“Men’s nature’s are alike. It is their habits that carry them far apart” – Confucius
Originally, my idea for this blog was to frame each post within an abstract quote by Confucius. While a lot of Confucius’s wisdom applies in the current day, I found it incredibly difficult to explain my first few days of culture shock, housing emergencies, and jet lag within the context of popular fortune cookie quotes. Over time, the idea faded and the blog took on a life of its own.
But today, I am bringing the idea back. Confucius writes extensively about man’s relationship with his fellow man as well as the greater community. My mom asked me yesterday what it was like to live in a place where I was in close contact with so many different nationalities and cultural practices. I blurted out the first thing that came to mind: Its like being in Epcot at Disney World.
Epcot. the area of the amusement park where you can walk around and every block or so is a new country or international theme. You can visit a viking ship, go to japanese tepenyaki, and visit old country deutschland in the span of an hour. When visitors aren’t going on a world tour, they are visiting that giant golf ball that takes its visitors on a ride through the future of technology and Disney’s vision for the world in ten years. If you ignore the inflated prices and Disney’s impeccable level of street cleanliness, my experience in China has been like spending 3 weeks inside Epcot.
Navigating through the streets of Nanjing road and the metro can make you feel like you are living in year 2020 instead of 2011. The handheld technology being used by fellow shoppers, the fast pace of architectural development, and the high speed metro, make you feel like america is moving in slow motion and stuck in time. Its like the never ending golf ball ride inside Epcot.
And then there is my building, and the network of people I have met beyond my building. If I add it all up, I have lived in close quarters with people from nine different countries (malaysia, france, germany, england, mexico, argentina, brazil, china, and canada) and met a network of people from as much as fifteen different countries. We all unite together under the definition of “ex-pat” but we all have different cultural experiences and habits to bring to the relationship. Spending time with the people in Building 69 is like Epcot because of the constant display of internationalism and the fact that everyone appears to be having the time of their lives ( and who has a bad time in Disneyworld).
Confucius says that men’s natures are alike, but our habits carry us apart. While there is certainly evidence to support that assertion, my experience in shanghai has been exactly the opposite. It is the recognition of our differences that brings us closer together and helps me to grow in ways that I hadn’t yet considered. I also have that european double kiss greeting down to an art.