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Life in China

People in the West hold many misperceptions about China that prevent them from exploring this diverse and colorful country.  In China there are not a billion starving people, the Chinese do not hate Westerners, and the Chinese government does not go around killing their own people!  Don't let your preconceived, false ideas keep you from experiencing this wonderful country.

Though much of the culture from China's 5,000 year history remains, China is changing at an amazing pace.  This is evident in the abundance of skyscrapers right next to old run-down buildings, and the constant ringing of Mobile phones.  Despite this the people's culture, pastimes, and social structure remains much the same.

What can a clueless foreigner do?  Though it is impossible to describe every way in which China will surprise, excite, frustrate, and exceed all your expectations,  we will try to give some basic guidelines and ideas to follow when you are here in China:

  1. Remember that you are the foreigner here. Getting frustrated with people because their language, beliefs, or ideas are different from yours is ridiculous.  Immerse yourself in the culture!  Try to see things as they see it, and try to understand why they think like they do.

  2. "Face" is very important to the Chinese. Sometimes they will avoid telling you the  truth, just so you don't "lose face."   You needn't lie, but do be careful about causing others to "lose face."  Be especially careful when trying to discuss any confrontational issue, never do these things in front of others.

  3. Relationships, or "guanxi" as the locals call it, is very important in China.  This is basically the same as connections in America.  Though you probably won't need much "guanxi" as a student, some might treat a relationship with you as such.  You might even see the effects of "guanxi" as your Chinese friends take you to dinner, or to a resort, where their "uncle" works. Of course, they may also expect to get something back as well. Be careful, always remember that in China friendship and business go hand in hand.

  4. Be a good example! While most Chinese people respect foreigners and treat them well, most are still sure, deep down, that we are all a bunch of too-open, womanizing (is manizing a word?), beer-guzzling louts! Unfortunately, some of the foreigners in China just reaffirm their suspicions. Remember that because you are different you are watched by all, and you have the power to change their perceptions.

This is a very basic list. It would be impossible to completely prepare you for what will surprise and challenge you as you make the transition to life here in the Middle Kingdom!



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