived Beijing and the first few days in the hometown. The mind was not secured when Finland is far away. I played Finnish music everyday, again and again, and browsed the pictures taken in Finland, to make my mind in the Finnish atmosphere. However, this feeling fades a little bit now, and I come to realize it’s not just because of being away from Finland and Finns, it’s also because I am facing lots of shocks in China. Below are the issues that give me most shock and difficulties:
Loud sound everywhere. Even in my hometown center, I heard all kinds of noise everywhere, from supermarket, from people, from vehicles, especially from all kinds of sales with super loud music or saleswomen’s yelling. I asked myself why Chinese like making so much sound? Why the sales people do promotion by yelling the advertisement? Does this work? Even at my home, my grandparents talk loudly and sometimes talk like yelling, why?? I come to understand that they use yelling advertisement to make customers lose rational ideas in some extent, and make them lose the mind of what need to buy, then the sales works with some fancy words and mianzi skills. From Chinese viewpoint, people would say this is very lively image of life, and people enjoy it. However, when compare the feeling is the shopping center of Finland and a Chinese town, I come to see that my mind was very clear and rational when in the quiet Finland, the quiet environment enables me to think a lot, the time was better used. However, like yesterday in the shopping center of my hometown, I felt anxious and difficult to keep rational thinking, I struggled to keep the mind quiet, etc. While, I somehow was cheated by salesperson.
High level of mental defence and low level of trust. Before coming back China, I imagined again and again how happy I would be when meet my fellow compatriots, how close I would feel with them. However, since landed Beijing, my mind was in a high level of tension, this feeling was mainly aroused by the people’s nervous and defending facial expression. I took lots of subways during the three days in Beijing, every subways was full of people, I was so shocked to see that nobody had smiling expression, and everyone was in a defending status towards the crowd of people around. When I came closer to someone, he/she showed up very strong defending reaction, as if I were a terrorist. There are some real examples: (1) One morning, I forgot the way to a museum, and I met a roughly 40 year-old couple with their son, they were going to the same museum, and I mentioned to go with them, their son was friendly to show me the map with his phone and had no problem to let me follow, but his parents tried to not let me go along with some excuses. I understood and didn’t follow them. (2) At the queue of entering the national museum of China, I met two university girls, they were from outside Beijing and travelling there, generally the level of trust among students is higher, but when heard I was just back from abroad, they had obvious defending reaction, I tried to talk more of my experience and ideas to let them remove the worries, to show a real me, however, they were very sensitive, I could see they were guessing if I was saying honestly or not. We need to take a ticket for entering, and before the queue for ticket, I told them to wait for me if they get tickets earlier than me, and I will wait for them if I get ticket before them. However, they disappeared after getting the tickets. They broke the promise or they thought I disappeared and broke the promise and then they didn’t wait. (3) When queued at Beijing train station, I met another university girl who is from my home province, we both are students and we are from the same province, which made us closer, she was also avoid talking to me at the beginning, and I tried to talk something sincere and reduce her worries about me, and later on we talked more. We found two seats there, later, she needed to go to the toilet, and let me to keep her seat and suitcase, but she took her bag when went to the toilet, this is normal behavior in such situation. I could see, after that, she had more trust on me and let me use her wifi. Then, I told her I need to go to the toilet and let her keep my stuff there, I left with everything with her, I supposed she trusted me at that moment, and I showed a higher level of trust by doing so. I read the book of Finnish Miracle later on, and the book mentioned the trust, and I then asked her “how many percentage of people do you think would trust strangers and new people? Or how much do you trust a new person in public place?” She answered nobody. Okay, then, I understood, when she went to the toilet, she just had no other option but let me to take care of her suitcase there, that was the last option she could choose. So sad when I realized this.
I can also understand that the dense population makes lots of tension and defence like those, and there have been too many cheating and stealing cases happened, and many people in Beijing are not local, and they lack a sense of security in the deep mind. It’s very sad that all people are so afraid of being cheated or harmed and show no trust to the people around. These reaction also makes others feel bad and no trust in return, it’s a bad cycle. Anyway, the level of trust is very low among people.
Personal Space. In my home village here with neighbors, it’s no problem, also because there are not so many people. But when in Beijing, I felt very high level of tension because of very limited or almost no personal space. I also noticed this in many shops, I was looking at products, and the service staff came to ask again and again about what do I need, I told them to let me check by myself and give me some space. But when I talked like that, some of them reacted with a more defending reaction. When at my hometown, there are not so many people, I still find this problem, nobody seriously consider to keep the space, and it’s very difficult to explain this to them. I also find myself strange in these cases. When in Finland, people kept very big space from others, and hoped to be closer and I also like hugging people, even the people whom I met the first time. But somehow in China, I felt the opposite way.
You Are Different. I heard the words “you are different” many times after coming back China. When bought a T-shirt in a clothing shop, I asked lots of questions about the T-skirt, and be critical, the saleswoman said “you are really different, young men normally don’t talk so much details …”. When took a bus in the countryside, since there is no specific stop, the bus can stop at any point when a customer needs, the ticket woman asked me where to go to, I said somewhere, and she said loudly “Why are you so silent and not talk loudly?”. When at the National Museum of China, I saw many fascinating art works and historical works, and I asked the staff there something, yet they couldn’t answer, and I gave them advice “every work here can be attached a piece of paper of introduction of the general information of it, so the customers can understand more of them” “the layout of the works is not so reasonable, they can be arranged in another way so that every customer can see every work in a row and don’t lose the way” …… something like those. While what I got from two of them is the expression of surprise and doubt, one said “I have never thought anything of those, I just need to finish my job here, and nobody else suggested these before”. There are many such examples showing that they see me differently.
Kids are too wild and lack proper education. I suddenly find that Chinese really love kids and the family is kid-centered, people also have high tolerance on the kids’ behavior. You can see the kids yelling, crying and making noise on the train, kids pee not at suitable places and sometimes at public places, kids are given lots of priorities in lots of things. Kids are not mature and they naturally have some wild behavior, but the shocking thing is that the parents and grandparents don’t correct those behavior and don’t tell them this is not good. Many people keep the idea that the kid is too small, he/she cannot understand even you teach him/her now, and he/she will understand these naturally after some years. This is really a BAD idea! Kids learn from parents, people around and the phenomena, if nobody tell the kid it’s not good to yell in the public places, he/she would understand this is allowed behavior. When in Helsinki airport last year, I met a group of Chinese students of 10-15 years old for winter camp, they were running everywhere, shouting, gaming, some sat, some stood, some moved here and there, and their teachers didn’t teach them not to behave so.
In the intercultural experience, these are due to the reverse cultural shock. It’s natural reaction, and these experiences also enable me to deepen my understanding of my country and culture, and with comparison, I can also appreciate more of something in Finland. How do you think of these? and do you have similar shocks in your own country or the cultural shocks abroad?