I Become Outsider in My Hometown and Home Country

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?

Flowing International Students

The overseas study enables me to meet very different people with a more opened mind. While I come to find that it’s almost not possible to make friends from these people. The more difficult thing is that everyone is thinking where to position himself/herself, where to go to next, where can I find the sense of home, etc. To be short, people abroad can hardly or cannot find the sense of belonging.
Sense of Flowing
I have been in Finland for 2 years till now, while how many friends do I have? I sometimes cannot answer since the understanding and definition of friend seem so different in Finland and in China, I am not sure if I can define a person as friend. I’d like to say no other friends except three or one local friends and my girlfriend, which means almost no one international friend, no Chinese friend.
I had lots of temporary international friends. For example, I spent very good time in the first few months in Finland with few German friends, I miss those days sometimes also. By living at Paawola, I got friend from Pakistan, Kenya, India, Italy, etc. I also had friend from Czech republic, Turkey, Estonia during the study, and etc. While these people are on the flow, they were just in Finland for half year or one year, or 3 years at most. The friends seem to be only valid within certain period. Everyone is struggling a lot with lots of problems. Besides, there is great cultural and information barrier among people from different countries, which makes it too difficult to deepen the understanding or even the actual talking. It’s always a phenomenon to see the international people to spend most time and get most friends from the people from their own countries.
I also feel sad and surprised that I haven’t got a Chinese friend even. The problem is due to our changes, especially my changes in the opinions, values, and preferences. Everyone abroad is changing, even we are from the same country, people become so lonely and independent and even hard to meet. Even they are not physically far from me, while I know nothing of them and feel they are in another world, and we have no any connection at all.
Some opinions and ideas are always in the conflict in mind. For example, I feel being asked should I spend time and attention to make friend from foreign students, since they just stay here for short? Does this Finnish thing related to me? Does the big news in China relate to me? What should I care? Who can understand me? Is it possible to get into Finnish circle? Is it really possible to have a normal, stable Finnish friend? Why people in China seem to not understand me at all? How can I get close to a Finn? and etc. These conflicts are all just because I am abroad.
To sum up, people abroad are struggling for lots of practical problems, and more difficult thing, for the sense of belonging and home, visa extension, etc. Everyone is like a single boat on the sea, you don’t know what a wave of water would come, where you will go to, how long can you be with a friend, etc. People in such case can only care their own and be pilot for their own life. Everyone may leave at some point for various reasons, thus, friends are only valid within some period.


Learning Swimming in Finland

My hometown in China is in the mainland, where there is no sea or even regular river, so, for the people living there, it’s not so urgent to be able to swim. Plus that my family members were worried of drowning of the kid, I was not allowed to swim when I was young. In China, especially in my home province, where the Yangtze river flows, many kids were reported to be drowned in the swimming, parents are worried of the kids going to the water.
Because of this background, I am also scared of water, especially the lake and sea. While my girlfriend tried hard to drag me to learn swimming, saying that swimming in Finland is the most basic skill. It can be understood since there are so many lakes in Finland, people need to be able to swim for survival even. Swimming is also an exercise.
I was struggling in mind when she tried to take me to swim, thinking what if I get drown or even die in the water, etc. But I also told myself, it was a pity that I didn’t stay enough in the water when I was little kid, and swimming can be a skill to rescue myself and others in the future if possible. And why not try something I dared not to do in China? So, I went to the swimming pool with her.
We go swimming once per week and around 3h per time. I have gone for 3 times by far, Saara is a good teacher for my swimming, and I am learning fast, I think. More importantly, I enjoy it! and enjoy the sauna there also! I also come to find swimming is not as difficult so I thought. Let’s see when I can swim well independently.
So, it was really a struggle to do something you didn’t dare to do before and try something new, but the new thing can also bring you something good you didn’t know.








A Sauna Room in Finland







Ai Weiwei Art, Helsinki

These pics were taken at Ai Weiwei art exhibition at Helsinki Art Museum during Christmas period 2015.
Ai Weiwei艾未未 is the most well-known Chinese artist in the west. I especially like the art work White House, it was made only with old Chinese wood from some hundreds years ago, the idea is to show people that the traditional things in China can also be used to create great works and beauty for the current life. The idea of cherishing the tradition, history and culture should be encouraged. Meanwhile, his works contain lots of Chinese cultural elements, which is a good way to spread Chinese culture.

情系机场I Love Airplane, I Miss Beijing

I love airport and airplane a lot since I went abroad. Airport is a place where many people say goodbye to their dearest friends or family members. There, I witnessed too much beautiful emotions between lovers, friends and family members. There, I also observed many students’ worries, courage and uncertainty when started moving to a new country and new life. All those impressed me a lot!
I may never forget the complicated feelings when departed from Beijing Capital Inter’ Airport T3 to Finland. The  love towards China and homeland surged into mind at that moment with some worries and unstable feelings. That was my first time to understand the deep meaning of the word “homeland” and the concept of China. It was a time to feel the mutual trust with the people you meet the first time. Airport is also the place to see the expression of lots of love and missing. Those tears and those images are still clear in my mind.
Beijing, even it’s not my home city, it has become a concept or representative of the home country and where my mind can feel safe with. There were many times that I imagine the image of one day I arrive Beijing and feel excited with going back homeland.
总结:我爱机场,是因为那里见证了人间很多美好的情感、见证了很多人改变人生的一个转折点、见证了很多奔波和社会的深处… 飞机带给很多留学生实现梦想的机会、带给很多人希望和便利。实际上每次坐乘飞机都有一种担心,那是把生命交给机长和很多不确定因素的一个过程,也正是这个情况,让人对生命、对人间很多的美好特别珍惜。在国内的人很难理解在国外为什么更爱国之类的,可能这是答案之一。北京成了祖国的代名词、成了身在海外人的精神寄托和归宿。