There has been a slow progression in my changing cultural taste as my time in China becomes longer. During my first week in China, my attitude towards their practices ranged from confused to downright appalled, and as the weeks progressed I realized that some of these seemingly random habits actually make sense. It wasn’t until today when I shoved a woman to make it on to the subway while secretly admiring her bejeweled phone that it hit me. I wasn’t just accepting China’s cultural differences…I was going native.
A few examples:
1. The pushing, shoving, and non “queue-ing” culture.
Not only is it an important skill for general China survival, but I have found that if I am competitive enough, I can get food, onto an escalator, move quickly down a crowded side walk faster than if I had waited patiently in line like I do in America. Its really not a bad system once you get the hang of it.
2. Wildly decorated phone cases
Fact. you can find glittery phones in your purse easier than conventionally decorated cases. They are easy to find, and even easier to recognize which one is yours. So what if I look like an american preteen?
3. Liking strangely flavored snacks
Szechwan pepper flavored and seaweed flavored rank among my favorites. But spicy chicken and sesame is a close second in terms of chips and cracker flavorings. Also…tomato puffs. I think they are dehydrated tomatoes with seasoning…the point is, they are delicious.
4. Writing “kindly” in my emails.
The Chinese are very polite in all their emails, especially ones written in english. They feel the urge to throw the words “kindly” and “please” into every sentence multiple times, whether it makes sense or not. Now I have found myself adopting this habit, especially with internal office emails.
5.Bargaining. On everything.
Want a manicure? Bargain. Street food? Knock one or two kuai off the price. Gym membership? Don’t even think about paying in full if there are less than four treadmills. Always ask for the Chinese menu, the prices are cheaper. Cutting corners financially was never so satisfying. In fact- it’s almost an addiction, like the father from Christmas Story.
6. Appreciating communist relics
I’m the most confused conservative that has ever graced the land of China. I think there is something so distinctly Chinese and interesting about all the old communist and Mao relics that they sell here. I have started a small collection of flasks, posters, and t-shirts. I plan to wear them all stateside.
7. Using an increasing amount of Chinglish.
Like many of my foreign roommates, I have adopted the habit of throwing in random Chinese words into regular conversation. adding in “shen me” when you don’t understand a question, “zhen de” to express surprise, even calling foreigners lao wais. I have even started answering my phone with “wei“. I can already tell this habit is going to have to be broken if I am going to be tolerated among my friends at Davidson!
…..And it is Friday in Shanghai, with perfect weather, and fun plans for a night out! I am getting my iphone unlocked- another Shanghai norm I have embraced.