One of the world’s largest and interesting countries is China. It is a country that is developing very fast, and unfortunately is losing much of its history, because of modernization. Many places in China are in a state of destruction and reconstruction. Each town and city is being modernized, destroying the heritage of this beautiful country.
I stayed around 3 months in China. In this time, I chose to visit towns and villages, that aren’t so known with the desire to understand the base culture of this country. My main goal was to learn as much as I can from these wonderful people. It is fascinating, although it has the most populated cities in the world, the Chinese manage to live together in harmony.
So, here are 11 things I learned while I was there:
1. To communicate.
Most Chinese do not speak English. Very rarely did I find someone who can help me with some guidelines. I did not want to see this as a problem, but rather as a challenge: one foreigner without any means of communication lost between strangers. After a while, I bought a dictionary that made my trip easier, but even so, it is hard to pronounce words correctly. It is a very interesting experience, trying to communicate through signs and smiles.
Another thing that I have noticed, is how they communicate between them, all the time very relaxed, although sometimes you can think that they are yelling at each other.
2. To be friendly with everyone
Many Chinese villagers have never met a foreigner, but that never stopped them to be very polite. Some villagers invited me into their home for a cup of tea or even a home cooked meal. At the beginning, I thought that I am just lucky, but after I found out that many villagers did the same with foreigners.
The first time I felt odd, because I didn’t know how to communicate with them, but after I started to feel more relaxed and comfortable with them. The only thing that we did was to smile at each other.
3. To be grateful
I stayed almost 2 weeks in a city with almost 25 million inhabitants. I have seen a lot of people who slept on the streets, very poor people. Most of them are working every day just to survive.
When I saw so much poverty around me, I started to re-evaluate the things that I have.
After that, I was thankful every day that I have the chance to go on a great adventure. I was thankful for the new surroundings. And most importantly, I was thankful for the people who supported me getting there.
4. To travel alone
Sometimes the best travel companion you can have is yourself. In China it was the first time when I travelled alone and I can describe this trip as a religious experience. To take in new surroundings unfiltered by the prejudices, tastes or preferences of a traveling companion can be heady stuff. Traveling alone gives you the chance to indulge yourself fully.
Traveling alone can be the ultimate in self-indulgence; you can rest when you want and pour it on when you’re feeling ambitious. You can do exactly what you want to do, all the time.
Another benefit is that your mistakes are your own, and your triumphs are more exciting. There’s no worrying that your insistence on trekking all the way across town to a sightseeing that was closed, ruined your partner’s day.
I have made a lot of friends when I was in China, with some whom I am in touch even today. When you travel alone, you’re more open to make new friends, and in China everyone is nice, so it is very simple to find a companion from time to time.
5. To rest
I think it’s one of the most important thing, that I have learned while I stayed there. Maybe the most common two words, that I have heard and saw were: take a rest.
They have almost everywhere spaces named “take a rest” and very often you see them sleeping there. When I was at the museums, I often saw people sleeping on the couch, I found this very realistic. Also in the parks, buses even in taxi’s.
Now I do not say that you should start sleeping on the benches in the park, but it is a time when you have to prove your vigor, and a time when you have to accept that you’re tired.
Also, it was demonstrated that after 15 minutes of sleep around noon, you can reinvigorate your mind.
6. To be patient
Very importantly, we are always in a hurry to get to do as much as possible. I understood there that, the more you try to do in less time, the lesser you do.
They are very patient, perhaps too patient sometimes, even in traffic, waiting if someone sits on the fault, nobody gets upset.
Like above, many occasions when you think you’re wasting your time and that you stay too long in a place, just accept that you are there and enjoy what you have around you. This will do wonders.
7. To do things that scare me
Before I went to China, I was a little scared of going to such a big country. Some might say that packing your bags and moving to a foreign country automatically means you are living this life lesson, but this is something you have to strive for every day. When you choose to live outside your home country, you are constantly confronted with challenges. It is easy to shy away from those obstacles and find things that feel like home.
I got lost so many times in the villages and I was very scared, but somehow all the time things worked out. That never stopped me to go and visit even more the next day.
Somehow, they give me more confidence to do things that scared me.
8. To count till 10 with one hand
The language differences extend even to simple gestures. The Chinese, for example, have a system of gestures for counting all the way up to ten with just one hand.
If you’ve only been counting to five with one hand, you’ve been missing out. The Chinese have a system for counting 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 all with just one hand. After a while it started to become slightly easier to talk with them.
So if you want go to China and you don’t know the numbers, you should learn how to count till 10 with one hand. It will help you a lot and most of them will appreciate you, because you care about their culture.
After some time spent there, I bought a dictionary. I had already lived the experience of communicating with smiles and signs. It was an interesting experience that I lived and I didn’t regret it. It was the time for me to make more Chinese friends, and to try to buy other food.
I started with a few essential words, then I tried a few phrases. At first, they did not understand, on the contrary they were looking at each other and asking what this guy wanted, because I could not pronounce correctly. The only thing that I could do, because I knew some phrases, was to do some links when I was talking with them. After a while it was slightly easier to talk with them. They were very open and happy every time they saw how hard I was trying to talk with them.
10. To be careful
In China, the traffic is a mess. Every time I was looking both ways. Walking across the streets in China can be dangerous, especially for someone from the west. However, for a country that has less restrictions of driving, I must say that the Chinese are one of the best drivers in the world.
Also, I heard, that in the night a lot of people are driving drunk, so I tried to avoid all the time to walk at night near the streets.
11. drink beer with shot glass
I thought of ending with something funnier. They almost never drink beer in a large glass. They drink shots of beer every 5 minutes till they can’t talk anymore. Most of the time, they are playing games. There was one game, played with dice where you have to guess how many 1,2,3,4,5,6 do the players gather. It’s a game where everyone is losing at some point.
Another interesting thing is that every time you want to drink, you have to drink all in the glass. What saves them is that the strongest beer has 3% alcohol, so for many westerners it’s not so difficult.
So, go ahead with your China trip and tell us all what you experienced and learnt.